Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Making Your Own Sale Part 2

Also known as How to Make Your Own Sale. :)

So if you missed my last past, let me catch you up to speed. I live in a semi-large town that has a military base. The stores in my area do not like to compete with the commissary, so we don't get all the good deals that so many other bloggers seem to get. I feel so robbed!

Buying every single thing on sale here is not an option, neither is using every single coupon that I find.

I've had to work around my challenges. Using the resources that are available--and there definitely are a LOT of resources--has helped me keep my spending in check. I can still get some great deals without putting a big dent in my budget.

Here are some of the resources that I use to try to find the best deals:
  • Bloggers such as Melissa's Bargain Blog, Money Saving Mom, Moms By Heart, and Attention Target Shoppers may not have the same sales ads that are in my area, but they certainly are an inspiration and a great place to start. Melissa posts scenarios to help you get started with your "extreme couponing," Crystal and Lori both post links to all the best coupons and free samples, plus Lori has a great weekly post on $0.50 or Less Shopping (love it!). And Ginger provides some of the most comprehensive Target deals you can find.
  • Coupon generatorating sites, like Organic Grocery Deals and Hot Coupon World let me know some of the Target web coupons that are available, and I can print innumerable copies of as many Target coupons that I think I might need.
  • The forums at Startsampling are also really great for letting me know about all the free samples and Internet coupons, taking out a lot of guesswork and hunting around. I love knowing that I can get something for free if I can't actually buy it for cheap (every little bit helps, right?). And, I just have to repeat this, no guesswork! They've done all the hard work for me and posted everything right there in the forums.
  • All You magazine has been another excellent resource. I took the plunge last Summer and paid $16 for a two-year subscription. Not only are the articles and recipes great and full of frugal living tips, each edition is also loaded with coupons, even Free purchase coupons. You can click here to receive a free two-month trial for All You and check for yourself just how many coupons there are.
  • Friends and family. My mother-in-law and husband's grandmother will occasionally give me a stack of coupons that they doesn't plan on using. And likewise, I'll share coupons with them or other friends who might be able to use them.
  • And don't forget the store sales ad! Most stores post their sales online, which saves me from having to get an ad to the local paper, or driving across town picking up a sales ad from each store. This is another area where my mother-in-law is a life saver. My in-laws have a paper subscription, so they usually send the flyers home with my husband or one of the kids each week, which gives me a hard copy to work with as I plan my shopping.

Where do you go to find the best deals? Do you have a no-fail-go-to site that you visit? Share your tips with a comment below. :)

Coming up next, Part 3, or Putting It All Together!

Note: These are suggestions that I find works for me and my family's situation. The important thing is to find what works best for you, and sticking with it, or finding a way to improve upon it. :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Making Your Own Sale Part 1

I live out in the boonies. At least, sometimes it feels that way. The town I now live in here in Eastern North Carolina is much larger than the college town in Central Texas that hubs and I lived in when we were first married. In Texas, we had two grocery stores to choose from, HEB and Walmart. Here, we have Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, IGA, Save-A-Lot, Super Target (which, by the way, does not carry produce or fresh meat) and Walmart, plus Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid. Food Lion also has several convenient locations to shop at, so there's always one nearby no matter what part of town I'm at (no wonder they're so expensive--gotta pay the mortgage!! lol).

So with so many options, it would stand to reason that the stores here should be really competitive, right?


We have a military installation located in the heart of the big city, smack-dab in the middle of town. And the stores here just will not compete with the commissary on base.

So while I follow a couple blogs that match sales ads with coupons, like Melissa's, I rarely get to utilize their extreme couponing methods because the stores here, including Target and the 3 pharmacies, don't always have the same sale. Or, the stores have the sale, but the coupons aren't available in this area.

That means that I have to resort to extreme measures, like creating my own sale!

When I first started serious couponing a year ago, I felt as though I had to use every single coupon that I got my hands on, and felt like I had to buy everything that was on sale, whether I needed it or used it or not.

That meant, if an item was "on sale" in the posts according to other bloggers, but not on sale here in my area, I still bought the item. OR, if I couldn't get a coupon, I still bought the item.
*GASP!* What was I thinking??

Let's just say that train of thought didn't last very long!

It's taken some self-discipline, but I've come to learn that I don't need every single thing that is on sale. And I don't need every single coupon either.

If I miss a sale item because it's simply not on sale in my area, that's okay! That means that something else is on sale here. We're not brand specific either, so I'm perfectly ok with buying store brand or generic. And if I do manage to clip "the perfect coupon," then I'm happy to buy a name brand item.
Coming up next, Part 2! Also known as, How to Make Your Own Sale!
What shopping challenges do you have? Are you in the big city, college town, small town, or military town, and do you have to get creative with your shopping? Please post a comment below and share your tips! :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Sausage & Zucchini Skillet (with meal price!)

This is really tasty and inexpensive meal. My husband really flattered me by cleaning his plate, getting seconds, and cleaning his plate again! I normally serve this over white rice, but I was strapped for time, so I made some potato flakes instead. It was like having Shepherd's Pie.

Sausage Zucchini Skillet

1 lb mild ground sausage ($1.19)
2 large zucchini, chopped (free from our garden, last year's crop that's been in our freezer)
1 large onion, chopped ($0.10)
2 garlic cloves, minced ($0.20)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained ($0.50)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper ($0.03)

4 servings prepared potato flakes ($0.20)

1 16oz bag frozen mixed vegetables ($1)

Total Cost = $3.22!!

Brown sausage with zucchini and onion in a large skillet over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook an stir until meat is no longer pink. Drain. Stir in tomatoes and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 4-5 minutes or until liquid is evaporated. Serve over prepared potato flakes.

If freezing: Place cooked sausage mixture into a gallon-size freezer bag, squeeze out air, seal, lay flat and freeze. Thaw 24 hours in refrigerator and heat sausage mixture in microwave. Serve over cooked rice or mashed potatoes & enjoy!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 4/26-5/2/10

I have officially decided that my life no longer belongs to me. I thought I was busy before. But after looking at the upcoming week, I've realized that my life belongs to work, baseball, meetings, dance class, and everything else that is going on. Well, I take that back. I do have 1 day of vacation scheduled this week. The kids' have a field trip to go strawberry picking, and we're going to make a family activity out of it. There is, however, something going on EVERY SINGLE NIGHT this week. EVERY night! I don't know whether to scream or cry. And I don't see much of a break in sight until June, when baseball season will be over.

So if you don't see much of me, don't panic. I'm just on stress overload and will be on a mental break. I'm going to try to keep my life as simple as I can make it for the next 5 or so weeks until some of our activities clear out. All part of trying to maintain a semblance of balance! :)

Monday--Chicken Pot Pies, Peppered Cottage Cheese
The menfolk have baseball practice this evening, so we moved our weekly "Family Home Evening" or FHE night to Sunday night. The Pot Pies are really nothing fancy--just the frozen single-serve box kind that you toss in the oven, bake & serve. Hubs and the Little Man have to head out early in the evening, so hubs chose to make this meal so they can eat before leaving.

Tuesday--Tomato Pasta Bake, hubs chooses the sides
Baseball game night! And I have a meeting at church and will leave straight after work. Because of the game, Little Miss will go with me. Hubs is playing "Meals On Wheels" and will prepare/heat the meal, feed himself & the kids, then bring a plate of food to me when I get off work so I can eat on my way to my meeting. I'll need to remin him to pack a backpack of distractions like coloring books and toys or Little Miss so she won't be bored while I'm in my meeting.

Wednesday--Taco Casserole, Oranges
This is my vacation day and our strawberry picking day. I have a ton of errands to run once we get home, but I will actually be able to put supper together for a change. Because of baseball, hubs has had to step up to the plate a little more and put together supper more & more often so he and our son can eat instead of starving themselves by waiting until they get home. Hubs also has a meeting this night, but with me having a full day of vacation, there should be no problem with me having supper made at a decent time so he can eat before needing to leave.

Thursday--Teriyaki Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Pineapple, hubs gets to choose side #2
We have another baseball game on this evening. I plan on going to this game, so hubs will need to have dinner ready to eat early. So early, that I'll probably have to take a plate with me to the game. We could just plan on taking some cash and eating hot dogs from the concession stand--and the kids would absolutely love doing that--but that means spending money, and in my opinion, taking the easy way out. I've got these freezer meals in the freezer, and hubs doesn't work, so in my opinion, we should just use what we have and save our money. However, I know that there's a lot going on, and I can foresee one or the both of us being stressed out by this night, so I'm fully prepared for my husband to proclaim, "I give!" and refuse to make any dinner this night. It happened last week (instead of cooking up supper on Thursday night, he made peanut butter & honey sandwiches for dinner before the baseball game that night).

Friday--Hubs is on his own
I'm scheduled for a girls' night out for a monthly scrapbooking crop. I just might actually get some stress relief after all. :)

Saturday--Baby Back Bash Ribs, Sweet Corn Bread, Beans
It's baseball tournament day, and the team is scheduled to play two games (yes, two games on top of the two games and baseball practice earlier in the week). I also had intended on this day being my Once A Month Cooking day, but that was before learning about the tournament that was scheduled. Now I don't know what I'll do. I might do half a month's worth of cooking, instead of a full day. I haven't completely decided what to do. There's supposed to be a trophy presentation late in the evening, so I want to make sure that I'm able to go to at least one game and the trophy presentation, assuming my son's team gets a trophy.

Breakfast: Cranberry Orange Muffins
I still, STILL have not had a chance to make these. I didn't have enough flour a couple weeks ago, and I intended on buying some this week but never made it to the grocery store.

Dinner: Church potluck, bringing Chicken Salad Sandwiches and Cantaloupe
Our church meets late in the afternoon, and choir is meeting each week immediately following. We've decided to have a potluck the first Sunday each month after choir practice is over, as an opportunity for fellowship and to give us a little break from rushing to get the family fed once we get home.

For over 300 menu plan options, remember to visit!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Garden Update

With the warmer Spring weather we've been experiencing, our family has been able to work out in the garden more, setting up tomato cages and planting the transplants.

We've only had one little glitch that caused us to go to Plan B. We were supposed to get a large shipment of compost through a friend who is a landscaping contractor, but that fell through. So instead, hubs bought several large bags of special soil for vegetables, mixing some of it into the ground when he planted the transplants.

Everything's really starting to take off. Here's some of what we've planted:

Peppers, peppers and more peppers. My in-laws bought us several varieties of peppers--spicy, mild and sweet varieties, such as tabasco, cayenne, jalapeno, hot banana, green bell, and more.

My son's Mammoth Sunflowers are also growing. Two of the ones he planted really shot off and got an early start, even though they were planted the same time as others. We started most these out in Jiffy pots then moved them into the soil. The rest were planted right in the soil a couple weeks ago.

Last Fall, we bought 3 different varieties of grapes. We didn't know if they survived the Winter, unti a week or so ago, we saw the tiniest little leaves budding out. It hasn't taken long for these to take off, either!

Our garden was ravaged by bunnies last Spring, one of the many pests (although cute pests, to say the least) to attack our garden. The bunnies ate up several of the green leaf lettuces, and chewed up all the blueberries, plus most of the blueberry bush as well. They finally went away for good after I brushed down the dogs and gave the menfolk a haircut, and put all the fur and hair around the perimeter of the garden. I suppose that I could do that again, but we opted to try out a fake owl to start off with. So far, so good. We've seen a couple bunnies in a neighbor's yard (I know they're eyeballing our garden from a distance) but they haven't actually ventured into our yard yet. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it continues to work!

Another new addition to this year's garden is potatoes. We planted several red seed potatoes in these 4 blue barrels. The bottoms are cut out of these barrels, and we filled it with good compost. As the plants grow up, we'll lift up the barrels little by little to keep the leaves from falling over. The potato plant will stop growing potatoes when the leaves "fall over" the edge. As long as you can keep the plant growing "up", it will keep producing potatoes, which you can pull out from the bottom of the barrel as you lift it up.

The seed potatoes definitely seem to like their home. We've got quite a lot of little plants growing in each barrel.

In addition to the blueberries, the bunnies also helped themselves to most of last year's strawberry crop. Last year's crop didn't produce a huge number of berries, but holy cow, we have a ton of little white flowers and little green strawberries growing this year! I sure hope that the owl does his job and keeps out the bunnies so we can truly enjoy our strawberry crop this year!

Here's our blueberry bush, full of new little blueberries. It will be awhile before these ripen. Again, keeping our fingers crossed that they'll be able to ripen to maturity before the bunnies devise a way to sneak into our garden! lol

When we planted the blueberry bush last year, we also planted a blackberry bush. It had just started flowering, and when we planted it, all the flowers died off but didn't produce any berries. We pretty much missed the timing. The plant, however, continued to grow. And this year, it's loaded with beautiful white flowers. I'm looking forward to when it produces berries--they'll be great as a topping in some yogurt or for cereal!
Are you growing a garden this year? What are you planting? What are your success stories? Are you going organic? Lots of questions, but feel free to leave a comment and share your gardening story! :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Moroccan Pork Chops

I found the basic recipe for this meal at Taste of Home, but used chicken thighs when I first prepared it several months ago. It's definitely different from what I grew up on. I don't think that it ever occurred to my mom to use ingredients such as raisins and cinnamon in a main dish. But I liked it, that's for sure.

Moroccan Pork Chops

1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 tsp flour
4 pork loin chops
2 tsp olive oil
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp chicken broth
1 1/2 oz raisins
1 tsp flour

In a small bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients. Set aside 1 tsp spice mixture. Add flour to remaining mixture, and coat pork chops. In a large skillet, brown pork chops in oil on both sides. Remove and keep warm. Add green onion to the pan, then stir in broth and raisins. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and return pork chops to the pan. Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes or until pork chops are cooked through. Combine 1 tsp flour with remaining broth until smooth; gradually stir into pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve sauce over pork chops.

If freezing: Place cooked pork chops and sauce into a freezer bag, seal up and lay flat in the freezer. Thaw 24 hours in the refrigerator, and heat in the microwave. Very convenient when you've got events going on in the evening like Spring ball games! :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Crispy Mustard Pork Chops

I absolutely love these pork chops!! The tangy mustard flavor blends perfectly with all the flavors. Really, really good. I got this recipe from Angel Food Ministries in one of our orders several months ago.

Crispy Mustard Pork Chops

2/3 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 cup crumbled Parmesan cheese
4 pork loin chops
salt and pepper
1-2 Tbsp olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream and mustard. In another medium bowl, mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Dip each chop, one at a time, into the sour cream/mustard mixture and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Meanwhile, heat oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add chops to skillet and cook 6-8 minutes per side, until no longer pink in the middle, pressing down with a spatula so crumbs adhere. Serve and enjoy.

If freezing: Prepare and cook chops as directed above. They'll freeze good in a food saver bag. Thaw 24 hours in the refrigerator and heat up in the microwave. Note that they breading won't be "crispy" but the flavor will still be just as good.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Lemony Chicken Saute'

I kid you not when I say that my husband declared this to be the best-tasting chicken dish he'd had in a long time. What an ego booster for me! Especially considering last time I made this, probably 2 or 3 years ago, he did not like it at all. What a difference a few years makes. Actually, the big difference this time is that I used cooked chicken, instead of cooking the chicken up the night we ate this meal.

Lemony Chicken Saute'

1lb cooked chicken (about 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves)
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, sliced
1-4oz can sliced mushrooms, or 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes

Melt butter in 10-inch skillet until sizzling; add garlic, green onions and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper and lemon juice. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add cooked chicken; simmer over low heat for 5 minutes or until heated through. Stir in parsley and serve.

The cooked chicken was made using my slow cooker, one of the best and certainly easiest ways to cook chicken in advance if you ask me. If you buy your chicken in bulk, (10lb bags of chicken leg quarters often go on sale down here for $0.48/lb) then throw all the chicken into a 6-qt slow cooker on low for 8-10 hours. Remove the chicken and use the bones to make Homemade Chicken Broth. The cooked chicken can be frozen for a really delectable roasted flavor in your next meal!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 4/19-4/25/10

Both of my kiddos have been sick this weekend. It's been a long time since either of them were ill. I even thought to myself recently, "Wow, I'm so lucky because my kids hardly ever get sick." Sure enough, no sooner did that thought pass, and both kids wind up with fevers and coughing spells. My daughter is fairing better than her older brother, who is a miserable sick patient, to say the least (coughing, complaining, whining, and high maintenance). My daughter is a much quieter sickly, preferring to just lay on the couch and do little more than blink. My son got sick first, and his fever has passed, but my little girl is still running a fever. I didn't get as much accomplished this past weekend, dealing with sick kiddos. So I missed out posting my menu plan on Sunday evening like I normally do. Better late than never, right?

Here's the plan for this week. We're just as busy as ever. I've tried to plan meals that are already prepared as a freezer meal, or will be very quick to put together. Recipes will continue to be posted throughout the week.

Monday--Crispy Mustard Pork Chops, Sliced Apples, Ants on a Log
Mondays are usually our "Family Home Evening" or FHE night, where we have a special family activity and spiritual thought. That's kind of gotten thrown out of whack due to baseball season. Not only is my son playing ball, my husband is also coaching. My son was too sick to play tonight, but I heard from hubs that they won the game, and the county sheriff--who oddly enough is sponsoring the Enforcers, my son's team--was there and took pics with the kids. And all of the kids were there. Except my sick little boy. :( Perhaps the sheriff will show up at the next game.

Tuesday--Barbecue Chicken, Cantaloupe, Corn
Nothing special about this meal--just cooked, shredded chicken mixed with barbecue sauce. Hubs gets to play "Meals on Wheels," preparing dinner and bringing it to me after work so I can eat on my way to a meeting at church.

Wednesday--Moroccan Pork Chops, Green Beans, Oranges
The menfolk have baseball practice this evening.

Thursday--Sausage Zucchini Skillet, White Rice, Carrot Sticks
Another ball game. Hopefully my son will be feeling better by then so he'll get to play.

Friday--Hubs & the kids are on their own
I'm going scrapbooking for a Relay For Life fundraiser immediately after work until late at night. They are serving dinner, so I don't have to worry about dinner for the family. That's up to my husband to decide (knowing him, they'll probably eat hot dogs or macaroni & cheese--or both! lol)

Saturday--Baby Back Bash Ribs, Mixed Veggies, Beans
I'll be spending the better part of the day at the scrapbooking fundraiser again. I'm excited because, not only will I be supporting a good cause, I'll also be working on a favorite pasttime and activity--scrapbooking!

Breakfast: Cranberry-Orange Muffins
Dinner: Lasagna Roll-Ups, Broccoli
I was going to make both these muffins and the roll-ups last Sunday for dinner, but I didn't have enough flour to make muffins, and I was too caught up cleaning and organizing the kids' room to have any time to devote to cooking and rolling lasagna noodles. So we'll just try them out this week instead.

For well over 300 menu plan options, visit!

Macaroni Casserole

I made this recipe once before, but it's been a very long time. I think it's a great dish that uses simple ingredients found in every pantry. Not a lot of fuss, and a good, home-cooked meal for the family. It also freezes well, which is an added bonus. :)

Macaroni Casserole

1 cup macaroni noodles
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2-4oz cans tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 cup grated cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a large saucepan 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil over high heat; add macaroni and cook according to package directions. Meanwhile, brown ground beef and onion in large skillet over medium high, stirring occasionally, until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender; drain grease. Stir in tomato sauce, salt, garlic powder, and chili powder; simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Mix together tomato/beef mixture with cooked macaroni, then pour into a casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes.

If freezing: Prepare the macaroni noodles, and cook up the ground beef and onion. When done, stir in tomato sauce and seasonings, and simmer for 10 minutes. Mix tomato/beef mixtre with macaroni. Allow to cool slightly, then place in gallon-size freezer bag, seal and lay flat in the freezer. Thaw 24-48 hours in the refrigerator. Place in baking dish, sprinkle with cheese, cover with foil, and bake in 350-degree preheated oven for about 30 minutes.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It Pays To Contact Manufacturers

I was really, really surprised and literally TICKLED this afternoon when I checked the mail and found this!

A few days ago, I tried printing an Internet coupon for Classico pasta sauce, but was very disappointed because I got an error message saying I had exceeded the number of prints allowed. Which was ridiculous, because it had been several months since the last time I had printed one. Shouldn't the coupon have reset itself by now (at least, that's what I figured)?

The coupon had not been reset, and I really wanted one because Classico does go on sale occasionally in my neck of the woods.

So I completed an online contact form at, explaining the problem I had encountered. I also stated how much I like the Classico product line, and that I thought it was a great value considering the low price plus the great taste.

So that was just a few days ago. Thursday, I received this email:
to me show details Apr 15 (3 days ago)
April 15, 2010
Dear DeAna,
Thank you for your email about Classico Sauces.
This special offer was intended to encourage purchase of our product. We sincerely regret it's been a source of dissatisfaction to you. We appreciate your comments and
have shared them with our Marketing Department.
Thanks again for contacting us. As follow up, we will be sending coupons through postal mail, to arrive within the next 7-10 business days. If we can be of more help, please call
us at 1-800-255-5750 Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 6:00 pm Eastern Time.
Heinz Consumer Resource Center
When contacting us, please refer to the following reference number: 003xxxxxxx
PS - Looking for a way to lose those extra pounds and still satisfy your cravings for good food? With Weight Watchers® Smart Ones®, variety is the spice of life - from Stone-Fired Pizza and Grilled Flatbreads to delicious, well-balanced Breakfasts and Entrees! New flavors and improved old favorites take eating "Smart" to a whole new level of
deliciousness! To learn more, visit our website at

And today, in addition to the thank you card, I also had TWO $0.50/1 coupons!

Completely and totally unexpected, but definitely welcomed into the Boren household!!

A Better Breakfast: Chocolate Pancakes

My husband grew up on these pancakes. He's like addicted to them. So naturally, when we got married, he made me get the recipe from his mom so I could make them, too. They are really good!

Chocolate Pancakes

1 1/4 cup milk
1 egg
4 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda


In a large bowl, mix together milk, egg, oil and vanilla.

In a small bowl, mix together remaining ingredients.

Stir dry ingredients into large bowl with the wet ingredients. Batter may be a little lumpy.

Pour batter onto hot skillet or griddle according to pancake size needed. Cook pancakes until batter is gone.

Serve with your favorite topping(s) and enjoy!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spectacular Sides: Cheesy Shells & Broccolil

Ok, I admit it, this is kind of the cheater's way of doing sides. ;) Not 100% made-from-scratch, but still a nice side dish on the dinner plate. Plus, it was a way for us to use some of the broccoli that was growing in our garden this past Winter. And it didn't hurt that the whole family--especially the kiddos--loved it!

Cheesy Shells & Broccoli

1 box shells & cheese
1 cup broccoli, steamed

Cook shells & cheese according to box directions. After mixing in the cheese, stir in cooked broccoli. Serve as a side at your next meal!

Wok's For Dinner: Hamburger Steak (with meal price!)

You asked for it, and here I am providing it--a recipe plus the bargain meal price! Something I've been wanting to do for a very, very long time. I don't very often have a good memory of what I pay for my purchases, plus I forget to even price out the ones that I do remember when I post a recipe. But I've been meaning to do better. And in my recent Blogoversary Giveaway, one of the readers commented that she'd like to see the total cost of a meal to help her find new recipes that fit into her budget. I read her comment and thought, "Duh, DeAna, weren't you going to do that, like, forever ago??" Thank you for the reminder, Mari!

So my plan is to price out at least one meal a week, perhaps more if I can remember what I paid for something (again, can't always rely on my Mommy Brain, but I'm going to give it a try!). I've actually gone to such lengths as using a marker and writing what I've paid for my groceries right on the container. This might actually help me budget out my grocery spending, too--nice!

This particular recipe was referred to me several months ago by one of my readers (Hi Heather!). The last time I made it, I opted out of making any gravy. But this time, I decided to make the gravy after all and see how it tasted. Yummy, of course (seriously, who doesn't like gravy? ok, so my husband is not a big gravy fan, lol!). For the kids, I melted a little shredded cheese on top; hubs had just the onions and mushrooms. And I indulged in warm, melt-in-your-mouth brown gravy. :)

Hamburger Steak With Sweet Onion-Mushroom Gravy (serves 4)

2 slices stale bread ($0.10)
1 lb ground beef (on sale $1.38/lb)
1 large egg, lightly beaten ($0.09)
2 garlic cloves, minced ($0.20)
1/2 tsp salt (almost free) there are approximately 312 1/2 tsp in the 26-oz container of salt I got for $ do the math ;)
1/2 tsp ground pepper ($0.03)
1 medium onion, sliced ($.10)
1 4oz can sliced mushrooms ($0.29)
1 1.2oz envelope brown gravy mix (on sale $0.10)

1 15.5oz can navy beans ($0.50) I was going to make pinto beans but changed my mind)

1 16oz bag frozen Italian pole beans ($1.00)

Total Cost -- $3.79!!!

Process bread into a food process until finely chopped. Place crumbs into a large mixing bowl and add ground beef, egg, garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Mix together using your hands until all ingredients are blended well together. Shape ground beef mixture into 4 or 5 patties. Cook in a nonstick skillet over medium heat for about 15 minutes, turning patties over occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove patties when they are done. Add sliced onion and mushrooms to skillet and saute' several minutes until tender and carmelized. Meanwhile, prepare brown gravy mix according to package directions. Serve hamburger steaks with onions, mushrooms and gravy on top.

If freezing: After cooking the hamburger steaks, onion & mushrooms, I placed them all in a food saver bag, sealed it up and put it in the freezer, then thawed it 24 hours before cooking day. To heat it up, I put everything onto a plate and microwaved it for about 2 minutes, then prepared the gravy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Rice Casserole

This is a really simple meal that's easy to put together. You can even convert it into a "freezer" meal of sorts by cooking and freezing the chicken ahead of time. Simply thaw the chicken in your fridge for at least 24 hours before you plan on serving this meal.

Rice Casserole

2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 can cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup (I used cream of mushroom tonight)
2 cups cooked broccoli
1-2 cups cooked chicken, cut into chunks or shredded
shredded cheese, such as Mozzarella or Cheddar

Mix all ingredients together into a large bowl, reserving some of the cheese. Place bowl in microwave and heat for 2-5 minutes, or until heated through. Dish up on your plate and sprinkle a little more cheese on top.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Pork Chops With Glazed Onions

That really deep color of the onions is created using good ol' balsamic vinegar and dark brown sugar. These chops are sinfully delicious!

Pork Chops With Glazed Onions

2 onions, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup raisins
1/8 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 pork loin chops

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Saute' onions in olive oil in a medium skillet for 2-3 minutes. Add raisins, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender. Place pork chops in a shallow baking dish. Cover with onion mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes or until chops are done (pork chops should be about 160 degrees with a meat thermometer).

If freezing: Cook as directed and allow to cool. Place chops & onion mixture into a freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as possible, seal & lay flat in freezer. Thaw 24 hours in refrigerator. Heat in microwave.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Barbecued Sloppy Joes

This meal is a fun alternative to traditional Sloppy Joe's, and it has the added benefit of freezing really well!

Barbecued Sloppy Joes

1 lb ground beef
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup barbecue sauce, any flavor
hamburger buns or bread slices

Cook ground beef with chopped bell pepper and onion in a large skillet over medium heat until beef is no longer pink and vegetables are tender; drain. Stir in barbecue sauce and cook until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Serve on your choice of bread (great with a slice of cheese!).

If freezing: Prepare as directed. After adding barbecue sauce, allow mixture to cool, then place into a freezer bag. Squeeze out the air, seal up & lay flat in freezer. Thaw 24 hours in refrigerator. Heat in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove. Serve & enjoy!

To-Do Tuesday: Week 14 And A Bit Of Remembrance

There's a whole lot of things that I know need to get done this week, but there's so much on the calendar and we are absolutely insanely busy, so I'm going to try to keep things simple. Simple. A word that is easier said than done.
  • Put away Easter decorations
  • √Revamp/reorganize the kids' room. Box up toys/books/clothes that can get sold to the local "gently used" children's store or taken to Good Will.
  • Dust/vacuum
  • Read another chapter out of personal reading book. Been a few weeks now since I've had even a moment to even *think* about doing this.
  • Take dog to the pound. I haven't had a chance to do this particular unpleasant task.

What's really sad is that the kids found our cat Britnee a couple days ago. She had disappeared a couple months ago when our dog started her habitual escaping from the fenced-in part of the yard to chase & kill stray cats. We thought Britnee, our outside cat (we had to kick her outside last year after she peed & pooped in our bed) was one of the victims, but we never had any proof. The dog has not escaped in about a week. And then a couple days ago, the kids were exploring around the yard, and right at the treeline they found our Britnee.

Except she was not alive. We were able to confirm that it was, indeed, our Britnee. Not only did the fur color, length & texture match, she was also wearing the same collar that she had on when she disappeared. It was an emotional day, though. Not only had our cat come back home, she had also died just 20 yards from the house.

It was easier before, not knowing what happened to her. But this time was different. We don't know exactly how she husband doesn't think it was our dog because it had been several days since her last great escape. Who knows. The kids were deeply saddened, though.

We buried Britnee in a spot of leaves in front of a tree where she used to curl up and sleep. Hubs made a cross-shaped tombstone. My little 3 1/2 yr-old insisted that Britnee would be all alone in her grave, and then through her tears, she insisted that it was a different Britnee. She took this rather poignant picture of the grave...I thought as I first saw this picture that my little girl is a budding photographer, a bittersweet thought, to say the least.

To help the kids cope, we put a picture of Britnee on the dresser next to their bed, and allowed our other cat, Ginger (who is an inside only cat) to sleep with the kids that first night. But since we still don't know 100% what happened to Britnee, and since our dog has gone wild with chasing stray cats, what we do know is that The. Dog. Has. To. Go. Period. My husband refuses to do it (he's too emotionally attached) which leaves me to be the bad guy and do the bad chore. I think this is the weekend that I'll have to do the dirty deed that we've been putting off.

How is your To-Do List going? I did manage to check off most of last week's list. My son had a great & fantastic 6th birthday & party. Did you see the pic of me flat on my badunkadunk? Oh, and I did get to commemorate one year of Balancing Act Basics!

Remember to visit Crazy Adventures in Parenting, the home of To-Do Tuesday!

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