4 Week Frugal Dinner Menu

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We made it! I talked for 31 days about frugal cooking and you listened for 31 days. Thank you to all the new readers and new subscribers. It means a lot to me that what I have to say has meaning for you. I leave you with one more piece of helpful information. For a downloadable PDF copy of this plan click here.

4 Week Frugal Dinner Menu

Week 1
Day 1 Roast Chicken Roasted Potatoes Peas
Day 2 Seasoned Pinto Beans Corn bread Sauteed cabbage and onion
Day 3 Chicken soup with rice Corn bread
Day 4 Bean and rice burritos Taco chips or corn
Day 5 Hamburgers Leftover roast potatoes Homemade buns (optional)
Day 6 Lentil soup Toast with butter or leftover buns
Day 7 Leftovers
Week 2
Day 1 Roast chicken Mashed potatoes and gravy Corn
Day 2 Red beans and rice Biscuits
Day 3 Chicken noodle soup Biscuits
Day 4 Black bean burgers Leftover mashed potatoes
Day 5 Chicken and noodles Dinner rolls Glazed carrots
Day 6 Black bean soup wih optional corn Dinner rolls
Day 7 Leftovers
Week 3
Day 1 Roast pork Mashed potatoes and gravy peas
Day 2 Black beans and rice Corn bread
Day 3 Beanie Weenies Cheesy potato patties
Day 4 Pinto bean burritos Rice
Day 5 Pork fried rice Noodles
Day 6 Split pea soup Biscuits
Day 7 Leftovers
Week 4
Day 1 Roast pork Baked potatoes Green beans
Day 2 Baked beans Macaroni and cheese
Day 3 White chili with leftover pork Cornbread
Day 4 Lentil tacos Rice
Day 5 Hot dogs Fried potatoes using leftover potatoes
Day 6 Minestrone soup Biscuits
Day 7 Leftovers

This post is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

Thoughts? Leave a comment.

What To Do With Red Beans

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In addition to being part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking, this is the fifth and final post in a series titled What To Do With Beans. Click here to read the first, second, third and fourth posts.

You know the saying “Rice and beans and beans and rice”?

In 2008 the real estate market turned south and took our income with it. I was suddenly faced with the need to drastically slash my grocery budget and did not know how to do it. I would walk around saying “but I don’t know what to do with beans”. It was true. I did know how to order bean burritos from fast food restaurants and open a can of lentil soup, but did not know what people did with beans in their own kitchens.

Several years and hundreds of dinners later I finally know what to do with beans. For the next few weeks I am going to talk about different types of beans and what to do with them. Since my personal recipes are not in a publishable format I will include as many links as possible. This is the information I wish I had had in one place so long ago. Whether you are funding college, retirement or anything in between I hope you find this information useful.

Spicy Red Bean Burger

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

Vegan Red Beans Chili

Minestrone Soup

What About You? Feel free to leave a favorite recipe or link in the comments section.

 

 

Cindy’s Personal Bread Recipe

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I had tried and failed may times over my adult life to make good homemade bread. I was not baking bread because I had to, but because I did not like store bought bread and thought I could do better. In 2008 when things got tough for us I needed to make bread to keep my suddenly very tight grocery budget in line. Well I kept failing…..

Until one day I was making bread and got distracted and left some dough sitting on the counter. At this point I was getting decent results from a recipe I had developed. This batch of  bread that was left to its own devices however was sublime.

At this time, on the frugal cooking blogs I followed, I kept hearing mention of soaked bread dough that only took 5 minutes of hands-on effort a day. I found the book The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day at my local library and found my bread heaven.

I do not use their method in its entirety, as I usually skip the baking stone and the added steam. I also use my own recipe that I had developed before I heard about them. Sometimes I will use a recipe directly from the book, but for my everyday sandwich bread this is the recipe and technique that I use.

Cindy’s Personal Bread Recipe

Ingredients

1 lb. plus 12 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour- approx. 6 cups

4 oz. whole wheat flour- slightly less than I cup

1 T or 1 small packet granulated yeast

1 T granulated sugar

2 T mild flavored oil placed in a measuring cup

Enough warm water added to the oil in the measuring cup to measure 3 cups

1 T table salt

Mixing the dough

Into a mixing bowl place flours, sugar and yeast. Using a whisk mix the dry ingredients together.

Into a lidded, plastic 6 quart bowl place water, oil and salt. Stir to mix the wet ingredients together.

To the liquid ingredients add the dry ingredients. Using a large spatula stir everything together making sure all of the flour is incorporated.

Loosely place the lid onto the container. Leave the dough to sit for about 2 hours or until the top collapses.

Affix the lid a little more securely and place container in the refrigerator. Leave for anywhere from 24 hours to 1 week.

Baking the bread

Grease an 8×4 in. loaf pan.

Dust the surface of the dough with a little bit of flour. Cut or Pull off a 2-pound piece.

The next step uses a technique called” gluten cloaking“. Page 57 of the book The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day explains it this way, “Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.”

Put the dough on to the counter and gently shape into a loaf a little smaller than your pan. Place in pan.

Let rest for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a sharp knife make a couple of deep slashes across the top. Put into the oven and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove freshly baked loaf from the oven. Remove bread from the pan and place on a cooking rack. Make sure the top is pointing upward so the steam can rise and soften the crust. This also prevents the bottom from getting soggy.

You will have dough leftover which can be used the same day or several days later.Use the remaining dough to make 2-12 in. pizzas or 1-16in. pizza. You could also make a large boule’ or batard to serve with dinner. Alternatively, you can use the dough all at once by making two loaves of a slightly smaller size.

This post is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

Do you have a favorite bread recipe to share? Feel free to leave a recipe or link in the comment section.

Frugal Snacks

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Snacks! Everyone needs them!

I discovered that a short list that everyone could chose from made life simple. Below is a list of probably everything we ever ate for snack time.

Celery and peanut butter

Fresh fruit

Dried fruit

Nuts

Cold pancakes and jam (you wouldn’t catch me eating them but my two daughters loved them)

Muffins

Baked treats such as brownies and cookies

Crackers with cheese

Popcorn.

How do you solve snack time in your home?

This post is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

 

 

The Seventh Set Of 3 Frugal Meals With Cost

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Everyone needs a few frugal meals that they can make over and over. I also think it is nice to know about how much they cost. The dollar amounts listed here approximate what these would cost to feed my family of four using today’s prices.  Here is the seventh set of 3 that I have made regularly throughout the years. Enjoy!

Part 1, part 2, part3, part 4, part 5, and part 6 can be found here.

1.Pork roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans.

Cost: Pork. $2.00.

Cost: Potatoes, flour for gravy and seasonings. $.60.

Cost: Green beans. $.90.

2.Black beans and rice, spicy cheesy biscuits.

Cost: Beans. cooking fat, onions, seasoning, rice. $1.35.

Cost: APF, baking powder, salt, seasonings, shredded cheese. $1.00.

3.Beanie Weenies, potato patties.

Cost: Leftover baked beans, 2 hot dogs. $1.20.

Cost: Mashed potatoes, egg, apf, cheese, seasonings.$1.00.

Please share. We would love to hear about some of your frugal meals.

This post is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

 

 

Frugal Dinner

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Dinner time is where I put the most effort. This is where we had the most variety and I cooked from scratch the most.

Doing an internet search for beans and rice, frugal cooking and roast chicken will net  thousands of recipes.

Using a rotation seemed to keep me on track during the different seasons of the year and life. I would modify them as our activities and schedules changed.

Here are a few of the topics I used

Slow Cooker

Quick and Easy

Sandwiches (hot dog, bean burgers, sloppy Lennies)

Soup

Leftovers

Planned Overs

Beans and Rice

Roast Meat

This post is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

What do you do to keep dinner frugal? Please share in the comments section.

Frugal Lunch

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Lunch time rolled around every day whether I was ready for it or not. Thankfully lunch was easier than breakfast or dinner.

A couple of times a week I would cobble together some leftovers from dinner. Other times we would have sandwiches with some sort side dish. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

PBJ, mac and cheese (leftover)

PBJ, chicken noodle soup (leftover)

PBJ, cheese stick (always bought in a large quantity when on sale)

Grilled cheese, baked beans (leftover or from freezer)

Egg salad sandwiches , potato chips ( a special treat)

Baked potatoes topped with chili and cheese (leftover chili or from freezer)

Quesadillas (these were always different and were based on whatever bits and pieces of beans, meat and cheese I had lying around).

Nachos (these were also different and based on whatever bits and pieces of beans, meat and cheese I had lying around.

Feel free to comment. I would love to hear how you solve your lunch time dilemma.

This post is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

 

Frugal Breakfast

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Putting a healthy and cheap breakfast on the table was always hard for me. Serving cold cereal everyday was too costly for the budget so I had to come up with other ideas.

I realized that what frustrated me the most was I really do not like to cook in the morning. Since the only way to stay on budget was to serve a hot breakfast most of the time I learned a few tricks.

Oatmeal of course is a frugal breakfast favorite. My family preferred steel cut oats –bought in a large quantity of course– but they take forever to cook. Soaking them the night before hastened the process in the morning.

To serve 4 people of moderate appetite, place 1 cup of oats and 3 cups of water in a 2 quart pot. Stir and put the lid on. In the morning turn the heat to medium high,add 1 cup water and a dash of salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and leave it for about 15 minutes. Remove the lid and stir. This can be doubled and the extra and put in the fridge for another morning.

A couple of other things I learned to make ahead were muffins and hard cooked eggs. Muffins can be made any time and tossed in the freezer. A few minutes in a bun warmer or simply remembering to take them out to thaw the night before makes them easy to use in the morning. Eggs can be cooked several days before you need them and stashed in the fridge. I always like to slice an egg and put it on my toast.

Below is a sample breakfast rotation. I intentionally kept the rotation simple to make life easier for myself.

Monday: Oatmeal sundaes (lots of toppings), toast with peanut butter

Tuesday: Cornflakes, sliced fruit and toast.

Wednesday: Muffins and yoghurt.

Thursday: Oatmeal sundaes, toast with sliced hard cooked egg.

Friday: Cornflakes, sliced fruit and toast.

Saturday: Pancakes and bacon.

Sunday: Bacony eggs. (Crumble two slices cooked bacon in the eggs while cooking,)

 

 

 

Menu Planning Is Not Enough

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I believe in menu planning. I have been doing it faithfully for about 15 years. That’s how I know it is not enough.

In addition to the hard work of planning out your meals you have to pay attention to it. I heard a saying somewhere along the way that you should know what is for dinner by either 10pm or 10am. While it may work for some people it never worked for me.

Why? Because I needed to take food from the freezer or precook something a day or 2 in advance. When operating with very small grocery budget every step in the process is important.

Let’s say I wanted to roast a chicken for dinner on Thursday, less than 24 hours is not enough notice. I need to take the bird out of the freezer by at least Tuesday to allow it enough time to thaw. What if I am going to make crockpot baked beans to serve on Friday? That requires precooking the beans on either Wednesday or Thursday. That way you are ready to go by 10am on Friday.

The secret is to look ahead at your plan by 2 or 3 days. At 10 am or pm do not just look at what is on the menu for tomorrow, look several days in advance and act accordingly.

Please share! What are some of your tricks to making a menu plan work for you?

This post is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

 

Recipes

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Something that frustrated me no end when I was in the middle of my frugal journey was recipes.

The first thing I noticed was that so many of them did not work. I had not yet had enough experience in reading recipes and could not yet tell at a glance if they would turn out as the author said they would. Especially on the internet.

I didn’t have time or money to acquire many cookbooks so I turned to the internet. What I found was many well intentioned people  publishing recipes who had no skill in writing them. They were probably dishes people had made many times for themselves but just did not know how to properly share them. Along the way I figured out where the errors were and made the recipes my own.

I also found a lot of recipes to cost more per serving than  I wanted to pay. I discovered by trial and error how I could modify a recipe to fit within my guidelines. For example, using 2 tablespoons of oil and one whole onion. When every single penny mattered I learned to cut those in half. We enjoyed the dish and I shaved a few cents off the total.

Thankfully, today it seems like people publishing on the internet have gotten a lot better. I no longer have the recipe fails that I once had. Also since my food budget is not so tight it does not really matter how much of any ingredient I use.

I am glad for what I learned during those years because I have a better appreciation for some things I had previously taken for granted….

Like an extra tablespoon of olive oil.

What are your experiences with recipes?

This post is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.