Eating Real Food, Frugal Living/ Budgeting, Recipes/ How To, Weekly Meal Planners

How to Meal Plan Like a BOSS!

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Okay y’all, so it’s a weeknight, about 5 pm and you have no idea what’s for supper and you are in a panic. Sound familiar? Yep, we’ve all been there before!

  So let’s talk meal planning. I’m going to give you tips so you can meal plan like a BOSS! You’ll know exactly what meals you have all the ingredients for, what’s fast and easy and what you’re saving for when you have more time in the kitchen.

   To start this meal planning lesson, let’s start right in your kitchen: do a quick mental inventory (or if you’re obsessive like me, jot it down)  of what you’ve already got on hand. This will save you money, you won’t be buying extra stuff you really didn’t need. This list will be our base for the meal planner.

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 Check your freezer, fridge and pantry. Please overlook my messy-ness, apparently I need some help with organizing!

   Once you have your “inventory” list, you’re ready to start planning! Now this is where it’ll be a bit different for everyone: I plan for 6 meals for each week, we usually go out one night a week. When planning, I may jot down specific meals for specific nights, but it can always be swapped around. I try to plan for leftovers, for my lunches. I typically plan 2-3 chicken dishes, 1-2 beef dishes, 1-2 pork dishes and 1-2 “other” dishes (like pizza, hot dogs, tuna sandwiches, fish, etc).

   I keep a list of meals my family likes in a little notebook. I have them categorized by meat type: chicken/beef/pork/ other. I also have them marked with a star if they’re for the slow cooker. If I’m wanting something different/new I turn to my old pal Pinterest! How did we survive without it? I will only add one or two “new” things per week, because my bunch is picky and we tend to stick with old stand-byes. I don’t cook super fancy, we tend to like basic type foods.

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  Here’s my pretty notebook (I’m kind of a notebook geek, I have way too many!) that I keep meals we love written in. This little step makes meal planning much quicker.

  The last step is matching up meals with what you’ve got and making your grocery list. So just based on my inventory (as seen in above pics) I’ll jot down a quick plan:

1. Chicken Fajitas

2. Marinated Grilled Chicken and Grilled Asparagus

3. Pulled Pork sandwiches and Potato Wedges

4. Green Chile/Pork Nachos

5. Meaty Italian Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

6. Tuna/Egg Salad with Veggies and Dip

   Now I would look at each meal and see what components I was missing, grocery shop once for those items and be eating for the week!

   Here’s a link to a weekly meal planner template that I love! It has spots for planning breakfasts/lunches too! And a grocery list on the side. I keep one printed out and use them.

https://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/meal-planner.html

 

   There you have it! No more wondering  “What’s for dinner?”. And no more looking forward to a specific meal, then not having all the ingredients for it on hand. By planning out meals, it’ll save you stress, time and money.

  I hope you all have a very blessed day! If you have questions/comments I would love to hear from y’all!

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Frugal Living/ Budgeting, Thrifty Fashion

It’s Back!! Frugal Fashion Friday- 8/21/15

Okay so with back to school I will try to get back into the swing of things! So here goes another round of Frugal Fashion Friday!!

My daughter started working at a local bank, so she needed some dressier clothing. She went and bought a pair of dress pants (for like $30) but still needed more.

Leave it to cheap-o mom to the rescue!! We took a hundred bucks and came home with tons of great “new” clothing! She loves thrift shopping as much as her momma!!

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Here we have this adorable outfit- total cost? A whopping $5.50!

She found this top at Goodwill for $3.50, what a deal! But wait- those super awesome pants were a find at Salvation Army and they were half price to boot (normally $4, sale $2).

I will share more of our shopping trips in the weeks to come! We are just a frugal, thrift loving family!!

I hope all are having a marvelous week, I know I am! My baby boy turns 17 today, wow! I am truly a very blessed lady and I give all the glory to God! He blesses me much more than I ever deserve and I thank Him daily for it.

Have a wonderful weekend- God Bless!!

Eating Real Food, Recipes/ How To

Healthy Black Bean Burritos with Quinoa

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Looking for a filling, healthy, yet still super yummy supper? Look no further! You’ll get a whopping 2 big burritos per serving for around 500 calories.

These burritos are packed with protein, they’re filled with ground turkey, black beans, quinoa,salsa, and a bit of shredded cheddar.

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I started with cooking and crumbling 8oz  lean ground turkey,added some dry onion flakes, minced garlic and a dash of fajita seasoning.Then I drained and rinsed a can of black beans and added to the skillet. I then added about 1/2 cup cooked quinoa and about 1/2 cup salsa.This mixture was heated through.

I used whole wheat tortillas, filled each with about 1/4 cup filling and added 1 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese. These were so filling!!

Hope all are having a super summer- it’s winding down!! I go back to work tomorrow- then school starts next week. My daughters’ wedding is also just 6 weeks away, so it’s getting hectic around here!! May all have a blessed week!!

Eating Real Food, Homesteading, Recipes/ How To

Home Canned Salsa- Eating Real Food

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So it is that time of year- all those luscious fruits and veggies are coming off by the bushel! Time to do some preserving. Time to tromp out to the storage building and dig out my canning stuff. Time to heat up the kitchen for a good cause. Time to make some real, yummy foods!

Now this day I made homemade salsa to can. I am planning to can diced tomatoes later this week. Then some peaches later in the summer.

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Look at all that yumminess! Around here we go through a lot of salsa, and homemade is always better! My bunch had to have a bowl fresh before I started to can it up!

Now we all have an old standby when it comes to canning or even just salsa making, here’s mine:

Ripe tomatoes, blanched/peeled/chopped

Fresh Jalapeno, finely chopped (seeds removed)

Bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped fine

Yellow onions, finely chopped

Juice of a lime or two

Salt

I start by blanching (just dropping into boiling water/followed by a dunk into ice water) my fresh tomatoes, then slip the skin off, core and chop into very small dices. Wash and chop all other ingredients. I use about 8c chopped tomatoes to every 3 small/medium peppers, 2 medium onion and a bunch of cilantro. I mix in a large bowl and taste. Now it seems a bit bland- but I add my salt to each jar so I know they each have the exact right amount needed to preserve them. I use 1/2 tsp salt per pint jar, added right before placing the hot band/lid on top.

They then go into my pressure cooker to be pressure cooked for 25 minutes. Let cool on the counter on a towel.

Don’t let a pressure cooker intimidate you- just read the instructions carefully when using one. I do not use mine for cooking- although I know people that do. I bought mine strictly for canning.

Hope all have a Blessed week! I am finishing up a few wedding projects this week and getting ready to go back to school!

Frugal Living/ Budgeting

Time for some Mid-Year Updates!

Okay so we are about halfway through 2015 already, so time to re-evaluate my yearly goals and see where I am at. As I said back in December, I try to shy away from “resolutions” and instead make myself a yearly goal list along with “mapping out” how to attain those goals.

In the eating more healthy part of my yearly goals: I have achieved a few small changes this year and although haven’t lost a ton of weight, I am establishing new healthier habits, so I feel good about that. A few changes I have made: not drinking soda on a daily basis, drinking my coffee black in the morning (no more creamer and sugar), I am eating at least 5 servings of fruits/veggies on at least 4 days a week, and I am trying different foods more often. Baby steps!!

In the financial part, where I had set more goals for this year, I am head above water, so to speak. I have paid off 2 small credit cards and am in the process of re-financing my home to a lower interest rate and consolidating the 2 major credit cards that have been a huge hurdle for me. I will be very happy to have this done and to cancel those accounts out for good! I try to stress to both my children, no credit cards! Once you have a bigger amount of debt, it becomes a burden and is very hard to ever get paid off. I have also taken on more financial debt as my son needed braces. We are also in the midst of wedding planning with our daughter, we will be gaining an awesome new son-in-law and are very happy for them.

So far this year I have been unable to switch back to the “cash only” or envelope budget method, and haven’t really been focused on it. I would still like to re-focus and get it down, because our weekly spending is just crazy! We don’t really follow a weekly “budget” per se, and it is really burning money up quick! I am not going to lie, July is looking quite busy with running- so I am going to plan for August to be the month I get back on board with the cash only weekly budget system. Fingers crossed I can get my hubby on board and we can really focus and get on track with it! I know it would work- it’s just a matter of sticking with it. It’s breaking a bad habit, which is just spending without really knowing how much until it’s too late.

I know that come the end of this year I will be able to cross off most of my list, and that makes it all worth it! I am not a money guru, I just have to take it step-by-step and try to get better with financial decisions.

How about you, how are you doing with goals you may have set for the year? I would love to hear from you! I hope all have a very blessed weekend! Happy Independence Day to you and yours!

Eating Real Food, Homesteading

Food Review: Roasted Rabbit

Okay so a month or so ago we bought rabbits to raise for meat, even though we’d never tried it before. (A little nutty- I know right?) So we bought what we thought were 2 females and a male, only to end up with 2 males and a female. We bought another female to make up for that, and had the extra male we didn’t really need.

This particular male was just around 4 months old and was around 4-5lb. Now after butchering and dressing him out, he weighed around 2 to 3 lb. Raising rabbits for meat is a very economical way to eat healthy, fresh food that you know where it came from, how fresh it is, what it’s been fed, and who has handled it.

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Now I know a lot of people say they are squeamish about eating such a cute animal, but I have no more problem feeding my family rabbit than I do chicken/beef/pork or any other meats. Our next project is to get some sheep to have our own fresh lamb!

So I took the dressed out rabbit and seasoned it with a local seasoning called “Magic Chick Dust” and some onion flakes also. Placed it into the slow cooker with a bit of chicken broth in the bottom, Cooked all day on low and it was fall apart tender when I got home. I picked it off the bone and had enough meat to feed my family dinner. (I had made some cheesy rice and some honeyed carrots to go with it.) This would also be enough meat for a casserole or soup too.

So what’d it taste like, inquiring minds want to know? Like chicken, yes it tasted much like chicken, which was what many people had told me. I did not have my camera out, so I forgot to snap any pics, but picture a plate of shredded roasted chicken and that’s what it looked like.

So we will be eating more rabbit as we grow them off. We have babies right now that are a few weeks old and are growing off quite quickly. We also have our other female we thought was expecting, but thinking not now. So she will go back in with our male for awhile.

The garden is in full swing with: potatoes, onions, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and bell peppers. Going to add some broccoli and cauliflower this weekend.

Hope you are having a wonderful week- mine has been quick, but good so far. Have a blessed day and weekend!!

Eating Real Food

Real Food in Real Time- 30 minutes to the Table

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Look at that beautiful plate of real food, yummy! It was prepared in just 30 minutes and was super healthy and delicious and fairly frugal too.

I started with a pound and half of chicken tenders ($1.99/lb, so $3), a pound of asparagus ($1.99), 8oz mushrooms ($1.29), and 1/2c dry quinoa  (maybe $1 worth, bought the bag at Aldis).Also used a 1/2 bottle of Italian salad dressing to marinate the chicken and some olive oil and spices. So my grand total is around the $9 mark to feed a family of four a healthy, real meal.

DSC_0003Prepping the veggies!

I started by throwing the chicken tenders into a baggie of Italian salad dressing overnight while it thawed out. (Now I know this could be a healthier, more “real” food option, but I like the taste of this and it’s so quick! Sorry!) Then when I got ready to cook dinner, I tossed the chicken onto the grill, cooked for around 10 minutes on the first side. While that was going, I rinsed my quinoa and got it cooking (per package directions, just using water and salt). I prepared my asparagus and tossed it with a little EVOO and some garlic salt. While I turned my chicken over, I added the asparagus to the grill (my grill has very small grates- if yours doesn’t you could use a grill pan for this).

DSC_0004This is the quinoa that I bought at Aldi.

Now the quinoa was almost done so I sliced up my mushrooms (after cleaning). Once the quinoa was done, I tossed it along with the mushrooms and some seasoning into a skillet. Let it cook until the mushrooms were a bit tender.

DSC_0009 Yummy!

Now I went back to the grill and found this deliciousness!

DSC_0007Wish ya’ll had smell-i-blog- cause’ it smelled so good!

So there you have a great meal that is real food in just around 30 minutes! If you have questions or comments I would love to hear from you!!

I hope all are having a super week so far- mine is going great! God Bless!

Frugal Living/ Budgeting

Update on Yearly Budgeting/Finances

So I am going to be honest, switching back to the cash only budget is going to be tough! I have still not got it down as of yet, but still attempting. I know it seems like it should be easy, but I am just so used to using my debit for everything. A new week, another chance to get it right!

I have paid off my furniture account! Yeah! I had also been stressing over getting my lawn mower paid off before any interest would accrue, and my sweet hubby reminded me we had 24 months, not 12- with no interest. That was a great relief, I will for sure be able to get that one tackled without paying any interest. Again, if you can pay off those “No Interest” for so many months BEFORE the date, it’s a great way to shop. Otherwise, if you pay it just one day after the last day, they add interest from the entire time period (6 months, 12 months,etc). So a large sum of money gets added to the amount you owe, all at once. I like to take advantage of those deals, but only when I know it will be paid off without the added interest.

I am feeling very optimistic for the remainder of the year, feeling like I can get a lot of financial goals accomplished. Being “good” with money is just not in me, I really have to work to stick to good decisions. I wish it was just as easy as writing out a planner, because I am great at that!

On another non-budgeting note, I have not had a soda in 6 days! Yeah me! (for those that know me, I was addicted to diet mt dew) I have been drinking water mostly, but have added Orange Zinger Tea, which I really like.

Happy Tuesday to you! And may you find the blessings that God puts in your path today!

Eating Real Food

Aldi Shopping Trip- Eating for Real!

So I have been a super huge Aldi fan for over 15 years, they have consistently carried great products at super prices. Now I live pretty rural and I drive 45 minutes to get to my local Aldi, but then I drive half hour just to get to the closest Walmart. We do have a local grocery store that I grab last minute things from, but they lack selection and don’t have the super low prices that Aldi does.

As I have been focusing on more whole foods and eating real, I found lots of great deals on this trip.I bought Steel Cut Oatmeal, which for anyone out there as clueless as me, looks nothing like oatmeal I am used to. (When I opened the container I was a bit surprised to see what it looked like- but cooked it up and it was delicious! Just takes longer to fix, but is nutritionally superior to those “packets” of oatmeal.) The steel cut oats at Aldi are $2.29 for a container.

Also scored big time in the produce section! (Now I know that this isn’t organic, I do buy organic when I can, but sometimes this will just have to do! At least it’s not processed to death.)

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Mushrooms were $0.59, green bell peppers were $0.89 for a 4 pack, avocados were $0.39 each, a package of Roma tomatoes were  $0.79, and green beans were $1.29. I also got a good sized bag of cutie mandarin oranges for $2.99.

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Since I didn’t actually need 8 peppers this week, I sliced and froze them on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Then when they were frozen solid I placed them into a freezer bag and tossed em into the freezer. A great way to save money when you find those great deals!

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I also scored big on 2 whole Natural chickens, they had the red $1 off stickers, but actually rang up much lower. I got them both for around $10. I have one in my crock pot for today,will freeze the other if I don’t cook up tomorrow. I will also be making more chicken stock with the bones and I may attempt to make some bone broth, which I have been reading a lot about.

So my real eating has been going better than I expected- only an occasional “cheat” food. I just couldn’t resist some Cool Ranch Doritos Thursday. I have been trying new foods.I had wanted to try quinoa but it was pretty pricey, so I decided to try millet instead. It is very close in nutrition to the quinoa, but costs about 1/3 as much. I made a pot of it last night using my homemade chicken stock. It turned out very good, I served it with Venison swiss steak over it.

The weather is icky here, praying spring is around the corner! I hope all have a blessed weekend!!

Frugal Living/ Budgeting

Cash Only Budget- Weekly Update

Okay so the last few weeks have been a disaster with trying the “cash Only” budget system. Then there was this week= success!!

I am so proud of us! I took out my cash (which I deducted my hubbys’ gas fill up which he used the debit card for) I made out my weekly lists and headed out. I bought all our grocery/household supplies, got gas for the rig I drive, bought dog food, and even went and had a burger. The great part of this is I came home with about $40 left! Woo Hoo! (I will add that I increased my budget by $50, I had tried $200 and we just couldn’t do that, so we are trying $250 and will see how it works for the next few weeks. I know people who spend much less, no judgement here! That money does include fuel/food/.household/ and dog food)

It left me feeling like this was something that we CAN stick with and we can save a lot of money. Just shopping with cash made me think twice about a lot of things. Like an expensive and un- needed food item, where we ate dinner (much cheaper Burger King versus the usual Chilis’ or Steak house), and all the driving we do that is just a waste. I am trying to make trips into more of an errand run rather than running out for just a few things.

On another financial note- I will be paying off my furniture account this Friday! Yeah! So that will mean no interest paid on that account. Buying things with the no interest for a year is a great deal ONLY if you can pay it off before they add any interest, because the interest accrues for the entire year and is simply dumped onto the amount owed at the end of the 12 months, even if you only owe a fraction of the original balance. So a good lesson is if you know you will be able to pay it off fully before the year is up, then go ahead, If however, there is doubt that it will be paid off in time, don’t do it! Those places that offer that deal usually have a very high interest rate (around 20%).

I hope all have a very Blessed week ahead! It has turned cold here again after a spell of very nice weather. I am just not a winter girl- looking forward to spring and summer! Stay warm out there!! God Bless!