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.

 

 

The Sixth Set Of 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 sixth set of 3 that I have made regularly throughout the years. Enjoy!

Part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 and part 5 can be found here.

Lentil tacos and rice.

Cost: Lentils, cooking fat, onion, tomato sauce, seasonings, tortillas and rice. $1.50.

Hot dogs on buns and fried potatoes and onions.

Cost: Hot dogs, buns and condiments. $1.50.

Cost: Potatoes, onions, cooking fat, seasonings. $1.25

Minestrone soup, biscuits and butter.

Cost: Beans (I prefer white), bouillon, fresh garlic, onion, carrot, celery, canned tomatoes. $2.00

Cost:  Flour, salt, baking powder, shortening, milk.$.75.

What kind of frugal meals are you cooking at your house?

This post is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

Menu Plan 16

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Last week I did not do a menu plan and we ate only one home cooked meal that week. Mac n cheese from a box does not really count as a home cooked meal.   Lesson learned!

Here is what we will be eating this week:

Black bean and turkey chili

Hot dogs, macaroni and cheese

Sesame tofu, steamed cabbage and rice

Beanie Weanies, cornbread

Lentil tacos, rice

Chicken and cabbage stir fry, sesame noodles

Baked chicken breasts (seasonings tbd later) mashed potatoes, green beans

What is for dinner at your house this week?

This is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

You can see more great menus over at Organizing Junkie.

Milk In A Frugal Budget

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During our lean years two teachings about buying milk were popular. The first one was to use powdered milk. The second one was to buy milk on sale and freeze what you could not use within a few days.

Let’s talk about powdered milk first. Flavor is a good place to start. I don’t like how it tastes. Because of that the milk would have to be significantly cheaper for me to want to use it on a regular basis.

At my local grocery store a 64 ounce box of powdered milk sells for $.25 per ounce. One box turns into 20 quarts of fluid milk. Using those numbers one gallon of liquid milk made from dry costs around $3.00.

Currently fresh milk costs very close to the same amount. That is a strong argument for picking up a gallon of fresh milk next time you are at the grocery store.

Next up is the idea of freezing extra milk. I have actually done this. The flavor is only mildly compromised but it sure takes a lot of space in the freezer. I would only do this if my family went through a lot of milk and I had room in the freezer.

After thinking about powdered milk and freezing extra milk I decided to just get the amount of milk I needed at the store each week.

This is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

Lets talk about it. Leave a comment!

Menu Plan 15

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So this is what we eat when I do not get around to menu planning.

Pizza delivery

Spaghetti from the freezer with homemade dinner rolls

Drive through hamburgers

Take out Panda Express

Macaroni and cheese from a box

Treated to dinner by our good friends from Idaho

Leftover food from yesterday’s dinner and warm cookies from the oven.

This was not a week to be proud of.

What about you? What happens in your house when you forget to do a menu plan.

I also post these in the Menu Plan Monday section of Org Junkie, where you can find more people who believe in the value of a weekly menu plan.

This is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

The Fifth 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 fifth set of 3 that I have made regularly throughout the years. Enjoy!

Part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 can be found here.

1. Roast pork tenderloin, baked potatoes, green beans.

Cost: Pork, seasonings. $2.00.

Cost: Potatoes, butter. $2.00.

Cost: Green beans.$.90.

2. Baked beans, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw.

Cost: Beans, onion, molasses, mustard, salt and pepper, $1.00.

Cost: Macaroni, milk, butter, flour, cheese, salt and pepper. $1.50.

Cost: Cabbage, carrot, mayo, vinegar, seasonings. $.50.

3. White bean and pork chili and cornbread with honey and butter.

Cost: Beans, onion, pork, broth or bouillon, green chilis.$1.50.

Cost:Cornmeal, APF, salt, baking powder, milk, oil, eggs, butter and honey.$1.00

This post is part of 31 Days Of Frugal Cooking.

Feel free to share. What are some of your favorite meals?

 

 

What To Do With Lentils

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In addition to being part of a 31 days writing challenge, this is the fourth post in a series titled What To Do With Beans. Click here to read the first, second and third 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.

7 Ways To Make Lentil Soup

Moroccan Lentil Vegetable Stew

Lentil Chili

Lentil And Potato Curry

Lentil And Rice Stuffed Peppers

Lentil Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Braised Cabbage Rolls

Pasta With Lentil Bolognese

Lentil Bolognese Sauce

Spiced Lentil Sweet Potato And Kale Whole Wheat Pockets

Lentil Lasagne

Sloppy Lennys AKA Faux Joes

Lentil Tacos

Lebanese Lentil Salad

Lentil And Carrot Salad With Kale

Rice Lentil Salad

Quinoa Lentil Salad