Archive | September 2014

What’s for dinner?

On Monday, I gave a small glimpse into what our family eats for breakfast.

Today, I am going to cover our dinner ingredients, which is kind of not a small list.

We eat spaghetti and tacos, like normal people. We also eat some meals that aren’t in our usual line up. Theoretically I could go a whole month without repeating a meal. However, since we are trying to keep a small grocery budget, I have started putting spaghetti and tacos and homemade pizzas into the line up more than once. I try to make sure that I only repeat a meal once every two weeks. Why do I repeat and how does it save me money? Well, take spaghetti for example. I use one lb of ground alpaca in the sauce, but our alpaca comes in two pound packages. I cook up the entire package, but freeze the second pound so I can use it in a future meal. Also, I buy the pasta in a large package for the best savings, and making the meal twice in a month insures I am using the entire package in a month.

If you are truly interested in what we eat for dinner, here are some examples:

  • Hearty Black Bean Quesadillas:  I double the recipe and freeze the second half. This made making dinner a snap the other night. All I had to do was take them from the freezer and cook them over low heat.
  • Korean Beef and Rice: Not too much to say about this. It’s just good!
  • Asian Marinated Chicken Thighs: my link to it doesn’t work, but you can google for this recipe
  • Black Bean, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Chili: Hearty and healthy.
  • Spaghetti: I have always made spaghetti with the pasta in one pot and sauce in another. I love this recipe because I only get one pot dirty. I use about 1lb of spaghetti and a can of sauce. It will serve dinner and lunch for several days. 

Some of my methods for saving money on dinner ingredients are:

  • Plan a month’s worth of meals. I use Plan to Eat. Our lunches and breakfasts are so simple, I only use the planner for dinner. 
  • Plan meals whose ingredients complement each other. I can use spaghetti noodles to make this. this and this. I choose 4 meals per month that use noodles and space them one week apart. I do the same thing with other ingredients, such as carne asada and rice. (our favorite rice is Short Grain Brown Rice or Brown Jasmine Rice. It’s a little spendier, but a lot tastier)
  • Soups: We love Black Bean Soup here.  
  • Salads and veggies for dinner that are on sale. When broccoli is on sale, I will make it several nights, but in different ways. We always have salad with our dinners, which is honestly a way we could save more money. We love those chopped salads and I know it’s cheaper to make your own, but the one time I did, it took me hours and at the end of the week, I had to throw a lot away because it made so much. 

I realize that there isn’t really anything earth shattering in this post. Our dinners are so varied that it’s difficult to contain it all in one post. Planning our meals has been the biggest stress, sanity, money and time saver. I never ask “What’s for dinner?” because dinner is always planned and prepared. 

Do you have any money saving tips for dinner?

What’s for breakfast?

One of the most common questions I am asked when I mention my ridiculously low budgeted amount for groceries is 

WHAT DO YOU EAT????

The second question is usually “Are you an extreme couponer?” No, no I am not. I used to coupon, but with 5 kids, one in high school and 2 homeschooled, I don’t have time for that. I wish I did. 🙂

Naturally if you are not spending a fortune on groceries, people assume you are eating crap. I can assure you, there is no crap buying here. Why buy crap when you can make crap for free? 

Okay, that was in poor taste. Sorry. :hangs head in shame:

I was talking about chocolate chip cookies. Promise. 

Let’s get back to what we eat. I think one lie that I bought into for many years is that we need variety. I used to stockpile 12 different kinds of cereal. I think I stopped doing that, because I stopped couponing and then I just couldn’t get a good deal. My kids love Fruit Loops, but they don’t need Fruit Loops. If they want Cocoa Crispies, they buy Cocoa Crispies with their own money. 

I’m really good at going off on a tangent. Variety. Focus. We pretty much eat the same thing for breakfast most of the time:

  • Cream of Wheat (my husband’s current kick) There are 24 servings in one box, so it lasts about a month. – $4 (at the most)
  • Oatmeal – With my cholesterol issues, oatmeal is my breakfast of choice at least 4/5 of the weekdays. Our local grocery store has it on sale for 69 cents a pound in the bulk section. I buy the thick cut oats and stock up when it’s on sale. 
  • Cheerios – I keep one box on hand, because my teen likes it and it lasts about a month. A large box is about $3.50
  • Eggs – $7 for 5 dozen. One will last a full month.
  • Potatoes – $2 for a 10 lb bag, unless it’s on sale in a larger size. I buy two for a month. I like to make this at the beginning of the week, then the kids or my husband can just pop it in the microwave for a quick breakfast. Her prices and portion sizes seem to be a bit higher than mine. I make 10 servings from one recipe and calculated that each serving costs about $0.50
  • Pancakes – I use this recipe. We rarely have pancakes, but when we do, it’s a weekend. 

The above is what we generally eat. We always have fruit, veggies and yogurt on hand. Every once in a while we will make omelettes. Charlee, the baby, likes to eat bananas and cottage cheese for breakfast. Piper sticks with toast. In our house, everyone is on their own schedule and pretty much on their own for breakfast. 

I’ve found that keeping breakfast simple makes the mornings easier. Us Dixons are creatures of habits anyway and once we find something we like, we usually stick with it.

While we don’t have an enormous amount of variety in our breakfasts, as individuals, we don’t indulge in a lot of unhealthy breakfast items. Every once in a while I throw in a surprise breakfast item. In fact, I plan on making this for my husband this week. I just want to know if it’s good.  

What do you eat for breakfast? 

Update: That HUGE grocery shop

Last weekend I alluded to a HUGE grocery shop and dangled a carrot in front of my friends. I said I would be back to share how it went. Then life happened and I am not making excuses, but… 

Well, yes I am. School happened. A high schooler. Yikes! Two home schooled kiddos, yi yi yi. Several doctor appointments, and working my little side job. I am not a waitress in a cafe bar. Although that is not a bad idea. 

Yeah, so anyway, In this post, I mentioned that I would like to switch to a huge monthly shop for non-perishable groceries. I planned out an entire month of meals, which was a whole lot easier than I thought. If you want to know how I did that, I can tell you… later… again. I use Plan to Eat to plan our meals. Try it, you’ll like it, then come back and thank me. You’re welcome. 

I checked my list and deleted all the items I already had on hand. I only planned side dishes for the first week of the month, because I fully anticipate returning to the store each week for produce, salads, cottage cheese, etc. 

Our first stop was at our local produce store. We stock up on a week’s worth of produce and a month’s worth of bulk here. We gravitate mostly towards items that are on sale. Our fruit consisted of apples and bananas last week because those were the least expensive. The total amount for produce for the week and bulk for the month (mostly rice) was $50. We filled 6 bags. 

Our next stop was at Winco. Let me tell you, it got a little stressful here. One reason is because I was using the Plan to Eat “app” on my phone. I set the dates for the full month and started on the non-perishable foods. After that, I switched the dates for just the week so I could get all of the perishable foods we needed just for the week. Before this, I did not realize that when you toggle between dates, your items will show back up on your list. I will definitely need to come up with a better system. I typically have a good memory, so I knew what I had already picked up, but we had 4 kids with us, and it was a busy day at the store and I felt like I was in the way of everyone. I haven’t decided how I am going to handle this on future shopping trips, but I trust I will figure something out!

Total spent for a month’s worth of staples and the weekly perishables: $200. I didn’t get EVERYTHING I needed, because some of the stuff wasn’t on sale and I knew it goes on sale every other week. So I will check the prices on those things when I return for our small weekly shop. 

We picked up 20lbs of ground meat from a friend and spent $50 there. This will last us at least 10 weeks, but usually more like 15. They also blessed us with a few different cuts, which I found out when I thawed some ground meat yesterday, only to open the package and find some tenderloin. That will teach me to read the package. 

Pizza was on the menu tonight, but Chad and I talked about it and decided that instead of going to the store to buy the toppings and sauce, we would see what we could make from what we have. We are barbecuing the tenderloins we thawed yesterday, making a potato salad (thank you, mom, for the mayo!), and grilling some zucchini that our friends AND the neighbor gave us. 

During the past week, I went to the grocery store one time and that’s because my daughter wanted to buy herself a cake. I found some marked down meat, a pound of ground lamb and a sirloin steak, and paid $8 total for those. 

So our total spent for the month, so far is $308, but some of this stuff will last past a month. I am excited to go pick up our perishables tomorrow and see how little we can spend. I am also interested in the time we save. I think we spent a total of 3 hours last week grocery shopping. It’s hard to tell, because we also went school clothes shopping and those trips tend to run together. 

Update next week? Same time, same place? Maybe?