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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Week 4 of the $65 a Week Grocery Challenge!

Here we are at the end of February and the beginning of my fourth week of the $65 a week challenge.  If you're new to the blog and want to know why I'm spending only $65 a week on groceries, you can go over to my first week's post and see why I'm doing this. 

Last week we had my husband's birthday and I was sick most of the week.  On my husband's birthday we used a gift certificate that we got at Christmas to go out to dinner as a family to celebrate his birthday.  And then since I was sick most of the week, I didn't make anything too exciting that I thought was worth taking pictures of to share the recipe with you all.  Hopefully this week will be a little different!  

I went shopping today for this week's groceries.  I spent a total of $66.48.  $1.48 over my $65 a week budget, but I'll take it.  I had Diet Mt. Dew on my list, which is my husband's special treat that we splurge on.  I wasn't able to find it in the smaller 12 pack at a good enough price for me to justify buying it, so I had to spend a little more, $5.48 for the bigger pack.  But, on the bright side, I won't have to buy that next week, as this should last him a bit longer.  So, that's why I went over budget a bit.  

Here's a breakdown of what I got this week:

3 gallons of milk, 3 dozen eggs, 3 packs of shredded cheese, 8 yoplait yogurts, 20 pack diet mt. dew, corn tortillas, flour tortillas, 2 liter soda, 1 loaf bread, 1 bag onions, 1 green bell pepper, 3 pack romain lettuce, 1 bunch bananas, 1 bag apples, 1 bag halo oranges, 1 lb strawberries, zucchini, broccoli, 2 special K cereals, mushrooms, tomatoes, hot dogs, animal crackers and yogurt raisins.  

Total spent this week: $66.48

Total spent week 1: $62.66
Total spent week 2: $68.04
Total spent week 3: $64.71

Total for the month of February: $261.89

That is well under my $275 a month budget!  I'd say I'd call this month a success!  
I'm pretty happy that I was able to only spend $261.89 for the entire month for my 
family of 5.  Which is much better than the $600+ I was spending before!  

Do you think you could feed your family on a reduced budget?  How much do you think you could comfortably spend a month?  Or a week?

Monday, February 16, 2015

$65 A Week Challenge, Week 3!

You can see how this week's shopping went at the bottom of this post.  In the meantime, here's what's been cooking lately.

One night for dinner I made brown rice pasta with ground venison and added veggies to my canned pasta sauce.  No recipe for this, just a simple quick dinner to put on the table.
Total cost for me to make this meal: about $4

Last week a friend and I hosted a Valentine's Day party for the little kids in our area.  We had a great turn out and it was lots of fun.  I was responsible for cookie decorating so I made a couple of batches of sugar cookies and some frosting and the kids had a blast decorating them and were able to take them home.  

I searched pinterest for a sugar cookie recipe that didn't need to be refrigerated and found this really good recipe over on In Katrina's Kitchen.  It is titled 
Best Sugar Cookie Recipe EVER and I'd have to agree that these were pretty much perfect for what I was wanting.  Go check out the recipe!  Since I was able to get butter for $2 a pound last week, these cookies weren't too expensive to make.  Two batches cost me about $3.25 to make, extra for the frosting.

One of the nights that my husband was out of town last week I made homemade pizza for the kids.  They loved it!  Pizza is always a special treat!  I topped the kid pizza with Antelope sausage that my husband and I made during hunting season along with cheese and olives.  It was super good!

My pizza was a bit more adventurous.  It has the sausage and olives along with zucchini, garlic, green bell peppers, onion and mushrooms.  Then I topped it with fresh tomato after it baked.  SO GOOD!  
Total cost for our 3 big pizzas: about $7

Here's a good pizza dough recipe:
Pizza Dough:
2 1/2 C. Medium Hot Water
1 Tbsp. Yeast
2 Tbsp. Sugar
3 Tbsp. Oil
1 tsp. Salt
6 C. Flour (you can do half all-purpose and half white wheat or 100% whole wheat)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
1. Pour medium hot water in mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and allow to dissolve.
2. Add sugar, salt, and oil. Gradually add approximately 6 cups of flour.  Let mix in electric mixer for about 6 minutes.
3. Place dough on sprayed cookie sheet or pizza pan and press to fill pan, top with sauce, cheese and your favorite toppings.
4. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is cooked through.
Makes 3 to 4 pizzas.

Now onto this week's shopping.  My husband pointed out to me that I wasn't technically over budget last week since the week before I was actually under budget!  So, I stuck to my $65 budget for this week.  Everything I purchased for this week is pictured above.  The total for this week's groceries was $64.71!  So, I stuck to budget and got a few things I wasn't even planning on getting.  

Here's what I got:
5 dozen eggs, 2 gallons milk, twirly lollipop (not pictured), ham lunch meat, 3 packages shredded cheese, Cinnamon Toaster cereal, celery, 8 oz mushrooms, mayo, 2 liter soda, sliced cheese, taco bell hot sauce, saltine crackers, fresh salsa, tortillas, 1.1 lbs roma tomatoes, strawberry syrup, 1 lb brown rice pasta, 1.79 lbs broccoli, 3 avocados, .61 lbs banana chips, .65 lbs mixed nuts, 2.13 lbs tangelos, 2 lbs carrots, 1.20 lbs yellow delish apples, 2.44 lbs bananas, 2 lbs green cabbage, raisins, hot dogs and Smucker's jam.

I'm so used to buying a FULL cart of groceries every time I go shopping, so I'm getting used to only getting what I need and leaving with a very empty cart compared to what I'm used to.  But, I think it's been going pretty good so far!  

How did you do on your grocery budget this week?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Best Buttermilk Biscuits You'll Ever Make!

Dinners this week have all been pretty laid back.  Not much cooking has been going on.  Sunday I baked some chicken thighs and made mashed potatoes and gravy, served with corn.  Monday we had leftovers of that for dinner.  And last night we had leftover sausage gravy with these homemade buttermilk biscuits.  
I don't cook much when my husband isn't home, which is okay with me!

A few years ago I was at our local library and I stumbled upon this cookbook.  
Cooking Up a Storm

It has lots of old fashioned recipes and fun stories to go along with it.  I liked it so much, that I bought it and have made a few recipes from it.  But let me tell you, I found one recipe in it that is the BEST recipe I've ever stumbled upon for Buttermilk Biscuits.  Look no further if you've been on the hunt for a good biscuit recipe!  It's in this book!  

I didn't have any fresh buttermilk on hand, but I did have a can of dry buttermilk, so I mixed some of that up and used it in place of the fresh.  The biscuits still turned out just as good as ever!  If you decide to use reconstituted buttermilk or even regular milk with vinegar or lemon juice in it, to sour it, you will have to use less.  Real buttermilk has a thick consistency, and the other two options are thinner, so you have to gauge by feel how much liquid to put in.  If you use real buttermilk, then just put the amount in the recipe and they will come out perfect!

Buttermilk Biscuits
As seen in the cookbook Cooking Up a Storm (Good Old Days)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Sift together:
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cut in:
5 tablespoons butter or 1/4 cup lard (I always use lard)

Add and lightly mix (25 strokes only):
3/4 cup buttermilk or regular milk mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice

Turn dough onto floured board and knead gently for about 30 seconds.  Pat dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch.  Cut with biscuit cutter or a glass.  Bake on greased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes.  
    Note: It is best to stack to cookie sheets, one on top of the other, to prevent over-browning the biscuit bottoms.

Breakfast for dinner was a quick and easy meal to put on the table with leftover sausage gravy over hot biscuits and scrambled eggs with cheese on top.

Total cost for this dinner: about $2

Monday, February 9, 2015

$65 A Week Challenge Week #2 Plus Disneyland Prep!

What a week it's been!  My first week of the $65 a week challenge went really well.  I was able to stay within my budget and make lots of homemade foods for my family.  Here's how this week went.

I did a few more grocery store stops for this week's shopping.  I started last Friday, so technically it was still "last week", but, I applied the money towards this week's budget, since the food was all for this week.  

I stopped by a local store to pick up some motion sickness pills for my husband who was going on a 9 hour road trip for work.  He wasn't sure if he'd be having to sit in the back seat, so I planned ahead and got him the motion sickness pills.  It's never fun to be car sick for 9 hours... 

While I was there, I noticed that they had a produce bag special going on.  I looked at what was offered and decided that it was well worth the $15 price.  So, I picked one up.  You can see all I got for $15 in the photo above.  

Here's a breakdown of what was in the bag:
1 lb carrots, 1 bag salad mix, 1 guacamole mix, 1 pineapple, 3 grapefruits, 4 oranges, 5 HUGE gala apples, 4 roma tomatoes, 2 mangoes, 2 bell peppers, 4 green apples and 2 avocados.  

I also shopped at the dollar store twice and Walmart once for this week's groceries.  I still have things leftover from last week's shopping trip, so I didn't need to get as much stuff.  Plus, like I mentioned before, my husband is out of town most of this week, which means I don't need as much food in the house.  

Here's what I got:
Walmart: 2 gallons of milk, 18 count package eggs, 16 count flour tortillas, 2 liter diet twist, 12 pack diet mt. dew (not pictured), chocolate syrup (for my 4 year old who is obsessed with chocolate milk), 8 oz package cheese, 4 lbs butter (I had 1 lb on my list, but as I was looking at butter I saw an older gentleman with 16 lbs of it in his cart, I asked him if it was on sale somewhere else to price match and he said it was!  Fred Meyer has them on sale this week for 2 for $4, so only $2 a pound.  The normal price is over $4.50 each!) and 9 oz package of lunch meat.  

Dollar store: Chips, cinnamon toasters and a can of sardines (not pictured, for my son who is weird.)

Total for this food: $30.45

I came up with this crazy idea to go to DISNEYLAND this Spring and my husband agreed!  We're going to do it very frugally, eating breakfast and most of our dinners in our room and bringing pre-made lunch and snacks with us into the park, so I decided that since my total spent so far for this week's food was only $45.45 I would use the remainder of my budget on getting ready for Disneyland.  

Here is what I got at my first trip to the dollar store:
2 quarts shelf stable milk, 1 drink mix, 1 Jif to go, 1 package gnocchi

Here is what I got in my second trip to the dollar store and at Walmart for our 
Disneyland trip.

Dollar Store: Fiddle Faddle, Whales crackers, peanut butter crackers and sour cream and chive crackers.
Walmart: Crunchy granola bars, Breakfast on the go packs, raisins, capri suns, fruit crisps and drink mix.

Total spent at both dollar store trips and Walmart for Disneyland:

Total spent this week, all together: $68.04

So, I was over budget by $3.04, which means that next week I'll only have $61.96, which I'll round up to $62. 

I guess I went a little overboard with the Disneyland Prep, I could have left off a thing or two and been on budget, but it will all even itself out at the end of the month.

How was your budget for this week? 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Breakfast Tacos & Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry

This morning for breakfast I decided to use 4 slices of leftover bacon to make some Breakfast Tacos for my family's breakfast. 
I scrambled 10 eggs, that a friend gave me from her chickens, cut the bacon up into small bit sized pieces, warmed up 10 small soft taco sized tortillas, diced a couple of tomatoes and an avocado and we had breakfast.  Add a little cheese on top and some hot sauce and you're good to go.  
The total cost for me to make this was: about $2.50
Since the bacon was from our pigs and the eggs from a friend.  

Last night I decided to make a Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry.  I took out a package of chicken that I got in the Fall from Zaycon Foods.  From my 40 lbs of chicken I got about 20 packages of chicken breasts.  They are HUGE chicken breasts and each one weighs nearly a pound each.  At the time I purchased the chicken it was $1.89/lb, I believe.  The price does fluctuate, but not by much.  I think it's well worth it for even $2.00/lb. I think I'll be getting another box when they come back to my area in a few weeks.  If you aren't on their email list, I suggest getting on it so that you can get in on some great chicken deals!  Just head on over to Zaycon Foods and sign up!

I made the stir fry sauce from scratch, using things I had on hand, instead of buying a stir fry seasoning mix.  I found a pretty good looking recipe on, but of course I changed it up a little bit.

Stir Fry Sauce

2 tsp. chicken bullion granules
4 Tbsp. corn starch
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. ground fresh chili paste
1/2 Tbsp. honey

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and add to stir fry once the meat and veggies are almost done cooking.  Bring to a boil so it can thicken and then serve.


To make this stir fry I used one package of chicken and about 6 cups of chopped veggies.  
I also cooked 2 cups of  brown rice to serve it over.
Total cost for me to make this dinner: about  $7

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Busy Bee in The Kitchen

One of the ways I save money is by grinding my own flour for baking.  When stores have their case lot sales, I'll buy a couple of 50 lb bags of whole wheat for under $20 each and then use them all year to grind into wholesome whole wheat and make homemade bread and other goodies with.  I do still buy white flour to use in things like cookies and other baked goods, but I buy that during the case lot sales too at about $8 for a big 20 lb bag.

Yesterday I spent the day baking.  I made a double batch of my 
Awesome Whole Wheat Bread and turned that into three loaves and 10 big cinnamon rolls.  

 I stuck one of the loaves of bread in the freezer to use next week and kept the other two out for this week's use.  The cinnamon rolls acted as an after school snack for my boys, dessert for my husband and breakfast for my boys this morning.  We still have two leftover that will be snacked on today as well.

To make the cinnamon rolls, I melted 1 Tablespoons of butter and spread that out onto the rolled out dough.  Then I sprinkled with brown sugar until it was covered lightly and then added a thin layer of cinnamon and a couple of handfuls of raisins.  I then rolled them up and cut them and let them rise in the pan.  They were then baked along with the bread for about 25 minutes.  Once they were out and had cooled for a few minutes I made a very simple glaze out of 2 Tablespoons melted butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, a dash of vanilla and a couple tablespoons of milk.  Easy, frugal and delicious!

Total cost for 3 loaves of bread and 10 big cinnamon rolls: 
About $2

While I was in the kitchen, I took out a dozen eggs and boiled them.  I like to keep boiled eggs in the fridge for quick breakfasts before the boys get on the bus in the morning.  My daughter also likes to snack on them during the day.  At under .11 cents each, they make for a thrifty handy snack to have on hand.

Total cost for 12 boiled eggs: $1.30

We had a busy night last night.  The kids wanted to head over to the library for a Planes Party at 6pm and I had a Church activity to be to at 7pm, so we quickly ate these Indian Tacos and Tostadas and were out the door.  

To make these, I found 6 rhodes rolls in my freezer, took them out and let them rise and then fried them right before serving, I also fried some corn tortillas for tostada shells.  Topped with some leftover homemade refried beans, ground venison from the freezer seasoned with taco seasoning, a little bit of shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, guacamole, sour cream and hot sauce.  All that makes for a filling dinner on the cheap!

Total cost for Indian Tacos and Tostadas with leftovers for lunch: about $3

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What's Been Cooking? Cheater Lemon Cake, Buffalo Chicken Dip and Honey Mustard Pork Chops

Tonight we have dinner with the Boy Scouts for the Blue & Gold Banquet, 
so I don't have to cook dinner!  Gotta love that!  

Every family has been asked to either bring a dessert or salad.  Normally I'd bring a nice green salad or a yummy quinoa salad, but since I'm trying to reserve my veggies for my family's dinners this week, I decided to bring a dessert.  

I took a look in my pantry to see what I had that needed to be used up and came out with a lemon cake mix.  I usually try to buy cake mixes when they are on sale for $1 or less per box.  So, I baked up the cake, according to the box directions.

Once it was done cooling I made a very simple glaze to go on top.  I figured a glaze would be more cost effective than a frosting.  

Simple Lemon Glaze for Cheater Lemon Cake:
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon water
Whisk all ingredients together and then pour over baked and cooled cake.

The total cost for my pot luck worthy Cheater Lemon Cake: about $2

Since I'm not making dinner tonight and the banquet isn't until 7pm, I decided to make the kids a yummy after school snack that should hold them over until the later dinner.  We didn't watch The Super Bowl this past Sunday, since we got rid of satellite TV in 2014 and now only have Netflix.  Not that any of us actually missed watching the game, but we did miss out on all of the yummy game time foods that we usually eat while watching for the commercials.  

Enter Buffalo Chicken Dip!  Served with a sleeve or two of club crackers, this dip hit the spot for my boys when they got off the bus.  

Back when I started this blog, Pinterest wasn't a thing yet.  And now, we can type in any kind of dish we want to make and have tons of recipes pop up WITH pictures!  I eat with my eyes first, so Pinterest makes picking recipes out, so much easier.  

I found this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip and decided to give it a try.  Of course I changed things up a little, to use what I had.  And cooking on a budget is all about flexibility!  You must be able to alter recipes to fit what you already have in your house if you want to save money.  

Buffalo Chicken Dip:

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce
  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 large can chicken, drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded Sharp cheddar cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients, except for the shredded cheese, in a baking dish.  No need to dirty two dishes, so just mix it all up in what you are going to bake it in. Once all of the ingredients are mixed, add the cheese on top and bake for about 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Total cost for Buffalo Chicken Dip: about $4, plus the cost of crackers.

The picture above is before baking, I didn't get one after it was cooked.  But, my boys loved it and it was much appreciated by them when they got off of the bus. 

Since I'm not cooking dinner tonight, I thought I'd link over to the recipe that I used last night to make Honey Mustard Pork Chops.  They were a hit!!  Served along with roasted potatoes that we gleaned back in October from local Potato fields (which equals lots of free potatoes!) and a side of honey glazed carrots (can we say cheap!?), our entire dinner last night cost us about $4 or so.  Since we have to pay for the pigs to be butchered, that's our main cost.

Thanks for stopping by!

$65 A Week Grocery Challenge

The price of food seems to be getting higher and higher and I've found myself spending an easy $150+ a week on groceries for my family of 5.  Most months we're in over $600 just for food.  So, I've decided to take action and put my family on a strict $65 a week grocery budget.  This budget will be for only food items.  No household products, although I do plan on being very thrifty in that department also.  

February 2015 is my first month doing this.  And here is the picture of my first week's shopping.   Here's a breakdown of what I got: 5 dozen eggs, 3 gallons of milk, mayonnaise,  a large container of yogurt, a large container or sour cream, 8 oz mushrooms, 1.4 lbs broccoli, 3 jalapeno peppers, 4 (8 oz) packages of shredded cheese, 1.5 lbs zucchini, 1 head lettuce, 1 package hot dogs, 6 heart lollipops, 2 lbs real butter, 1.71 lbs roma tomatoes, 1 lb bulk raisins, 2.24 lbs pears, 2 lbs carrots, 2.35 lbs bananas, 1 bunch cilantro, 1 head cabbage, 2 lbs oranges, 2.5 lbs apples, 5 avocados, 2 green bell peppers, 12 pack diet mt. dew and 1 box conversation hearts

My grand total for all that was $62.66, so I have $2.34 left for this week.  If I choose not to use that $2.34 this week, I'll roll it over into the next week.  My goal is to keep my monthly food budget under $275 a month.  

Now, to make things clear, I have a very well stocked freezer, full of meat that my husband hunted for.  I've got elk and venison hamburger, steaks, stew meat, sausage... Pretty much if you can think of it, we've got it.  This is a huge blessing to us and helps immensely with our food budget.  Yet, I'd still find myself spending $150+ a week at the grocery store.  

I also have about 1 1/2 pigs worth of pork in my freezer.  This last Spring, my family raised two pigs for meat and we are greatly benefiting from that now!  We plan on doing the same this coming Spring, so that we always have a steady flow of pork in the freezer.  I also occasionally will order a 40 lb. box of boneless skinless chicken breasts from Zaycon Foods at only $1.99 or less a pound.  

So, as you can see, I will not be purchasing meat very often.  I simply just don't need to!  
I also keep a fairly well stocked pantry.  I have lots of beans, grains, flours and sugars.  I will occasionally need to re-stock these items, but not very often.  And I will usually do that when our local stores have Case Lot sales.  

I will not be purchasing many pre-made items.  Pretty much no frozen pizzas or dinners.  Not many snack type items or breads.  Cookies from a box...What are those?  About once a week I'll have a baking day, where I bake all of the bread and treats that my family will eat for the week.  

Join me on this new money saving adventure!