Sunday, August 30, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (8/30/09)

Well I survived my business trip last week - not a single one of the potential problems I was stressing out over ocurred, and it was actually pretty pleasant. I returned home to over 100 degree heat and a few dead plants (Ninja Hubz forgot to water) and a somewhat messy house, but nothing catastrophic.

Since its been so unbearably hot I made a last minute change to our menu last week - instead of stuffed green peppers (requiring the use of the oven), we did a big BBQ on Saturday and will be enjoying leftovers for a couple of nights. We made steak, teriyaki chicken kebabs (used the bell peppers on those), spicy sausages, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and salad. We don't have air conditioning, so when it gets this hot the best course of action is to crank up the fans, and lie as still as possible :) I think its going to start cooling off a bit mid-week.
  • Sunday: Leftover BBQ, Jell-O & Cool-Whip for dessert!
  • Monday: Leftover BBQ
  • Tuesday: Chicken Quesadillas, Mexican Rice
  • Wednesday: Spaghetti (from freezer), salad
  • Thursday: Crockpot Pork Ribs, cheesy potatoes, salad
  • Friday: Leftover Ribs, cheesy potatoes, salad
  • Saturday: Dinner at family's
Check out hundreds of other Menus at's Menu Plan Monday

Weekly Grocery Shopping (8/26 - 9/1)

This week I had a bunch of catalinas that needed to get used, so use them I did! I got a ton of stuff, including gallons of soda. Ninja Hubz drinks Coke constantly so its always a challenge to maintain an adequate supply. And apparently I felt my cheddar cheese stockpile was getting low, because I kept buying more :) I think I have enough for a while now.

Normally I would not pay for the luxury of pre-sliced apples, but I had $6 in catalinas set to expire and there weren't any fantastic deals to spend them on, so I splurged. I have to admit, they're really very tasty and handy to have around. At 1/2 off they're not horrifically overpriced and since its been over 100 degrees at my house, I'm ok with spending a bit extra to have a healthy snack that requires no effort to prepare.

3x Hunt's Ketchup @ $1 ea - 3x .40/1 MFC = 2.40
2x Crunch Pak Sliced Apples B1G1 = 3.49
Fresh Express Salad = .99
-6.00 catalinas

Total: .88

Ninja Pup says there's always room for Jell-O!

4x Jell-O 2/$1 - 2x $.50/2 = 1.00
2x Deerfield Farms Cheese 2/$3 = 3.00
Carefree Pantyliners 1.99 - $1 MFC = .99 (Gave $2 RR)
Reach Dental Floss 2.99 - $1 MFC = 1.99 (Gave $2 RR)
Colgate Toothbrush 2.99 = 2.99 (Gave $3 RR)
-4.00 RR from previous trip

Total: 6.67 (Received $7 in RR for next trip)


Betty Crocker Warm Delights 1.69
-.50 cellfire e-coupon
-.50 x2 shortcuts e-coupons
-.50 MFC (doubled to 1.00)
= -.81

5x Multigrain Cheerios @2.50
- 5.00 buy 5 get $5 deal
- 2x $1/2 MFC
- .55 cellfire e-coupon
= 4.95

6x Coke 2-liters B3G3 = 5.97
2x Coke 24 pack = 9.98
Barilla Whole Wheat pasta 1.34 - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = .34
Milk = 1.79
Land O lakes butter 2.29 - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = 1.29
2x Sargento Shredded Cheese = 2.98
Yoplait Yo-Plus 2.50 - 1.00 shortcuts e-coupon - 1.00 MFC = .50
Hamburger Buns = .59
Hot Dog Buns = .59
Bread = .99
2x Smithfield Bacon @ 4.99 - 2x 3.00 MFC = 3.98
Top Round Roast = 6.40 (1.99/lb)
Pork Ribs = 4.05 (.99/lb)
Bananas = 1.05
Nectarines = 1.17
- $5 catalinas from last trip

Total: 47.16


1 lb cheddar cheese = 2.99
Tortilla chips 2.50 - 1.00 MFC = 1.50
3x top sirloin steak = 4.97 (1.99/lb)
3x lunch meat (1 lb each) = 5.97

Total: 15.43

Weekly Total: 70.14

That's $20 over my weekly $50 budget, but since I was waaay under last week (only 16.92), I'm still under budget for the month!

Check out more great shopping trips at The Grocery Cart Challenge and Super Savings Saturday

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (8/23/09)

Well this week I will be out of town on work for a couple of days. Good thing I made a whole roast turkey this weekend - Ninja Hubz has assured me he can survive on leftover turkey and pizza hoagies from the freezer... I bought him a bag of baby carrots so maybe he'll eat some of those too :) I get home Thursday evening, and will be happily relying on a previously made freezer meal! It sure is nice to have those meals to fall back on. And I think the bell peppers in my garden will finally be big enough to harvest, so I'm excited to try a new recipe with them on Saturday.
  • Sunday: Leftover Turkey Dinner
  • Monday: Turkey Noodle Casserole
  • Tuesday: Out of Town
  • Wednesday: Out of Town
  • Thursday: Meatloaf (from freezer)
  • Friday: Leftover meatloaf
  • Saturday: Stuffed Green Peppers 
Check out more of Menu Plan Monday

Weekly Grocery Shopping (8/19 - 8/25)

This was a very light shopping week for several reasons. First of all, we have tons and tons of food already. I like having a good stockpile, but sometimes enough is enough! Second, I am going to be out of town traveling for work for a few days next week. Ninja Hubz will be on his own, but there's plenty of leftover turkey in the fridge and frozen pizzas.

The impending trip has me kind of stressed out - traveling for work is a big hassle. I feel torn between going shopping (because getting deals will take my mind off work and probably make me feel better), and skipping it (so I can use that time to prepare for the trip and then trying to do something fun). Shopping for emotional reasons is never a good idea, and I know that we just don't need any of the stuff I would buy. So, I think I'm better off staying home.

I did pick up a few things this week, unfortunately there's no pictures since my camera battery chose to die at the exact moment I got home.

Foodland IGA
This place is a little independent grocery store just up the street. Their prices on packaged goods are usually horrible (think convenience store), but sometimes they have great produce and meat prices, so I always look through the ads.

5 lb bag potatoes = .79
1.49 lbs onions = .88
1.28 lbs sweet potatoes = .88
1 lb baby carrots = .99
10 lbs chicken leg quarters = 5.80
4.96 lbs pork shoulder roast = 4.66

Total: 14.00

2 lbs carrots = .99
.07 lb bulk ground cumin = .42
2.19 lb bulk brown rice = 1.51

Total: 2.92

Weekly Total: 16.92

Check out more shopping trips at
Super Savings Saturday

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chicken Salsa Casserole

I like this recipe because I can make it a day ahead of time. Its always nice to come home after a long day and have something all ready to throw in the oven! This goes great with Mexican Rice.

Chicken Salsa Casserole
  • 4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
  • 1 dozen corn tortillas
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 oz can diced green chiles
  • 1 lb grated cheddar cheese
  1. Grease a 9x13 dish
  2. Cut tortillas into 1 inch strips
  3. In bowl, combine soups, milk, onion, and chiles
  4. Lay half the tortilla strips evenly in bottom of greased 9x13 dish
  5. Put half of chicken in dish, cover with half the soup mixture
  6. Repeat layer
  7. Top with cheese
  8. Cover with foil, let stand in refrigerator for 24 hours
  9. Bake covered at 300 for 1.5 hours
Check out more great recipes at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap

Monday, August 17, 2009

Taco Cornbread Casserole - Take 1

A couple people have expressed interest in the Taco Cornbread Casserole I made this past week. As I mentioned previously, I think it still needs a little work, but I figured I'd go ahead and share what I did and some of my ideas for next time.

This started because I had a zillion pouches of cornbread mix in my cupboard that have been there since the dawn of time or so (that's when cornbread was invented, right?), and since I am on a quest to use up all such strange things from my cupboards, I had to figure out something to do with it. And if I really liked eating plain old cornbread, well it wouldn't have been sitting in my cupboard for so long, now would it? :)

So here's what I did:

The weekend before last I had prepared some taco meat and froze it in 1 lb packages. So I took 1 lb of prepared taco meat (thawed), diced up a small green bell pepper and medium tomato from my garden, about 1/3 cup of mixed cheddar and monterey jack cheese, and mixed all that up in a 13x9 dish. Then I prepared 2 of the cornbread pouch mixes (they are small pouches that make 6 muffins each) as directed on the package, and then poured the cornbread mix on top of the meat mixture. I cooked it at 350 for about 25-30 minutes (until the cornbread was done).

It was pretty tasty, but I think there was too much cornbread. What I will probably do next time is use the same amount of meat, put it in an 8x8 pan, and use only one package of cornbread mix on top. I also think it needs more veggies - more bell pepper and tomato, and possibly some onion. I may even mix some salsa in - some extra moisture would probably be an improvement. I will also add more cheese next time, I wasn't quite sure how the cheese would fare baking for so long, but it was pretty well protected by the cornbread topping.

I would love to hear any ideas or suggestions you might have!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday 8/16/09

I've had a rather hectic weekend, before I knew it, here it is Sunday and time to plan some more meals! Luckily the Taco Cornbread Casserole I made last night was plenty big so we have some leftovers and I didn't have to cook tonight. I was planning on posting the recipe for that, but I think it still needs some work before I share it. It tasted good, but I think the cornbread to filling ratio was a bit high, so I will make it again in a week or two with some adjustments, and share it with you all when I get it just right :) (Edit: OK, you talked me into it... here's an outline of what I made).

I am still on a quest to clear out some of the old weird stuff in my cupboards, so a couple meals this week will involve boxed items. And since I have NO commitments for next weekend, I'm planning on staying home, relaxing, and roasting one of the turkeys still hiding in the bottom of my freezer. I really need to clear out some space in there!
  • Sunday: Leftover Taco Cornbread Casserole
  • Monday: Southwestern Chicken Skillet (Campbell's boxed dinner kit)
  • Tuesday: Au Gratin Potatoes with ham and veggies (Betty Crocker boxed potatoes)
  • Wednesday: Leftovers/Fend for Yourself
  • Thursday: Spaghetti (sauce from freezer)
  • Friday: Homemade Pizza
  • Saturday: Roast Turkey

Check out a million or so more menus over at Menu Plan Monday

Weekly Grocery Shopping (8/12 - 8/18)

Well holy cow, I had a good week shopping. It was kind of complicated, what with a ton of rebates, Register Rewards, and Catalinas, but I actually have fun figuring out the deals. Assuming I get my rebates back, I successfully stayed under my $50/week budget. But seriously, I am going to have to take a shopping break soon... I am running out of places to put stuff!

Well this was the week to cash in my $10 rewards certificate. I also scored enough good deals on Kellogs stuff (items listed in blue) to get the $10 Fuel for School rebate. Just a reminder, if you are doing the Kelloggs rebate, they require you to send in the UPCs from all 10 items. I kind of wish I realized that before I put groceries away, but that's ok. They were running a deal where you could get 4 of participating Kellogs/Keebler items for $6 (works out to $1 off each item), and you could do 2 such deals per transacation.

Oh, and the beef liver is for dog treats... I don't eat that stuff :)

2x Eggo Nutri Gran Waffles 2/$5 -$1/2 MFC -2.00 Kellogs deal = 3.00
2x Rice Krispies Treat 2/$5 - $1/2 MFC - 2.00 Kellogs deal = 3.00
2x Keebler Cookies 2/$5 - $1/2 MFC - 2.00 Kellogs deal = 3.00
2x Fruit Snacks 2/$5 - $1/2 MFC - 2.00 Kellogs deal = 3.00
2x Nutri Gran bars 2/$5 - $1/2 MFC = 4.00
4x Tomato sauce @ .25 = 1.00
Hot dog buns = .88
6x Coke buy 3 get 3 free = 5.97
2.17 lbs Grapes = 1.67
3.47 lbs Cantaloupe = 1.74
1 lb Beef liver = 1.22 (manager's special)
Turkey Franks @ .99 - .55 MFC (doubled to .99) = FREE
2x Suave conditioner @ .99 - $1/2 MFC = .98
Ralph Rewards Coupon = -10.00

Total OOP: 16.06 - will get $10 Kellogg's Fuel for School Rebate

Total after rebate: 6.06

I don't shop at Albertsons regularaly, but if they're going to PAY me to take food out of the store, it would be rude not to show up :) They're running a promo where if you buy $25 in certain Kraft products, you get a $5 catalina for your next trip, and a $20 rebate from Kraft (the rebate form prints at the register with your catalinas). So, they're basically giving you free food, and if you use coupons, you'll make a profit! Plus there's another catalina deal on Velveeta mac n cheese cups ($1 off your next trip when you buy 2 or more) that I didn't even know about until it printed out! Free food rocks!

Arm & Hammer laundry detergent 1.99 (store coupon) - $1 MFC = .99
3x Velveeta Mac N Cheese cup - 1 B1G1 MFC and a .55/1 MC = 1.45
2x Kraft shredded cheese @ 1.79 -$1/2 MFC = 2.58
2x Kraft cream cheese @ 1.79 -$1/2 MFC = 2.58
DiGiorno 12" pizza 5.00 - $1 MFC = 4.00
4x DiGiorno pizza for 1 @ 2/$5 - 2x $1/2 MFC = 8.00
2x corn = .50
Seedless watermelon = 1.69 (store coupon)

Total OOP: 21.79
$5 OYNO catalina (kraft deal)
$1 OYNO catalina (buy 2 or more velveeta cups)
$20 Kraft rebate

Total after rebates: 1.79 (I'm not counting the catalinas since they will count when I use them on the next trip).


2x Canned Mandarin Oranges = .98
Softsoap Body Wash = 3.99 (gave $4 RR)
RR from last trip = -3.50

Total: 1.82 plus $4 RR for next trip


4x Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks 4/$4 (store coupon)
- .40/1 MFC (doubled to .80)
- .40/1 MFC (not doubled)
- .50/2 MFC (doubled to 1.00)
- .40 cellfire e-coupon
= 1.40 (gave $2.50 OYNO catalina)
4x Nature Valley Granola Bar 4/$6 (store coupon)
- .40/1 MFC (doubled to .80)
- .40/1 MFC (not doubled)
- .70/2 MFC (doubled to 1.00)
- .40 shortcuts e-coupon
- .40 cellfire e-coupon
= 3.00 (gave $2.50 OYNO catalina)
4x Coke 2-liter = 3.96
2x Quilted Northern TP @ 5.99 - 2x 1.00 MFC = 9.98
Welch's grape juice 1.99 (store coupon) - 1.00 MFC = .99
2x Wheat Bread = 1.98
2x White Bread = 1.98
1 lb Ham lunch meat 2.99 (store coupon) - 1.00 MFC = 1.99
3.5 lbs Pork chops = 6.71 (1.88/lb)
Cucumber = .99
Lettuce = .99
Radishes = .79
4x croutons @ 1.00 - 2x $1/2 MFC = 2.00

Total: 38.75 plus recieved $5 in catalinas for next visit

Weekly Total: 48.42 (after rebates)

Well, I'm off to mail out rebate forms!

Check out more great shopping trips at
Super Savings Saturday
The Grocery Cart Challenge

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Crockpot Vegetable Beef Soup

I love making soup. It's so easy, it's so frugal, and its different every time. Whenever I have leftover bits of veggies hiding in the fridge, I chop them up and put them in the freezer. When there's too much stuff in the freezer, I make soup.

My freezer is PACKED.

So today I made soup! Last weekend I scored a ton of cheap ground beef, and prepared and froze a bunch of it, including browning 3 lbs with garlic and onion. I've always shied away from crockpot recipes that require you to brown your meat before putting it in the crockpot - I mean, if I have to cook it twice, its not really making anything easier, is it? But by cooking up a big batch of meat and sticking it in the freezer, it makes it a cinch. I can handle trying some of these recipes and still have the convenience of a quick one-pot meal. Yay!

I also happened to have 6 cups of beef broth lurking in the depths of my overfull freezer. And digging through my cupboards yielded a small bit of pearl barley waiting patiently for a purpose.

So last night I pulled 1 lb of the pre-cooked ground beef and all 6 cups of the frozen broth out, and put them in the fridge to defrost overnight. This morning, they were still pretty much frozen. No worries, I started dumping everything in my trusty 4-quart crock pot, and quickly realized that it was too small. Soooo, I brought out the 6-quart crock pot and dumped everything in there. Aside from having twice as many dishes to wash, it all worked out ok :) I added some frozen carrot coins, chopped celery, chopped zucchini, and diced tomatoes from the freezer, the barley, some salt, pepper, and italian seasoning. I turned it on low and went to work. When I got home 10 hours later, yummy delicious soup was waiting for me! Hooray for crockpots.

I probably would have added some more broth if I'd had any. The soup came out pretty thick, another 2 to 4 cups of broth would have made it much more soup-like. Or some tomato juice probably would have worked too. The other option would be to use 1/2 lb of ground beef mixture instead of the full pound. But it tasted just fine and was very filling. We have several servings for leftovers.

For those of you who like your instructions slightly more detailed than "put a bunch of stuff in a crockpot and go to work all day", here is an actual recipe version (the quantities are estimated, feel free to use whatever you have on hand).

Crockpot Vegetable Beef Soup
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8-10 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup pearl barley (uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrot
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
  • 2 cups diced tomato (fresh or frozen), or 1 can diced tomato (with liquid)
  • 2 tsp italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper to taste
Brown ground beef with onion and garlic, drain well. Add to 6-quart crock pot with the rest of ingredients. Cook on low 8-10 hours.

If you try this, or have any suggestions or comments, I'd love to hear what you think!

Check out more of Crockpot Wednesday over at Dining with Debbie

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Menu Plan Monday 8/9/09

Last week I made some good progress on using up stuff from the fridge and cupboards that were despartely in need of being used up. There was box of Chicken Helper in my cupboard that I hadn't been able to bring myself to prepare, so I used the noodles in a casserole and threw the powder "helper" sauce away. Despite having a "Better By" date that was... um... let's just say a while ago, it didn't kill us. It actually came out fine. I've got a few other boxed items languishing in my cupboards that I will be dreaming up things to do with in the next few weeks.
  • Sunday: Cheeseburgers, Corn, Salad
  • Monday: Orange chicken, rice, veggies
  • Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie
  • Wednesday: Fend for Yourself
  • Thursday: Crockpot Vegetable Beef Soup, Biscuits
  • Friday: Homemade Pizza, Salad or Carrot Sticks
  • Saturday: Taco Cornbread Casserole

Check out hundreds of more meal plans at Menu Plan Monday

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Ninja's Guide to Packing your Lunch

Its back to school season and everyone's looking for ideas of what to put in the kids lunches. Although I don't have children to feed, I do bring my lunch to work everday and often pack a lunch for Ninja Hubz. Here's a few things I've come up with over the years regarding the art of packing your lunch:

  1. Invest in a good bag or box: I remember when I brought my lunch to school as a kid, everything went into a brown paper sack. My sandwiches were soggy with warm mayonnaise, and usually squished by a warm juice box or bruised apple. I did not enjoy my childhood lunches. Now that I'm a full-grown Ninja, I can invest in proper equipment. I recommend an insulated bag or box (my bag is ninja black of course... your kids might appreciate some sort of animated character on their bag). Find one with firm sides to help prevent squishing. This will keep your food tasty, and since it is reusable you will save money and avoid unnecessary trash.

  2. Prepare lunches the night before: Maybe your life's more under control, but my mornings are hectic. I'm tired, I'm rushed, I'm grumpy... I don't need to be wielding a sharp knife attempting to cut vegetables or discovering that we're out of mustard. I like to make my lunch right after dinner and put it in the fridge. Not only does this simplify the morning chaos, but it gives everything a chance to "chill" overnight in my insulated lunch bag, helping it to stay cool throughout the day. Any dishes or silverware I get dirty just get washed with the dinner dishes.

  3. Plan for a beverage: Don't forget you need to drink something too! I usually just have coffee from the office kitchen, but that's probably not an option for your kids. Determine if you need to get juice boxes, water bottles, a thermos, or milk money.

  4. Remember silverware: Nothing's worse than opening your lunch bag, finding a yummy pudding cup or yogurt, and realizing you don't have a spoon. Yes, you can usually scrounge one up. Kids in a cafeteria should be able to get one with little effort, and spelunking through the office kitchen drawers will usually yield some usable utensils. But sometimes, if kids are on a field trip or you're at an offsite work location, it won't be so easy. Besides, why make things complicated? If you get in the habit of packing utensils, they'll be there when you need them. I use our normal kitchen silverware, because I am a highly disciplined Ninja and know I'll bring it back. For children and Ninja Husbands, you might want to consider using disposable plastic utensils - if they do come back, you can always wash and reuse them, if they don't come back its not a huge deal.

  5. Packing materials: You can use disposable sandwich baggies for most everything, but that generates a lot of trash and costs money. I prefer using reusable plastic containers as much as I can, and sturdy ZipLoc type bags (which I will wash and reuse) for everything else. You can go out and spend money on some decent tupperware type containers, or you can save your old margarine tubs and other plastic containers and use those. Many brands of lunch meat come in plastic Gladware type containers. By reusing these containers, you are saving the cost of buying new containers, keeping extra stuff out of landfills, and again... if they disappear, you really won't care.
So now you know how to pack a lunch, but what to put in it? Here are some of my favorites:

  • Sandwiches - the old standby, I eat them all the time. Boring, yet dependable :)
  • Wraps - when you want something a little different, or when you're out of bread. Take whatever you would normally put on a sandwich (veggies, ham, turkey, tuna, chicken salad), and wrap it in a flour tortilla instead. You can drizzle on a little ranch salad dressing instead of using mayonnaise, or maybe some honey mustard dressing.
  • Salads - Put your favorite salad greens and veggies in one of the aforementioned glad ware containers, add some kind of meat (chopped/diced lunch meat, grilled chicken or turkey breast, tuna), maybe some hard boiled egg. If you do this, I highly recommend keeping the dressing in a separate container and mix it right before eating. Also, if you are going to include anything crunchy (like croutons or other toppings), keep those separate or they'll get soggy.
  • Crackers with meat and cheese - Think homemade Lunchables. Also, tuna salad on Ritz crackers is DELICIOUS!

For sides:

  • Fresh fruit: apples, oranges, bananas, pears, grapes etc are all super easy lunch additions and don't require any prep work other than a quick wash. I also like a cup of diced melons or fresh fruit salad. Fresh berries are always a great treat.
  • Veggies: Baby carrots or carrot sticks are my #1 vegetable choice. You could also do celery sticks, pea pods, broccoli or cauliflower florets... Consider adding a small container of ranch dressing for dipping.
  • Yogurt: Either individual size cups or buy the big containers and portion it out into your recycled margarine tubs (don't forget a spoon!)
  • Other stuff: pretzels, nuts, muffins, granola, granola bars, trail mix, peanut butter crackers, string cheese

Happy lunching!

For more lunch box tips and ideas, check out:
The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap
Finding Freedom Friday

Weekly Grocery Shopping (8/5 - 8/11)

Since I was a bit over my $50/week budget last week, I decided to see if I could make up for it this time around. So I'm skipping a couple of my normal stores - the deals at Vons are decent, but nothing that will make me cry if I miss it :) I have plenty of food in the kitchen already, so I'm pretty sure we won't starve. What I did buy this week was mostly produce, and also a lot of super cheap ground beef because I almost never find it priced this low.

1.49 lbs yellow onion = .75
.69 lbs bulk peanuts = 1.58
2 lbs carrots = .99
2.26 lbs grapes = 2.19
Avocado = .97

Total: 6.43

This week Ralph's sent out their quarterly rewards coupons. I got a $10 off certificate and some decent coupons. I didn't use the $10 off this week, because I was only getting a few items and my total was less than $10. It's good until October so I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunity.

3x Dannon Activia Yogurt @ 1.88 - 3x 1.00 MFC = 2.64
Lean Pockets @ 1.67 - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = .67
Fresh Express Salad @ .99 - .50 MFC (doubled to .99) = FREE
6.75 lbs Cantaloupe @ .20/lb = 1.35
3x Bell Peppers @ .99 = 2.98
Healthy Ones lunch meat @ 1.69 - .55 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = .69

Total: 8.32

Fresh & Easy
I don't shop here regularly, but every once in a while they have a deal that I can't pass up.... $1.49/lb for 80/20 ground beef? I'll make a special trip for that! I spent the weekend making some easy freezer meals with all this.

6x 2 lbs ground beef @2.98 = 17.88

Total: 17.88

Weekly Total: 32.63

That puts me back on track with a 2-week total of 97.33 (hey, that leaves almost enough for another pack of ground beef.....! Just kidding)

Check out more great shopping trips at:
Super Savings Saturday
The Grocery Cart Challenge

Pizza Hoagies (Freezer Meal)

I got this recipe out of an old Taste of Home Quick Cooking magazine. The only problem with this recipe is that Ninja Hubz loves them so much, he usually eats them all within a few days :)

Pizza Hoagies
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (this is my addition, not part of the original recipe... but who doesn't want more garlic in their life? mmm)
  • 1 can (15 oz) pizza sauce (I usually use about 1/2 a jar of spaghetti sauce like Ragu)
  • 1/4 cup chopped ripe olives (I omit these)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 8 hoagie or submarine sandwich buns or french rolls (I usually use 6 french rolls, I don't even know where to find 8 packs)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (another addition)

In a skillet, cook beef and onion (and garlic) over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in pizza sauce, olives, basil and oregano. Cook for 10 minutes or until heated through.

Cut 1/4 inch off the top of each roll; set aside. Carefully hollow out bottom of roll, leaving a 1/4 inch shell (discard removed bread or use for something else). Sprinkle 2 tablespoons cheese inside each shell. Fill each with about 1/2 cup meat mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese (and parmesan, if using), gently pressing down to flatten. Replace bread tops.

To cook immediately: Place sandwiches on baking sheet, bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until heated through.

To freeze: Wrap sandwich in foil and freeze. To prepare frozen sandwich, place foil-wrapped sandwich on baking sheet, bake at 375° for 60-70 minutes or until heated through.

Check out more great recipes at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap

Ground Beef Freezer Fest

I'm pretty darn happy when I find ground beef for anything less than $1.99/lb. I'm completely ecstatic when I find it for $1.49/lb! Needless to say, I jumped on that deal and stocked up - 12 lbs!

And happily enough, the weather's cooled down a lot, so I was able to spend the day cooking and preparing a bunch of the meat. Now I have some quick and easy freezer meals ready to go! Here's what I made:

3 meat loaves (1lb each)
6 pizza hoagies (1lb total)
5 meals worth of spaghetti sauce (1lb total)

The hoagies used up some sandwich rolls I've had hiding in the back of the fridge, and I was able to incorporate a bunch of my garden tomatoes in the spaghetti sauce.

I figured since I was going to be hanging around the kitchen all day anyway, I would go ahead and simmer up a batch of chicken stock. That used up a bag of chicken bones and half a bag of old veggie bits that have all been hogging precious freezer space. The stock's in the fridge cooling, I expect I'll get 10-12 cups out of it.

One more pound of ground beef will be for cheeseburgers for dinner tomorrow night (I've got some burger buns that need to get eaten before they petrify).

It feels really good to have gotten such a good price on the meat, have some easy meals stashed in the freezer, and to have used up a bunch of stuff that needed to get used :)

Tomorrow I will decide what to do with the remaing 6 lbs of ground beef - I'm thinking of cooking up 3 lbs worth of taco meat and 3 lbs with onion and garlic to have on hand for quick starts for meals. Or maybe I'll just be lazy and freeze it in 1 lb bags to deal with meal by meal. If you have any suggestions please leave a comment! Thanks :)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weekly Grocery Shopping (7/29 - 8/4)

Well I'm almost $15 over budget this week, although I'll be getting $6.28 of that back in rebates. Not so good considering I began the week thinking I wasn't going to buy a whole lot! I think that not doing much shopping last week left me jonesing for the deals :) Anyone want to start a support group for couponers? Anyway, here's the damage report:

Ralph's12 pk Coke 3/$10 - $2/3 MFC = 8.00
Cream of Potato Soup 2x .79 = 1.58
Corn Tortillas = 1.69
Dannon Activia Yogurt 2x 1.88 - 2x $1 MFC = 1.76
Velveeta Shells & Cheese Cup 2x 1.19 - 2 Free MFC = FREE :)
Ronzoni Smart Taste Spaghetti 3x 1.79 - 3x $1 MFC = 2.37
1.4 lbs white nectarines = 1.11
2 ears white corn = .50
1.96 lbs red grapes = 1.51
Baby carrots = .99

Total: 22.62


Lettuce = .77
.80 lbs peanut butter filled pretzels = 1.99
1 lb apples = .80
.56 lbs zucchini = .28
Cucumber = .34
Reusable bag credit = -.05

Total: 4.13

I really didn't need the bar soap or the dishwasher tabs, but I had coupons about to expire and got carried away. Yes, they were a good price, but I didn't really need them. I should have passed them by and stuck to the budget. Dishwasher soap is officially on my "only get if its free" list now, I realized I have about 7 boxes. The iced tea was a treat for myself since its been so hot. I haven't had this kind before, and let me tell you it is GOOD! The steaks were such a good deal I decided to pick them up as "treat" for us too... the original price on this pack was $23!!! For four thin-cut steaks!! I can't imagine paying that much. Apparently no one else coud either, which is why they were still there on their "sell-by" date :)

Lipton Iced Tea x2 = 1.00
Tuna x2 = 1.00
Quaker Granola Bars = .99
Pop Tarts .99 - .55 MFC (doubled to $1) = FREE
Flour Tortillas = .99
Dishwasher tabs 3x 3.99 - 3x 2.50 MFC = 4.47
Lever 2000 bar soap 4.99 - 1.50 MFC = 3.49
Bread x2 = 1.78
Hot dogs = .99
Ribeye Steak on sale then marked down another 50% = 5.31 ($2.25/lb)

Total: 21.82

I've come to the realization that Palmolive dish soap is causing me some skin issues, so I'm stocking up on other brands when the opportunity arises.

Dawn dish soap 3x .99 - 3x .25 MFC = 2.22
Gum toothbrush (2-pack) = 3.49 (gave 3.50 RR)
Tuna 4x .59 = 2.36
Dozen Eggs x2 = 1.98

Total: 10.05 plus 3.50 RR for next trip


GE lightbulbs = 2.00, Free after rebate
Packing tape = 1.49, Free after rebate
Crest toothpaste 2.79 - .75 MFC = 2.04, Free after rebate

Total OOP: 6.08, should get 6.28 back in rebates

Weekly Total: 64.70

Check out more great shopping trips at:
Super Savings Saturday

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 8/2/09

This week I'm trying to focus on using up stuff I've had around forever and need to use up. That means delving down to the bottom of the freezer for a turkey breast I got several months ago for $.88/lb, and a whole chicken that's been in there a while. Along with the turkey I'll be using up some mashed potatoes from the freezer, and some canned Pilsbury biscuits that are past their "best by" date. I also have a number of boxed dinner kits lurking in my cupboards that I don't really want to eat. I'm not sure why I have them, I suppose they were a good deal and I thought I'd try them out, but evidently I shouldn't have bought more than one, because I think they're kind of gross. I can't STAND wasting food though, so I've decided that I will use the noodles from these kits and throw the icky sauce powder stuff out. They can't screw noodles up that badly, can they? :) I'll let you know how it turns out!
  • Sunday: Crockpot Roast Turkey Breast, Mashed Potatoes (from freezer), biscuits, salad
  • Monday: Leftover turkey dinner
  • Tuesday: Turkey Noodle Casserole (based on this recipe, but I'll use turkey instead of chicken and a homemade white sauce instead of the mushroom soup)
  • Wednesday: Leftover casserole
  • Thursday: Crockpot Roast Sticky Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Veggies
  • Friday: Chicken Enchiladas, Mexican Rice, Salad
  • Saturday: Leftover Enchiladas, Rice, Salad

Check out more great menus at Menu Plan Monday

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Monthly Update - July

Annual Savings Goals
Towards the beginning of the year, Ninja Hubz and I sat down and discussed our financial goals for the year. I've been reviewing our progress at the end of each month, and decided to start doing monthly update posts.

First, a couple important points about our financial situation:
  • We have no non-mortgage debt: I know a lot of people reading "frugal" blogs like this are doing so with this goal in mind. I'd just like to tell you, it is an AWESOME place to be, keep working towards this goal. I don't need to explain why credit cards and car payments and student loan payments suck - you know this. I'm just going to say that it can be done, and its totally worth it!

  • We have a 6 month emergency fund: I consider 6 months of expenses to be adequate for our situtation. We both work full time, so a job loss would only decrease our income by half. If we were a single income family, I would probably want 9-12 months in an emergency fund. We also have a fair amount of money tucked away in retirement accounts. I wouldn't tap this money unless the situation was dire, but if there was some type of catastrophy, we've still got a lot of cushion before we're looking at being homeless or eating bugs.

  • Our basic retirement funding is in place: Ninja Hubz has been contributing enough to his 401k to get the full matching amount at work. (Unfortunately, his company had to stop matching with real money earlier this year and issue stock options instead, but in today's world, that's still better than a lot of the alternatives). I have a government job which includes a pretty good pension plan. I consider this a decent "basic" retirement plan, meaning if we both work until full retirement age, we probably won't end up homeless and eating bugs.
Since those important steps are out of the way, we have some choices on how to spend our money. Again, this is an awesome place to be. I could, if I chose, stop clipping coupons, reusing plastic baggies, and cooking at home all the time. We could go buy a bunch of shiny objects, start eating out regularly, and subscribe to a hundred premium cable channels. I could even run through the house like a mad woman leaving lights on in every room! But you know what? None of that will make me any happier. But paying off our mortgage and having enough money saved and invested so that I don't have to get up at 6am every day and go to work... now that very well could make me happier.

So, this year, our savings goals are:
  • Accumulate enough in savings for a new (or new to us) car. Neither of us need a new car at the moment, but we want to be prepared for when the need arises. We started off the year already having approximately half of our target amount and wanted to accumulate the other half by December.
  • Accumulate enough for max 2010 Roth IRA contributions. While not being homeless or having to eat bugs in retirement is a good start, I'm setting my sights just a wee bit higher. Also, the fact that Roth IRAs grow tax free makes me totally warm and fuzzy inside.
We've been making a lot of progress on these goals, and I expect we will probably be done in the next month! Yay! We're still discussing what our new plans will be. I'm leaning towards paying off the mortgage, Ninja Hubz is more in the "shiny objects and premium cable channel" camp, but I expect we'll find a compromise. Stay tuned for updates on that front.

July Spending
We had a few unplanned expenses arise during the month, but overall we were able to stay on track. The cable modem decided to die while we were out of town, so we had to replace that ($70), and we had an unscheduled trip to the vet when one of the Ninja Pups got attacked by another dog at the park (she is ok!), that was about $210. These types of expenses just pop up now and then, its just part of life. We're fortunate that we have a lot of wiggle room in our budget, so costs like these just decrease our savings contribution for the month. Otherwise, we'd be dipping in to the emergency fund, but that's what its there for, right?

I was able to keep the household spending well in check. Groceries were $184 and other household stuff was $23.

Around the House
I've been neglecting the yard work because its been just too darn hot. I've been focusing on decluttering inside and have made a lot of progress cleaning out my office. We took a truckload of old computer equipment to the electronics recycler. We also replaced the first of 3 ceiling fans in the house that have been having issues (and are totally ugly). We plan on doing one each month to spread out the cost. I've also started using Paperback Swap and have sent out 9 books so far - that means fewer books piled all over the house, and a cheap source of new books to read. The weather's finally cooling off a bit, so hopefully I can make some progress on the yard work in August.

See how others are doing on their financial goals over at Cents to Get Debt-Free and Money Saving Mom.