Saturday, April 10, 2010

Frugal Table Meal Plan



Hey, it's Sarah from the Frugal Table! This week I decided to make an "eat of your pantry" meal plan. We have recently downsized our grocery budget in hopes of making more out of less. Living simply calls us to eat what we have, instead of going out and buying more. I looked through my fridge, my freezer, my pantry and my cupboards and my husband and I both challenged each other to stick to our budget! Sticking to our budget meant going 6 days without buying any new groceries!

Not only did we stick to our budget, God totally provided and we ate in abundance. He provided yummy chocolate cake and strawberries, beautiful weather to have a memorable outdoor picnic, and fun times in the kitchen teaching my girls how to have more on less.

My meal plan this week is not extravagant or extremely creative, but my meal plan this week gave me a thankful heart for all we have!


"Eating out of the Pantry" Frugal Table Meal Plan:


Monday: Apple and Cheddar Toastie with fresh snap peas and dip







Tuesday: Zatarans Cheesy Jambalaya and Smoked Sausage, Steamed Broccoli and Sweet Corn Bread






Wednesday: "No, It's Not Delivery! It's DiGiornio!"




Thursday: Shephard's Pie





Friday: Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Cheesy Eggs and Fresh Fruit



I hope you enjoy your meals with your family this week! Invite your kids into the kitchen and teach them about food, cooking, meal planning and let them help!

Be on the lookout for our next Blog. You will get to see a fun family activity that you can do with your family this week to create memories!


I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and ideas on living Simply so that you can have more.

Leave a comment and share with us! We love to get to know our readers!

Tips for Smart Snacking

Many of our readers are trying to feed toddlers snacks, and trying to make it easy and smart. I have been coming up with some fun, smart snack ideas for younger kids and I have not posted them yet, but I found a great post today on another site, and I wanted to share some of the information from it. The title was: Tips for Smart Snacking. I have taken the liberty to add in my own two sense in bold.

So how do you turn preschoolers into smart snackers?

1. Keep healthy snacks in your refrigerator or pantry. Let kids choose their own snacks from among a couple of nutritious options. (One idea is to portion out the snacks and put them in snack size bags ahead of time, and then let them pick one bag when it comes time for a snack...I think I will do a post later on other ideas for this one.)

2. Offer a variety of snacks, not just the ones kids already likes. Offer new choices, but don't give up on foods that may have been rejected in the past. It may take several tries before a child accepts a new food. (uh huh)

3. Have a schedule for meals and snacks. This lets kids manage their hunger and learn that it's OK to skip a meal or snack because there will be another chance to eat at the next scheduled time. Avoid letting kids pick throughout the day, which can dull internal hunger cues and make them more likely to overeat. (my kids beg for food all day and I try to do this, but I need to really strap down and get serious about it, because it is something a little annoying about hearing that they need more food all morning long)

4. Don't let kids eat in front of the TV. Serve snacks and meals at the table. (uh huh.)

5. Keep mostly healthy foods in the house, with those high in calories, fat, and added sugar kept to a minimum. This doesn't mean kids can never have these foods, but they should be offered only once in a while. (When you are a kid, it's Out of sight, out of mind, I guess)

6. Serve skim or low-fat milk or water with snacks instead of sugary drinks and soda. Limit 100% juice to one serving per day. (I have been told in the past that one serving for a toddler is actually just 4 oz.)

7. Make your preschooler a part of the action! Kids this age feel important when adults let them help out. Let them do what they safely can to prepare their own snacks — whether that's tossing the fruit salad or putting utensils and napkins on the table. (If you have more than one kid give each one their own special job to avoid fighting)

8. Keep an eye on how your child's moods affect eating patterns. Preschoolers often confuse boredom or fatigue with hunger. If your child just ate and is complaining of hunger again, see if a change of scenery or some active play could do the trick. (now that is nice out again I can actually take my kids out. YES!)

9. Share a healthy snack with your kids, who will follow your lead and get the message that you're serving something good. (oh no! Guess that means I have to get all that Easter candy off of the kitchen counter, huh?)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Saturday BONUS: How to make your own bisquick mix

Found a fabulous site that teaches you how to "make your own" stuff. Things like sour cream, Worcestershire Sauce, butter, condensed milk, shake n bake, Bisquick, and get this...BOLOGNA. :0) Some of these ideas can save you quite a bit of money. Here's a mix I have used for several recipes, that will save us big bucks over the long haul because we use it a lot. It's a recipe for bisquick mix. Check it out.

Homemade Bisquick Mix

8 cups flour
1 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup baking powder
1 Tbs. salt
2 cups shortening

Step One: Combine flour, milk, baking powder, and salt.
Step Two: Cut in shortening. I use a potato masher. This step takes a little bit. The idea is to get the shortening to the point of looking like cornmeal.
Step Three: Store in a tightly closed container in a cool place.
Step Four: Use anywhere Bisquick or other biscuit baking mix is called for. Here's a shot of the waffles I made using our baking mix.

Click here for some Bisquick recipes that you can use this mix with.

Kitchen Makeover: Updated.

Welcome to my lovely spotless kitchen! Take in the beauty! Breathe in and out slowly. Don't you love the clean countertops and how all the dishes are in the cupboards? :)

Okay, okay...Time to get honest: (oh no, right?) Alright here it is:
My kitchen is USUALLY a mess these days.

When I take pictures to share with you all, I am looking for a place on my counter top and I cannot find one sometimes, so I have to shove things over, or pile things up, in order to get a picture. No, really. On a couple of occasions I have even held the food up in the air away from the mess and snapped a shot, just so you would not be distracted by the stuff in the picture that did not belong. From time to time, I do dishes and clean the counter tops just for the next picture I will take. Now, this is not always the case, of course. In fact, 5 years ago when I didn't have any kids, my kitchen was kept up all the time! Pace of life has changed a little, and here on mealplanningmommies.com we are all about being real, in an effort to encourage other moms, and to let them know they are not alone. The truth is, and I know you have all heard this a million times before, the dishes can wait, it goes by fast, enjoy them while you can, and on and on. ;0)

So, all this to say, I have a picture of my kitchen when ALL the dishes are clean at once, and there are no piles heaping of recipes, bills, things I don't want my two year old to get to, and who knows what else, off to the side.

The idear for moms to snap before and after shots of a messy, cluttered room, being tranformed was inspired by the lovely Crystal Paine, over at Moneysavingmom.com. I love her and have been inspired by her on several occasions. What's really funny, though, is that I have tried twice to upload and get my "dirty" picture on here and both times I could not find the pic to upload!!! (true story) Don't worry; you'll get your dirty picture. Consider this an IOU.

Update: Okay, here it is...the worst it has been in a long long time. Working 3 days in a row in the evening, and have yet to get to the pots and pans. Nobody else does that, right? Scroll up to see the AFTER picture. Then, come back to this one and click on it to see it up close. I just have to mention a few things that are cracking me up as I look at this picture. Consider it like a where's waldo deal. See if you can spot all of these things in this picture:

1. No paper towel on the roll, and has not been replaced.
2. Pots and pans, and stones all accumulated over 3 days because there were too many dishes in the sink so I could not wash them.
3. Lotion? Hair smoother? I think my 2 year old found them in my room and brought them out and I snagged them from her and they ended up there. :)
4. Ice cube trays from making baby food.
5. Water bottles that are needing to make it to the recycling.
6. Bottles that need to make it to the dishwasher.
7. Clean nipples and tops to the bottles in a bottle basket thing, that are clean. (bottles are still in the dishwasher)
8. My daughter's blankie.
9. Bowl to the slow cooker in the clean dishes rack.
10. And the finale: Two baskets piled on top of each other containing our kids Easter candy, with a container holding dry spagetti in front of it, next to a knife block that has no knives in it because they are all dirty next to the sink.

Ahhh...Welp, guess I will go get started on those dishes now. :0) Hope you are all feeling TEN times better about yourselves by now. As the saying goes, "better to bless than impress". :0)

Have a blessed day dear mommies.

Saturday BONUS: Orange Drink for Toddlers



I was like, "Ahhhh, dang! I shoulda taken pics of this drink. It's so delicious, and my kids won't stop going on about it!" So, I busted out the camera and snapped a shot of my son's froggy cup and decided to post anyway. This was another "pull it together using what we have recipe", although I am sure I got the idea of the drink from somewhere a long time ago. It made for a delicious treat indeed.

Ingredients:
1 can of orange juice concentrate
1/2 cup of milk
lots of ice
1/4 cup of sugar

Step One:
Blend ingredients together.

Step Two: Serve and smile.

Saturday BONUS: Grouch's Breakfast (breakfast for toddlers)

This recipe is the grouch's breakfast, because you SCRAM-ble the eggs. It comes from the Sesame Street Silly Snack: Cooking with kids cookbook.

Ingredients:
2 tsp. butter
1 small zucchini, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 eggs
2 Tbs. shredded Cheddar or grated Parmesan cheese (we used cheddar)
1/4 tsp. salt

*steps that the book suggests kids help out with are in bold red font.

Step One:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a small (8 inch) nonstick ovenproof skillet. Add the zucchini. Cook and stir over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until the zucchini is crisp-tender.

Step Two:
In the meantime, SCRAM-ble the eggs in a small bowl with a fork. Add the cheese and salt and SCRAM-ble them in, too.

Step Three:
Turn the heat to low and add the egg mixture to the skillet with the zucchini. Stir gently, then cook, without stirring, 4 to 5 minutes or until the eggs begin to set around the edges.

Step Four:
Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 5 minutes or until the eggs are set.

Step Five:
Cut the pie in half, then into quarters with a plastic knife.


Note to moms: My kids loved this recipe and would have eaten the whole thing by themselves if I let them. You might want to triple the recipe. ;0)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Friday BONUS: How to bake bacon in your oven

Sticking with the "How to" theme this week, showing you today how you can make crisp and delicious bacon in your oven.
Step One:
Place a wire cooling rack inside of a cookie sheet. This will lift bacon away from the grease as it cooks. Place bacon flat on your cooling rack.Step Two:
Bake at 375 degrees until it is as crispy as you like it. I think I let mine bake for about 20 minutes to get it looking like this: mmmmm...yummy!

An alternative method would be to put down parchment paper on a cookie sheet and cook it that way. Please note that wax paper is not the same as parchment paper, and should not be used to bake bacon. (I learned this the hard way) Apparently, the bacon becomes one with the wax paper, resulting in the delicious smell of bacon in your house and bacon that is crisp and delicious looking, but cannot be eaten, without also eating wax paper. :(

For some great recipes using bacon, just type in "bacon" into the search box on the left.

Friday: Guest Post: Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Quite a while back, Deanna shared a great recipe with us that never got posted, so we're pulling it out today. Thank you to Deanna for sharing her yummy chicken salad sandwich recipe!

Deanna has also suggested, in the past, that she bakes her bacon instead of frying it. Check out our next post entry for directions on how to bake your bacon. Here's Deanna's recipe...


Last night I had some leftover grilled chicken breasts to use up and some crescent rolls I had picked up in the day old bread area of Wal-Mart

Here is the original:
2 cans Pillsbury crescent rolls

1 can water chestnuts- chopped *
3-4 green onions *

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts - cooked and chopped *
1 can cream of chicken soup

3/4 c mayonnaise
3 stalks celery – chopped

3 Tbls butter - opt *
almonds - opt *











Preheat oven to 375F. Brown almonds in butter. In a bowl combine everything except the crescent rolls. Arrange the crescent roll triangles in a circle on a large pizza pan with bases overlapping and tips pointing out. Spoon filling on ring and fold point over, tucking underneath- there will be chicken salad showing. That's ok. Bake 20 mins or until golden. Remove from oven, slice and serve.

* I omit the chestnuts (Pete hates them) and skip the green onions unless I have them on hand. I think I used 5 chicken breasts and I like to use leftover grilled for more flavor. I skip the almonds entirely.

And last night I added 3 small carrots - tiny diced- and half a bell pepper -- all because they were leftovers looking to be used up.

I took the stale bakery crescent rolls, sliced them open, scooped out just a little, put on the chicken salead, rolled them in tinfoil and baked them a little. They were yumm! It made 4 good sized sandwiched with leftovers!!

Helping out an obese teen

Do any of you have a teenager that you cannot seem to get to eat healthy and is prone to obesity if they don't start eating healthy? I wanted to share a little piece of a much bigger resource that Shannon Wills posted on her site. She did an article on "100 Tools and Resources to help your obese teen". I pulled number 35-51 to give you a little glimpse of the article. She also has "best shows for obese teens, best books, best recipes," and on and on. If you are interested in reading more, click here.

Best Foods to Help Your Obese Teen

In order for teens to lose weight, families have to rethink their shopping habits. Check out the below sites for the best options at your grocery store.

    35. Kashi: Anyone looking to lose or even maintain a healthy weight will enjoy the tasty and nutritious food from Kashi. Their website has more information on food, a wellness hub, and even challenges for the individual or entire family.

    36. South Beach Living: Teens who want to lose weight while eating pizza will enjoy these foods. The website even has promotional offers, recipes, and information on all of their other foods.

    37. Whole Foods Market: If you have an obese teen and a sizeable wallet, this is the store for you. Free resources on this site include many popular recipes including black bean burgers, mango/avocado salad, and whole grain muffins.

    38. Slim Fast: Teens and families looking to lose weight can learn more about Slim Fast products and even get special offers off the website. You can also get a free weight loss tools, an online community, and even help from registered dieticians and advisors.

    39. Atkins: These products are ideal for those who consume too many carbohydrates. Get information on products, recipes, or even join the community for free.

    40. Amy’s: This line of natural and organic foods is designed for vegetarians, but obese teens can accelerate their weight loss as well. Learn about the different products available for all three meals and you can even get information on various diet plans such as gluten free and vegan.

    41. Arnold Natural Breads: A common component of weight gain and diabetes, throw out your white bread and grab one of these natural, whole grain breads. You can also get recipes, a section for mom, and even a kid’s corner.

    42. Horizon Organic: This dairy manufacturer actually has low fat chocolate organic milk to help your teen lose weight. You can also find other products, recipes, and tips for raising organic kids.

    43. Eggland’s Best Eggs: See why these eggs are a constant leader in the fight to lose weight. You can also get recipes and use the nutrition section to see how they stack up to regular eggs.

    44. BOCA Foods: Teens can lose weight with the help of these soy products easily and deliciously. They have products for every meal, use no meat, and they all contain fat fighting soy.

    45. Laura Scudder: Teens don’t have to give up peanut butter with the help of this product. Made from all natural ingredients, there is even a reduced fat variety and helpful recipes.

    46. Garden of Eatin: Have your teen switch out their greasy, fat laden potato chips for one of these. You can get recipes, place an online order, and the black bean variety is recommended.

    47. Late July: These organic snacks will keep your teen satisfied between meals. The vanilla bean with green tea cookie is ideal for those who love Oreo’s.

    48. Breyer’s: These all natural ice creams are an ideal substitute for the sugar riddled others. The low fat varieties are perfect for obese teens and you can even get healthy recipes on the site.

    49. Applegate Farms: Lose weight while eating hot dogs with the help of these products. They have many healthy options for hot dogs, sandwiches, and more.

    50. R.W. Knudsen: Have a teen who loves soda? Then get them to switch to these high nutrition, low sugar juices to have them lose weight the healthy way.

    51. Eat This, Not That: Still confused about what to buy? Then visit this site with tons of resources such as 14 best meals under 500 calories, 20 unhealthiest drinks, and 14 health foods that aren’t.

    Also, our very own Tasty Green momma devotes her entries to meals for the mom who is purposefully trying to offer only healthy, and yummy, foods at each meal.

Thursday: Cheesy Chickeny Ricy Broccoli in a Cresecent Circle

Found this McCormick cheese seasoning packet in the clearance section at my grocery store and thought I would make a meal that centered around it. I kept adding things as I went, and here's what I ended up with. I must say, the packet itself I was not all that impressed with, and I probably should have just used regular old shredded cheddar if I were to do this meal again. At any rate, here's what we did:

Ingredients:
Broccoli
Cheesy Steamers packet
Cooked, cut up chicken
salt
cooked rice (completely not necessary at all...thought about that after I cooked it)
1 tube of refrigerated crescent rolls
Step One: Heat up and mix up the ingredients, except the crescent rolls.
Step Two: Lay the cresent roll triangles in a star formation, as pictured below:

Step Three: Bust out the old rolling pin and smooth out the center of the star, at the places where the triangles overlap.

Step Four: Scoop out dollops of the broccoli and chicken mix, and drop them around the circle, as shown below:

Step Five: Pick up the tips of the triangles, one at a time and fold over the broccoli mixture. Tuck under the middle circle and gently push into the other end of the crescent roll.

Step Six: Bake according to the directions on your crescent roll tube.

This basic concept I stole from a recipe I did a long time ago for Pampered Chef. In the "All the Best" cookbook I got the idea from, there were many options of fillings. I just got creative using what we had, but you can certainly change it up. If you are feeding more people you can use two tubes of crescent rolls and increase the size of the star you start with.

Some ideas of fillings that were in the book are the following:
Classic Reuben
Beef Taco (my favorite)
Spinach and artichoke
Chicken Club
Turkey and Cranberry
Barbecue Chicken
Garden vegetable omelet

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Can't afford groceries lately? There might be help just around the corner.

We hear about financial hardships all over the place. I used to think that a family of 4 would have to spend $200 a week in order to have all the food, clothing, and other essentials. I found out a couple of years ago that I was way off. There is actually lots of help out there if you are looking for it. Our site is one of many that supports the mom who wants to be financially responsible. The truth is that all three of us are quite frugal, and each of us does the best we know to do to keep our family in a good financial state. This entry is for the mommas out there who feel like they cannot make it from week to week, or for the person who knows somebody who could use a little help financially, in order to make ends meet. Here are just a few resources that are just a click away, or a short drive away:

COUPON help sites:
Moneysavingmom.com is one of many sites out there that is designed to help a mom learn the tricks of using coupons, and the places to use those coupons. Crystal Paine is the author of this site, and she is very inspirational because she shows by example that moms can do something about their financial state. She is very self-disciplined and is a great model of financial discipline and the blessings that follow when you exercise that discipline. Check it out.

WIC (women, infant, children)
:
Help for moms or moms-to-be. Specifically, "low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five". Offers "checks" that are good for food such as eggs, cheese, produce, juice, milk, and peanut butter, amongst other things. It is very easy to see if you are eligible. Take a peak and see if this can help you. If it can, contact the WIC office close to you.

FOOD STAMPS:
Food stamps aren't really stamps at all. They are actually a card that looks just like any other credit or debit card! Money is put on the card for you to buy your food with. Check out the site for more info, and to see if you qualify.

ANGEL FOOD MINISTRIES:
Once a month you can pick up one weeks worth of food for just $30, and there are many other food packages offered that you can choose from. Check out the site to see if there is a church hosting this ministry near you.
Anybody else know of any other great resources out there for moms who are struggling to feed their sweethearts?

How to cook dried beans


Are you afraid of dried beans because you think you won't cook them right? My how-to for today is how to prepare dried beans. The truth is that beans are incredibly good for you and can be added to a ton of recipes to add some substance, or to up the healthy factor. Dried beans come in a bag and are usually found in the aisle with rice. Dried beans require advance planning, but not much "hands on" time. Here are your preparation tips for dried beans:

Directions for soaking dried beans: In a large pot, add 10 cups of water to 1 pound of beans. Cover and soak 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse beans.

Directions for gas-free beans: In a large pot, add 10 cups of water to 1 pound of beans. Boil for 2-3 minutes, cover and set aside overnight. Drain and rinse beans. (Reduces gas by 75-90%)

Directions for cooking dried beans: Put soaked and rinsed beans into a large pot. Cover the beans with 3 times their volume of water-- about 6 cups for one pound of beans. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 1.5-2 hours. Drain and use in recipes.

Storing beans for later use: Drain and cool beans. Freeze in 1-2 cup packages. One pound of beans will result in 5-6 cups cooked beans.

I also found these directions on cooking dried beans in a slow cooker from "A Year of Slow Cooking":
  • Pour the entire bag of dried beans into a colander and rinse under cold water. If you see any beans that have broken in half, or skin that floats to the surface, get rid of it. Also pick out any beans that look shriveled and gross.
  • Dump all the beans into your crockpot. Add enough water to cover all the beans and an additional 2 inches.
  • Cover. Do not turn on. Let the beans soak for at least 6 hours, or overnight. If you live in a very warm area, and the crockpot won't be in a room that is climate-controlled, put the stoneware in the fridge. You don't want bacteria to have the opportunity to grow.
  • In the morning, dump the water, and rinse your beans. The water will be bean-colored.
  • Put the beans back into your crockpot and cover with enough fresh water to completely cover the beans with an extra 2-3 inches.
  • Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  • The beans are done when they are bite-tender. Don't worry if the water hasn't all absorbed. You're going to dump it, anyway.
  • Drain the beans.
  • When cool, put 1 2/3 cups of beans into storage containers or freezer bags (you're adding this amount because you aren't adding filler-liquid like the cans have). The beans will store nicely in the refrigerator for 1 week, or in the freezer for 6 months.

Wednesday: Bocadillo Guajolote y Queso

Little spanish for ya...
Bocadillo means sandwich
"Guajolote- pronounced WAH-HO-LO-TE" means the Turkey that says gobble gobble.
Y means and
Queso is cheese.

So, meal of the day, "Turkey and Cheese Sandwich". This is actually a sandwich I pulled together one day in my experimenting, and it is my new favorite sandwich. I decided it would be fun to name it in spanish since I throw in some salsa ranch dressing. Mmmm...

Mmmm...My mouth waters just thinking about this sandwich! To make it a meal, just add carrot chips and a fruit. Strawberries are on sale at my store this week, so we're doing strawberries. We'll also be adding soup from a can to our meal.

Ingredients:
Bread
Sliced Turkey
Salsa Ranch dressing (I found mine at Walmart)
sliced Provolone cheese or pepper jack cheese (pepper jack tastes better in my opinion, but we happened to have provolone on hand)

I'm not going to try to make this more complicated than it is. It's a sandwich, after all. :)
Step One: Pile some turkey and some cheese onto your bread and spread on that delicious dressing. Step Two: Plop your sandwich down onto a heated up George Foreman, a waffle maker, or a pan, that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.
Step Three: Allow to cook until bread is toasted to your liking and the cheese melts into a mess of mouth-watering absolute goodness.
Step Four: Cut and serve with carrot sticks or carrot chips and some fruit.

Your turn. What is your favorite sandwich?

*Note: when I make these I just do ham and cheese or turkey and cheese for my darlings.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday: How to make pigs in a blanket with tortillas

Time to use up that leftover chili from yesterday! :0)


My kids loved this one. The original idea was stolen from Rachael Ray, who has an even better recipe (in my opinion), but I had chilli to use up and wanted to save money by working with what we already had, so here's my "piggy back" idea that won't break my piggy bank. :0) (I'm so clever, I know) Click on the link to see Rachel's "piggy's in a blanket".

Ingredients:
Flour tortillas
Lil' smokies
cheddar cheese (we had mexican cheese, so that is what I used)
Leftover chili
egg
Step One: Cut your flour tortillas into triangles. Step Two: Dampen a paper towel and wrap around the tortillas. Microwave for a few seconds to soften the tortillas. Keep them wrapped in the toweling as you do the other tortillas.
Step Three: Put one weiner on the big end of each triangle tortilla. Add a little scoop of chili and some shredded cheese.
Step Four: Whisk up your egg with a splash of water. Roll the little sweeties up nice and tight, and spread egg wash over all of them.
Step Five: Bake the little babies in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
Dinner is served!
Proof of how much my kids like these...They ate them, and they asked for "more please!" My kids are so picky it's ridiculous, so this is a big deal. ;0)