Sunday, February 28, 2010

Grocery Shopping with less than 40.00.

I'm feeling a little down this week. Nothing that won't be
fixed in a couple days and some good medication. Not me. My
youngest. Thought he was over his last humdinger of an ear
infection only to get him to the hospital last night and
find out that it was worse than before. Poor little man.
So.....after a couple rough night's sleep, I'm ready for a
comforting meal and a good night's sleep.

I digress.

I don't know if any of you live close to a Grocery Outlet.
I pray like heck you do. If it wasn't for them, I swear, I
would have gone broke buying groceries for my family AGES ago.
I hear Aldi is pretty close. I've never been to one, so
I can't swear on my firstborn. From what I've seen from the
receipt's of my friends, they're at least kissin' cousins.
(If you're in Washington, I've found that Tacoma
Boys is a good place to shop for good priced produce.
They especially rungreat sales during the summer.)

I had to get a week's worth of produce today, with a couple
extra's thrown in for lunches. I had some produce already
here that will work with what I bought,
I just needed to round it out.

For those of you who like reciepts, this is what I got today:
(2) 16 oz. packages fresh mushrooms
(4) 16 packages sharp cheddar
Large package roma tomatoes
(4) Small bags organic baby carrots
(4) Bags salad mix (with the cabbage, not lettuce)
(2) Boxes Wheatable Nut Crackers
Container sour cream
#3 Dole bananas
(4) Cans mandarin oranges
Red potatoes
Really nice big container of green grapes
Bag frozen chicken tenders
Couple big cukes
Bag of apples (just your basic apple, for applesauce)

Now. Dosen't look like a lot. But four big bags for around
thirty bucks is pretty sweet. And with the chicken tenders
in there, too.....those can be pretty pricey. Sometimes, I'll
get spinach there, too but I had a couple bags from an
excellent sale this week. You have to admit that at your
local grocery store, unless you're shopping from a circular,
you ain't getting $30 worth of groceries no way, no how.
I would much rather buy my produce from a local stand but
this week just wasn't possible. (Isn't it great buying all
that fresh fruit from an open stand? There's nothing
like it.)

Couple secrets for you. If you live close to a discount store,
sometimes you can get really great deals by signing up for an
e-mail list. Grocery Outlet is great because they'll do printable
coupons on reciepts, they'll have a drawing a couple times a
month to win what you save and you can even sometimes find
a coupon or two in your blue envelope with.....we'll.....most
of the coupons that you completely disregard and recycle.
(Come on. You know I'm right. I've done it in the past.) I've
found that Grocery Outlet even has a Facebook page! They'll
offer tips on how to extend your food bill, work on revamping
your leftovers and what the deal of the week is. The great
thing about Grocery Outlet is they've even started carrying
organic brands for about half the normal price is. If you
don't want to commit, just go in. Look around. See
what they have to offer. There's no charge for window shopping.

And there's something I have to tell you that I'm a little
ashamed to admit. I usedto be a brand name junkie. Anything
that was store brand would have never made it into my cart
before kids. Now, I can say that most of the time the store
brand is just as good as the name brand counterpart. I'll
happily grab a store brand over any name brand item hands down.
And it costs about half what the name brand does! Try to lower
your standards and embrace the person inside who misses
the white boxes with the black lettering!

I'm really tired, so I'm probably leaving some things out.

I'm sure you'll remind me later.

Tonight's dinner is Hamburger Stroganoff. This will use some
of the mushrooms I bought today, some of the sour cream and
I'll serve it over mashed potatoes. You can
make a very simple mushroom soup base from scratch:
(< )
which is super cheap to make or you can use Cream of soup.
Or, you can just skip the middle man and just saute your
mushrooms in EVOO/butter and just salt/pepper and add a
little cream. Whichever is best for you. I tend to cook
the mushrooms in a seperate pan, then add it to the browned
hamburger and then add the milk, 1/3 c. lowfat sour cream,
little worchestershire sauce and sometimes, a little beef broth
if I'm low on milk. Almost all the ingredients (ground beef
aside, which I bought at Walmart last week and froze until
needed) were bought at Grocery Outlet. Served over mashed
potatoes with steamed broccoli or a side green salad is
really comfort at it's best for me. And it always seems to
make just enough for lunch the next day. Super cheap, and
really freaking tasty. For all you vegan's out there, there
is a portobello mushroom stroganoff
(< )
that is to freaking die for and it uses vegetable broth.
And I know that they make vegan sour cream, too! (And you
also can get portobello mushrooms at Grocery Outlet!
They even sell big containers for about four bucks at Costco.)

And honestly, just because you bought your regular
groceries at somewhere a little cheaper, does it make it
any less tasty?

So, did that help any?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Come on people, now. Smile on your brother!

Normally, I'm quite the little pisher.

Got a smart remark for everything.

Today, I'm taking a break.

In times like this, we're all pinching pennies. Every one of
us. Some have it a little easier than others. I was not only
raised with a single parent that had a good eye for
budgeting and stretching money, but also a caring heart.
Because of this, I have a soft spot for other single parents
trying so hard to make ends meet.

Ah heckfire, I have a soft spot for almost anything. Shoot, I
saw a commercial yesterday that had me crying. I just bubble over

Today, while out getting something special to make with my
boys at my favoritediscount store, I saw a single mother of
three kids walking through the store. You could see her working
out her budget in her head and how she was going to feed
her kids this week with the deals that were offered this week.
I knew this face. And I silently followed her around, not
necessarily stalking, just.....being quiet and taking it in.

Her and I reached the checkout line within minutes, but she
stepped aside to look through her cart and kind of do the
math in her head. We've all done this. My heart just couldn't
take it. I took aside the cashier and quietly told her that I
wanted to pay for her groceries, because she had so little
and I just couldn't not help in some way. She smiled and said
it wasn't a problem. As I loaded up my car, I looked through
the glass of the doors and glanced at the surprize and....utter
relief on her face. I sat in my car and broke down. I
couldn't help it. I hope she was able to get just a little
bit more with the money she had budgeted that week.

I don't come to you asking for a pat on the back or to
say I'm a good person. I'm human and know that sometimes
everyone needs a little help. I've been there a time
or two and there's always been someone with a helping hand
and kind heart. I know you're struggling, but there's always
someone who's swimming upstream against a hell of a current
and just needs a chance to pause and take another big breath
before fighting the current again.

So, if you can, help. You don't have to do what I did. It
dosen't always have to cost money. It's the little things.
Think outside the box and really hone in on your surroundings.
There's a chance every day for greatness. I see it constantly
and soon, so will you.

That could be the hand up that changes the world.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sloppy Joes. Completely unpretentious but really freaking awesome.

You ever learn to crochet?

I have. Several times. We'll....TRIED to learn. And you know
what, I'm terrible at it. I've bought magazines, how-to books,
watched tutorials on youtube and had several people try to sit
down and try to teach me step by step. I had a hair laying across
my backside a few months back and decided I needed a hobby. I
tried counted cross stitch and ended up throwing the whole mess
across the room over the inability to count and make tiny little
squares. Then, I decided that maybe I should try crocheting.
Again. After I couldn't get it the first time. I've put it down again
for the umpteenth time in.....three days and thought maybe I should
do something constructive instead of glaring at my yarn and
crochet hook and calling it foul names.

Yes, I did that. No, I'm not proud of it but gosh darn it, it's the truth.

So, anyway......yeah.

I've finally decided on my first recipe to go over with you. It's not
SUPER healthy but you can make a couple changes like I have to make it
a little better and kind of mask the changes you've made for the people
you love in your life. (If your family is anything like mine, you've got to
work to prove that vegetables and things like ground turkey and spices
are a good addition to food. It'll take some work but lemme tell you,
remind them that you love them and they will eventually fall in line.
A couple times of "eat what I cook or you go hungry" will make it go
a little quicker, trust me. If not, the Evil Eye works real well, too.)

Sloppy Joes aren't everyone's bag. They WEREN'T mine. The
canned sauce or the packet of seasoning just weren't for me. That's
putting it nicely. I made this recipe:
and I was converted. According to my husband, it was close
enough for him to the sauce but it was like a step up. My kids even
liked it.....and I HID VEGGIES IN IT. Shhhhhh. Don't tell. You
may say that it's not for you, but try it. You might find that you
actually like Sloppy Joes, only it's redefined the food for you. So,
for those of you who like bargains, pay attention. First
thing in the morning is usually when you find the best deals on meat.
Marked down meat does not always mean bad or rotten. Use your
bestjudgement....if it looks okay, then you're probably alright. If
you feel comfortable, call your local store and find out when they
mark down their meat. There's no shame in it. You aren't the first
person to do this. This morning, I paid $20 and got two weeks worth
of ground beef, ground turkey, BLSL chicken thighs, and pork
chops.....all for being their early. If you don't like that, maybe a
cost club is the way to go? Buying into a membership
like Costco is always a good thing to have just for meat. I find
that if I buy the large packages of ground beef or BLSL chicken
breasts, I can portion them out into ziploc bags and pull out the
right amount I need for my meal. (Great thing about Costco is
they sell the Foster Farms BLSL chicken breasts already vaccuum
packed in little packages....usually six or eight to a package. Two
of those breasts are big enough to use in one meal,
stretched out with vegetables and pasta.) It's really all about
what your budget can bend to. Try out what feels good to you.

I have a point.

I have a 1.5 package of extra lean ground beef that I bought marked
down from my local grocery store this morning. Take that and
brown it real nice and once it's cooked, drain it real good and set
it aside in a warmer or something so it's not just sitting there.
Chop up a couple carrots, a couple peppers, fresh garlic, a big onion
and if you're feeling adventurous, maybe grate some zucchini or
have a bunch of spinach ready to throw onto the Joes at the last.
It's all about what you have on hand. (Eye your
grocery store's ads for the week. It's really not all that expensive
to get the paper in your area on the days when they circulate their
weekly ads. Here, I usually see them on Wednesday and Sunday.
If you can, try to buy from your local produce stand. Usually the
produce can be a better quality, sometimes comes from your local
growers and is more reasonable in getting what you need for less
than you're paying at your grocery store. Find out where they are
and do a walk-thru. Dosen't really cost anything to look and you
can take notes. An informed shopper is the ruler of all. I think you
might even qualify for a tee-shirt.) Saute the veggies together in a
large skillet with a little oil, whatever you have is fine. Once they've
started to look "done", throw in the beef and mix it together.

Now, what I usually do is use half ketchup, half chili sauce.
Or even partial BBQ sauce. I'm one of those people who thinks the
flavor of hot ketchup is gag-worthy. You may not feel this way,
and that's okay. I still like you. I buy my ketchup in the BIG tubs
either from Costco or my local discount grocery store. Depending on
where I am financially for that month. BBQ sauce comes from the
same place. Chili sauce usually dosen't cost all much either to make
or buy so depending on how much time I have, I'll do either.
Same with BBQ sauce. There are some great recipes on this site,
all very simple that most ingredients are pretty cheap to acquire
and really make a fabulous product. I like to make my own salsa:
because it's really freakin' simple and once you try homemade,
the jarred stuff just dosen't cut it anymore. I use that in this recipe.
I don't add the brown sugar. I feel that the ketchup is sweet enough
on it's own and my kids don't really need the added sugar. It's all
a personal preferance. You get excited over it, add it. This recipe
dosen't need much else....I like to add a little liquid smoke but I
love the stuff. If I could have it with ice cream, I probably would.
That's also pretty cheap to buy and good to have on hand when
you make your own sauces at home. With all of this said, if you
have a big family and you do use the amount of ground beef
I do and add in another healthy amount of chopped veggies, you
might want to double the sauce. Or at least make a recipe and a half
of the sauce part. Heck, the leftovers are just as good so you might as
well make extra. If you can't eat it all, it freezes well. Any kind of
veggies you want to throw in, go for it. I'm sure you could add corn
and have it come out well. Or use ground turkey. I've done it. You
could even use half black beans. Beans are always cheap and make
a great filler for almost any meal. Add a bit of shredded cheese on
top and a side salad, you've got a great filling meal. I've made
homemade jo-jo's or sweet potato fries and they make a good
side for this main dish as well. Potatoes cost next to nothing and
tossing them with a few choice spices and a little oil and baking
them.....really simple and just super comforting. I don't know if
I was able to help you in any way. I feel like I've been sitting here
rambling on about nothing for a half hour. If I was able to help,
lemme know. So at least I'll know if I was on the right track.
Now, I'm going to try to go back to trying to learn to crochet.
Pray for me.