Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Saving Dinner website is a pretty neat thing, as it works for us. There are times when I need somebody else to decide for me what we'll have that week. I want some new dishes in the mix. I want variety. A while ago I got a coupon for the site and bought a menu mailer ebook. It has a whole season's worth of menus. The way it is laid out makes life even simpler. Every week there are six meals. The first page is the Master Shopping List. Just print it out, cross off everything you already have, and shop from the rest of the list. Each ingredient is cross-referenced to which meal it belongs with, to make substitutions easier. The recipes are simple and easy, with nutritional information worked out.

I let my fingers walk through that ebook this week and the first meal I worked with was a huge success. As most of my recipes, I studied it and then took it a different way. My variation on the Asian Spinach Salad follows.

You'll need: a bag of spinach greens
a couple of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cooked and chopped
some honey-roasted peanuts
a bottle of sesame-ginger marinade (or your favorite asian-type salad dressing)

Into a large, lidded container (I used an entree-sized gladware-type container) put two handfuls of spinach. Toss in the chicken, about two tablespoons of the sauce, snap on the lid and shake to coat. Lay a fresh handful of the spinach on your plate, then a portion of the sauced spinach-chicken mixture (this is so that if there's too much sauce, the spinach doesn't drown in it). Top with the nuts.

It was incredibly easy and my husband loved it immediately. Makes it a winner in my book!

A side-benefit of the saving dinner menus is that with the detailed menu planning you can save a lot of money at the store. We all know that to save money, shop from a list and avoid impulse items. How much simpler is it when the majority of the list comes pre-made with healthy recipes that you don't have to think too-much about ahead of time. Plus, you get away from the trap of the same 7 rotating meals. It's Monday? Must be meatloaf night. Tuesday? Sloppy Joes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The electric bill from last month got here, and I was pleasantly suprised with the amount. It was just about right where I expected it to end up, the amount is within my standard budgetary amount, and since we're starting another heat advisory month out here in the middle of the nowhere I'm glad that I don't have to feel too guilty about cranking the AC up this month.

In other news... I'm tired. That's not a new thing, but it's definately been getting better. I'm feeling less overwhelmed as a mother of two these days. Better able to cope. To roll with the challenges that each new day brings me. To meet my obligations to my kids and husband and make a happy home.

That probably sounds very Stepford. I don't care. It's me, right this moment, and I'm happy. Genuinely happy. And I won't trade that feeling in for anything.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The cloth diaper experiment is going well. Since the Toddler/Preschooler is home for the summer break, we're not going as many places, and I can stick to cloth diapers during the day and disposables when the family's all at home for the evening (and overnight)

In the past week instead of going through 80+ disposables, we've gone through almost a package of 40. Only added two loads of diaper-laundry a week, and it's hung on the drying rack to save the electric. Sun-dried diapers also smell very nice.

Next payday I'm investing in another drying rack. Then I can do two loads of laundry at a time if I need to, and have them all dry at once. Right now it's getting only mostly dry by the end of the day, and I either bring it inside and run it through the dryer for five minutes or leave it out overnight and half of the next day risking pigeon droppings and small bugs taking up residence in the cool shade of our shirts.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chicken Gravy with Rice and Carrots

brown 1 pound chicken thighs (boneless, skinless, I buy these in a 3pound bag in the freezer case). Sprinkle Mrs Dash to taste. After they're browned, simmer in white wine until it's cooked. Remove from pan and fork-shred. Stir a packet of gravy mix into the pan and continue simmering until thickened. Add back the chicken.

Serve it over rice and carrots on the side.

Cost of meal:
canned carrots- $0.75
rice- $0.25
gravy mix- $0.50
chicken- $2.00
total: $3.83
Serve 4 at $0.96 each

Note: I didn't factor in the cooking wine or the Mrs Dash- they are pantry staples for me, and the cost over several dishes comes out to pennies. Your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hamburger Helper is one of my favorite main-meals. It's the perfect one pot meal. Everything in one pot, cook, serve, less dishes and a fairly easy cleanup. The only problem is the price. Around here it runs around $2 a box, on sale. The generics are a bit cheaper, usually.

Here's my variation on the theme.

Cheeseburger Helper

brown and drain one pound of ground beef. Season to taste, I usually sprinkle the beef with seasoned salt as it's cooking. I drain the fat by pouring it into a colander and than rinsing the meat with cold water. This way I can use the cheap grades with the fat that makes it extra tasty and get rid of said fat without having it irritate my tummy.

Cook one box of mac and cheese, to the directions. Use whatever brand floats your boat- at the deep discount places I can get it three for a dollar.

Mix beef and mac and cheese, and add a can of peas/cup of thawed frozen peas. If you want, stir in a few handfuls of shredded cheddar and let it get all melty and happy.

This serves 6 people with normal helpings. Or me and the Boy for one hungry night. You can add the meat at a different proportion, if you want, or vary the vegetables. This is a very convenient alternative to the norm. I've seen other people do this, with their own twist on it, and I know it's not a new concept.

Be creative with the pantry. What's your all-time favorite dish that you only let yourself have once in a blue moon because it's too expensive? Is there any way you can substitute ingredients and make a more thrifty alternative? Stick with the stuff that you really want, and mix it up with the base or the toppings.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How could it be since February that I posted here???

Oh, right. I have a life. And another blog, which I've been faithful to. And two kids and husband, which really suck up the time I have. My blogging comes out of my sleep time, more often than not. This is right when I should be tucked up in bed for the night. Am I? I am not. I'm trying to get just one more thing done before the bedtime. I also need to wash my hair.

What have I been up to in the pursuit of a greener life? I've been cloth diapering, a bit, again. I've been scrubbing my kitchen floor with non-toxic cleaning solution every three days and it looks better than it has since we moved in. Three days seems to work out best with the foot traffic in there, and the spills, and the small children who (still) lick the floor on occassion. Please don't ask me why, I don't know, and it makes my brain hurt to think about it.

The food shopping is upon us this weekend- stay tuned for the adventures of my meal planning and food budgeting. It's going to get very interesting this summer.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tonight featured ham, broccoli, caramelized onions, shredded mozzarella, and angel hair pasta. It was yummy. So yummy that I'm tempted to forget how tired I am, how much I ate for dinner, and go back in for seconds and thirds.

I also am craving chocolate tonight. No clue why. Is it the lactating thing? Is this a sign that my body might suddenly decide to give up more than it's currently doing? Should I just give up and let go of my hope to breastfeed this child altogether?

It's been nearly three months since I began to pump. Nearly three months of this, every time I wake up, every time I wake up in the night and think of going to pump and deciding that I'd rather get the rest than the milk. Watching drips turn to drops and back to drips. Never even coming close to filling a bottle. A 4oz bottle. I have absolutely no hope of ever filling an 8oz bottle.

I've done a good job. I'm hopeful that this will last a bit longer. Just a bit longer.