Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Accomplishments January 18 to January 24

Made: Breadcrumb Cookies (pictured above) made from breadcrumbs from stale homemade bread that I whizzed in the food processor and stored in the freezer until I had time to turn them into cookies (recipe from Tightwad Gazette), Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes, Savory Cheese and Seed Cookies, Olive Puffs, Italian Breadsticks (froze half the dough to use this week), and buttermilk bread.

I spent the less in groceries for this week than I think ever have! I spent $42, which is about half of what I usually spend. I know there are lots of people out there who go for weeks on end without spending any money on food, but I'm proud of this amount for us for now.

I washed out some freezer bags to reuse.

It was my husband's birthday this week! I  brought home some leftovers and cake from my mother-in-law's birthday meal for my husband that we used for a pack lunch and dessert. He said he didn't want any'thing' for his birthday gift so I presented him with a list of fun but inexpensive experiences represented by a picture. He got to circle the one he wanted.

I reorganized all my craft supplies, which is an accomplishment in itself but also in the process rediscovered several items that I had completely forgotten about!

I ran some errands on Monday as I was not at work (I have every other Monday off). As usual, I combined this trip with other errands to get more done. For instance, this is how this outing worked: First, I took the dog to the neighborhood park with a frisbee and he got a good play. I walked around block and picked L up from kindergarten. We walked around the corner and I deposited some cheques at the bank. L got an explanation of how ATMs work and the dog got a treat from an employee. We walked and talked about what he did at school the couple blocks to the drug store, where I requested my prescription. We walked a couple more blocks to the library, dropped off our returns, and L picked out a couple books and a movie while I browsed a magazine and picked up a bread baking book that I had on hold. I also paid a fine :(  We walked back the way we came, stopping to look at the fire trucks at the station and picking up my prescription at the drug store. We then picked up some celery at the little fruit and veg shop. They also sell lovely flowers and  L chose which he thought were the prettiest, although we didn't get any. I timed it so we came home at the same time my husband got home from work and he read L his new books while I made supper.

This is what I love about living in a highly walk-able neighborhood, rather than a chore, these outings are a pleasure and a way to fit in some outdoor exercise (even when it's -4 F, which it was that day!).

This week's flops: I accidentally spilled bleach on one of my son's nice shirts. I had a bad week of migraines and ended up getting take-out on one evening (and then felt guilty about it of course)

How do you make errands enjoyable?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Savory Cheese and Seed Cookies

Aren't savory cookies just crackers? Well, no, not really. These little guys still  have the texture and appearance of cookies so I think the name is pretty spot on. These cookies are an adaptation of a recipe from Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids. These are a great snack for everyone in our house. I like to eat a couple with a serving of fruit.


- 1 cup grated cheddar
- Scant 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (this flour ground from soft white wheat, rather than hard wheat) or substitute all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp hulled pumpkin seeds
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup crispy brown rice breakfast cereal (use white rice cereal if that's what you have)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
3. Put cheese and butter in a medium mixing bowl and cream together. Add in the flour, baking powder and seeds.
4. Put rice cereal in a plastic zippered bag and break up with a rolling pin. (This is an awesome kid job!) Add to flour mixture and mix everything together, using your hands.
5. Squeeze into small balls the size of cherry tomatoes, roll between your palms, then flatten between your hands. Place on baking sheet and flatten a little more with a fork.
6. Bake 10-14 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Once fully cool store in an airtight container or freeze.

Makes about 18 cookies

Sunday, January 26, 2014

This Week's Meal Plan

This week I am again working on using up some of what's in the freezers. I don't have a a large freezer, just a small one above our apartment-sized fridge and a small 5 cubic foot additional one, but they are absolutely indispensable to me.

I keep a list on the outside to keep track of what exactly I have in them at any time, to cut down on those things that get lost in the back and are then wasted. I write them in pencil so I can erase and add as needed. Then when it gets really too messy I just make a new one.

Here's a terrible picture of what it looks like. It's nothing fancy but it works for me:

Sunday: Out (L is invited to birthday party and it's in the evening and they are providing supper)

Monday: Arroz con Pollo (This is new recipe from this book that I've borrowed from a friend.It's like a really simplified Paella. Instead of chicken, I'm going to be using frozen leftover turkey from a turkey I bought for .79 per pound)

Tuesday: Baked Caprese Rigatoni (I'm making this with mostly canned tomatoes, although in the summer I use fresh)

Wednesday: Miso-Glazed Salmon and Sesame Rice Salad with Sugar Snap Peas (Frozen wild salmon fillets where a good sale price this week and I am not buying mirin but instead adding a bit of sugar to additional sake to cut down on the cost. This is our priciest meal this week which will be about $8 for 4 servings)

Thursday: Pork Chili Verde with Tortillas, Refried Beans, Tomatoes, etc (Thursdays my son has swim class in the evening so this is a great slow cooker meal that will be done when we get home. I'm using cubed pork that I purchased as a large pork loin for .99 per pound as well as artisinal Salsa Verde that I got for $1 per large jar on clearance)

Friday: Vegetarian Minestrone with Italian Bread Sticks, served with cheese and olives (I froze the dough for half the batch of bread sticks I made last week so I just need to thaw, cut, let rise and bake. I will be using this recipe for using up bits of veg that need to be used up, using homemade broth and sale pasta and cannellini beans)

Saturday: Dal Fry with Naan (I'll be buying naan this week, as I just don't have the time to make my own but this is a tasty and very inexpensive vegetarian meal)

Monday, January 20, 2014

This Week's Meal Plan

This week I am proud of myself for how little I spend on groceries for the week. I only spent $42 which is about half of what I usually spend, and this included stocking up on 2 kinds of flour and on natural peanut butter.

The focus this week was to use up stuff in the freezers, not only to save money as we paid for L's skate lessons this week which are pricey, but also to make space in them. They are packed full!

Sunday: At Mother-in-Law's (family birthday dinner for my husband)

Monday: Turkey Rice Casserole and Caesar Salad (using leftover frozen cooked turkey)

Tuesday: Smoky Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Wednesday: Spaghetti (vegetarian) with homemade Italian Breadsticks and Caesar Salad

Thursday: Pepper Steak and Mashed Potatoes (the pepper steak is already in the freezer, I just need to
               dump it in the slow cooker)

Friday: Pierogies and Cabbage (using up some leftover cabbage)

Saturday: Tuna & Olive Croquettes (We didn't up eating this meal last week. I had a bad migraine and  
               caved and bought take out)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Accomplishments January 11 to January 17

Made: Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins (using the pumpkin puree that I made here with free pie pumpkins), Buttermilk Biscuits, batch of black beans (I cook pounds of dried beans at a time in the slow cooker, which is 8 15oz equivalents), Chocolate Ricotta Mousse, cleaning wipes and homemade 'shout'.

I still had my cold sore this week :( I resisted the urge to purchase over the counter cold sore medicine even though I really really wanted to, because it was on sale for $13.99 (!) and that just really isn't worth it for something that only makes it go away SLIGHTLY faster. I couldn't justify it.

I 'made' new art for the bathroom by printing out an image on larger format printer from Graphic Fairy of an octopus and putting it an existing frame. I just used Word to size it to 11x14 and printed it on regular printer paper.

My husband trimmed the back of my hair. Getting our hair professionally cut isn't something that we are willing to give up completely (it's the one thing I wear every day after all!) but this little trim means I can put it off longer. In my spendthrift days I used to spend over $200 a pop to get my hair cut and colored at a high end salon (it was just for looks, I don't have any grey hair yet...although I likely will find some later now that I've said that). I haven't colored my hair in over 5 years and my husband and I now get our hair cut by students at a very good salon school. I still get compliments and now my hair costs me $36 instead of $200. I know free sure beats that but we can afford this arrangement and I'm happy with it.

Checked out some cook books and children's books from the library.

One the weekend we went to one of our favorite areas of our city, Kensington Market. My mother-in-law came as well. It was a pleasant outing as I picked up some dried bulk herbs, some coffee, and I bought corn tortillas from a latin grocery store. They were 3 dozen for $3 which is an incredible savings over the grocery store where I can get them on sale at 10 for $2. 

At the market my mother-in-law bought L a blood orange because he liked the way it looked. He found it too tart but I ate it and used the peel to make Citrus Vinegar for cleaning. It turned the vinegar the most beautiful color!

My husband and I watched an episode of Game of Thrones on Project Free TV.

I got pork loin on sale for .99 per pound. I bought to for a total of 11 pounds. I cut 3 pounds of a marbled end into stew meat, the other marbled end into a 3lb roast, and cut the remaining nice loin pieces into chops (I ended up getting 11 thick cut chops). Thick cut pork chops (or any pork chops) are much  more expensive per pound than whole pork loin so doing it this way is much more economical and takes almost no time. If you haven't done this before, here's a little video tutorial.

If you eat meat, do you do any of your own 'butchering' to save on the cost?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This Week's Meal Plan

As you can see below and in my previous meal plan posts, I only usually meal plan for our suppers. That's because with only three of us (with one of us being 4 years old) there are usually leftovers for lunches plus I try to keep some things on hand to make quick lunches to eat at home or brown bag for work if there's nothing ready (an example of one of our emergency lunches besides sandwiches is Tuna and White Bean Salad packed with Triscuits for scooping and some cut up fresh vegetables).

We usually only have desserts a couple times a week. Sometimes it's a baked good that I've made, sometimes it's ice cream (I have a serious weakness for ice cream!), or some fresh fruit. For instance, this week we will likely have fresh pineapple which were sale for $1 each as a dessert one day and ice cream which was also on sale for dessert on another, as I didn't do any dessert baking this week.

I find it helps me enormously to plan out our suppers but overall I prefer to leave aspects of our food for the week unplanned to allow for some spontaneous creativity and using up random food items.

Sunday: Smoked Pork Picnic Roast (puchased for .99 per pound) with Mustard and Brown Sugar Glaze with Green Beans, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Pineapple rings, and Buttermilk Biscuits

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Vegetarian Pad Thai

Wednesday: Curried Turkey with Spinach and Tomatoes over Rice (using leftover turkey in the freezer from the holidays that I bought for .79 per pound)

Thursday: Black Bean and Tortilla Bake with Carrot Cumin Salad (using black beans that I batch cooked from dry in the slow cooker. I make 8 15oz equivalent portions at one time. This black bean recipe is one of our all-time favorites. The salad is a new recipe, hopefully it turns out!)

Friday: Tuna-Olive Croquettes with Fries and a TBD side vegetable

Saturday: Smoky Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (on home-made bread)

If you meal plan, how do you allow for spontaneity with food...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Accomplishments Jan 4 to Jan 10

The holidays were just so hectic, I found myself unable to carve out the time to post (although I still kept track of my accomplishments in the tiny notebook that I carry around in my purse).

This week was pretty awful.

I received some very difficult medical news and have a tough decision to make in the next week. To top it off, we have some other stressful family issues we are dealing with this week, I had three migraines (one of which was severe), and a cold sore was the icing on the cake (I have only had one cold sore in my life and it was 15 years ago. Ugh)

However, there were some bright spots in the week for sure and some successes, both frugal and otherwise.

Made: Leek and Potato Soup (using up unexpected leftover leeks from another recipe and leftover bacon), 12 cups of turkey broth made with bones and vegetable scraps saved in the freezer, 50/50 bread, oatmeal packs, Honey Tahini Balls (like these but made with tahini to make nut-free for school), ranch dip, and All-Purpose Cleaner.

My parents visited us after the holidays (we were away in Florida for most of them, which was so lovely) and my mother left behind a couple bags worth of food that we enjoyed this week and beyond including: baked goods, juice, cheese, crackers, kielbasa, and popcorn).

Made some changes to one of our staple soup recipes to adapt it to the slow cooker, and it tasted every bit as good as the more laborious version. L has swim class again on Thursday evenings so our meal that night needs to be super-quick as he really wants both of us to be there if possible.

I picked up some new Christmas lights to replace our dead ones for 70% off at Target as well as some wrapping paper. I picked up a couple wrapping paper rolls that are not at all very Christmas-y and can also be used for birthdays and other occasions.

We went tobogganing on a nice snowy day with all of us (including the dog who had great fun but also seemed to think we were ridiculous).

Listened to music on Songza and watched some episodes from Season 4 of Game of Thrones on Project Free TV.

I washed out a couple of freezer bags to reuse and hung a couple of loads of laundry to air-dry. We limited ALL of our laundry doing this week to off-peak hours (which tends to be tricky for us and still get it all done)

Started taking the stairs every time at work. It's only 3 floors but given the nature of my job I have to do it many times a day. I have also started exercising at home again. However, I need to figure out some ways to get more cardio into my life without sacrificing a lot of time or money which I don't have. It's easier when it's not winter and running and biking are option.

So I guess despite everything, this week was ok
(ok is as far as I'll go however!)

What do you try to focus on during especially stressful weeks?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

This Week's Meal Plan

This week we are eating meat three times, which is once more than typical for us, however the amount per meal are very modest.

My focus this week was on EASY as part of post-holiday recovery!

Sunday: Leftovers

Monday: Homemade Bolognese Sauce (made a couple of weeks ago as a batch and frozen) over Creamy Crock Pot Polenta

Tuesday: Turkey  Tostadas (using frozen leftover turkey)

Wednesday: Pasta with Tuna and Dijon Cream Sauce

Thursday: Lentil and Tomato Soup with Whole Wheat Pitas and Hummus

Friday: Kielbasa Stew (using Kielbasa that my mom left behind from visiting during the holidays)

Saturday: TBD....
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