Meal Planning Check In

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I was really pleased with me for taking the time to find 11 recipes that I could make using my pantry items. Great idea but how did it go?

What we ate:

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole I adjusted this to suit my timeline.This took us from March 10 -12th

Mexican Rice Casserole  After a heavy chicken and potato dish we went for something loaded with our veggies. This took us from the 12th – 14th

 Pasta with Vienna Sausages This turned out surprisingly well since I crushed the rigatone. I added vegetables that I thought may not make it to this one.

One pan Cheesy Chicken Broccoli and Cheese The broccoli had turned by the time I got to this dish but we did a good job using what we had.

 Lentil sloppy joes These were as good as we remembered!

Meal #6 Chicken Tacos  We mixed in some of the lentil sloppy joe with the chicken for a fuller taco.

Meals we didn’t end up making:

 Chana Masala and rice

 Roast chicken with potatoes (and later sweet & spicy sweet potatoes)

Roasted duck with red beans and rice

 Mexican Rice Casserole

 Tuna patties

Leg of lamb with roasted potatoes and bean salad

 

Eating Out

I’m guilty of eating out. I had eaten my lunch too early one day and got a second one, while another day I was the only one in the office who had brought lunch so we did a team lunch. My lunch became dinner that day.

ML had a craving which he fulfilled by purchasing fish cutlets from the grocery store and making our own filet o’fish sandwiches. His $8 was defintiely well spent!

We also invited some friends over, as I had canceled on them when I had my accident, but they don’t eat lamb or duck and we wanted something fancier than chicken. So we ended up making this great stuffed pork loin that not only fed our guests but kept us fed for an entire week.

Next Step

It was a great way to use what we had in the pantry and save money in the grocery but our pantry is looking quite bare.  We took our time last night and selected three meals and ML got our groceries for less than the anticipated $50.

I’m not sure when next I’ll indulge in a pantry clean out but it was definitely fun and informative.

Image from here

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Taking dessert

I always take something when I’m invited to someone’s home. Usually it’s dessert. When looking at my pantry checklist I had completely forgotten that we were going to dinner at some friends.

I must confess to being very tempted to take $5 from the grocery budget and purchase a cake. I managed to pull myself together and make a s’mores cake.

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Mine looked similar to the one pictured above but we had cut into it before I remembered I had wanted to take a photo for you guys.

Here are my ingredients:

  • Butter  pecan cake mix (eggs, oil, water)
  • chocolate pudding mix for icing ( milk, powdered sugar, cool whip)
  • marshmallows
  • graham crackers

I baked the cake according to package directions.

While cake was baking, I mixed the chocolate pudding, 1 cup chocolate milk, 1/4 cup icing sugar and 8 oz of cool whip. I refrigerated the pudding icing until ready to use.

Once the cake was cooled I cut it in half to get two layers. On the bottom, I frosted it and sprinkled crushed graham crackers. I then put the other layer on top, frosted, covered in graham cracker crumbs and topped with mini marshmallows.

My only regret is I don’t have a kitchen torch to use on the marshmallows. If I had used a sturdier frosting, I would have broiled it but I was a bit nervous that the pudding frosting wiuld right off.

The cake was a hit and continued to allow me to use pantry items. I was really please to have a quick new recipe and maintain my challenge!

Photo from here

11 Meals

Yesterday I shared what’s in my pantry and freezer as well as my realization that I need those ingredients to make 11 meals. Here goes!

Meal #1: Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

This bad boy makes use of chicken that’s currently marinating in my freezer, potatoes, green onions. It’s also a great simple recipe I feel comfortable trying out.

Meal #2: One pan Cheesy Chicken Broccoli and Cheese

It’s been ages since I’ve made this but it was so good! This would also only use half the tray of chicken.

Meal #3: Chicken Tacos

The taco kit gets used as does tomatoes and the rest of the chicken thighs!

Meal #4: Pasta with Vienna Sausages

I’ve been in the mood for comfort food recently and this is basically homemade Chef Boyarde. I usually make it with spaghetti but the tube pasta will definitely work! I’ll also load it with veggies.

Meal #5: Chana Masala and rice

I pinned this recipe a while ago but hadn’t made it. This will be a great way to use the chickpeas and tomatoes.

Meal #6: Roast chicken with potatoes (and later sweet & spicy sweet potatoes)

Whenever we roast a chicken we throw in potatoes and carrots. We always seem to run out of the potatoes & carrots before we finish the chicken. I’m so glad I’ve rediscovered the sweet potato recipe

Meal #7: Roasted duck with red beans and rice

We got the duck because it was on sale and we haven’t had duck in ages. It’s time to roast it and enjoy! Based on my pantry those red beans are going to be substituted with black eyed peas.

Meal #8: Mexican Rice Casserole

I’ll be using a tin of tomatoes and the peas and carrots since I’m out of corn. This is one where the recipe is really  just an outline for me to indulge in flavours while using ingredients on hand.

Meal #9: Lentil sloppy joes

I made this once before and was surprised by how much I loved it. With the weather going from hot to cold within a matter of hours this sounds like just the ticket!

Meal #10: Tuna patties

I really want tuna melts but I feel the tuna will be stretched further and will  make a much healthier meal if I go this route.

Meal #11: Leg of lamb with roasted potatoes and bean salad

It’s been ages since we’ve cooked lamb and I’m really looking forward to this.

Based on these recipes my grocery money should be used to get some fresh produce to round out some of these meals and one pack of burger buns. I’ve planned this by guessing that I will be cooking a meal every other day as each recipe makes 6-8 servings or at least 4 lunches and 2 dinners.

 

 

 

 

 

Pantry Update

Yesterday I mentioned that I spent half my grocery budget. This was an extraordinary win since I did my groceries at lunch time and I hadn’t eaten yet.

I managed this because I had a ham bone in the freezer and the ingredients to sort of make a ham bone soup. I also had the ingredients for the mujadarrah that Laurelynne mentioned.

So why did I do groceries?

While I could have skipped the trip, I wanted to fill up on some sale items:

  • tinned tuna
  • Fries
  • Pasta sauce
  • Mushrooms (to be added to my eggs in the morning)
  • Tortillas (for my breakfasts)
  • Diced tomatoes

As I mentioned I went shopping hungry so I also purchased (on sale):

  • Vegetable lasagna (for the freezer)
  • Fish cutlets (used for a quick dinner while waiting for my ham bone soup to finish)

While I definitely didn’t stick with the Uber Frugal Month challenge of only purchasing what I’ll eat this week, the purchases will help off set later costs.

I’m fortunate that I have the space to store these items because shopping ahead, when I’m making sure to check dates and use my pantry items, definitely is cheaper than purchasing all my ingredients in one go.

This wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time this was us:

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Now we do a weekly check of our fridge to catch anything that may be a little old and make sure we use whatever it is soon. I also do seasonal pantry checks. This means emptying out the cupboards to find what’s in there and may have been pushed to the back.

I did this a few weeks ago and was surprised by the amount of lentils we had! I also found a few items that were on my list to purchase that had been pushed around and were hiding.

Image from here

Pantry Challenge: Lentil Chili

With the excess of the holiday season over I’m craving food that is not baked or fried and contains a hefty dose of vegetables. As I’m also doing the Uber frugal month challenge I thought this would be good time to turn to my pantry to give myself a chance to focus once more on eating less meat and less processed foods.

It turned out we didn’t even need to visit the grocery this week!

I found 1.5 packages of lentils in my quest and decided to make this lentil chili. I even followed the recipe, mostly. I hadn’t purchased peppers and didn’t have stock in so I skipped those and substituted water for the broth.

In spite of this substitution, it’s a very tasty meal and will give us about 2 days worth of meals. It’s just the sort of hearty fare I need in January!

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Do you have a favourite lentil dish? I still have a bag left!

Grocery Budget

I’ve blogged here about the fact that eating healthy doesn’t necessarily take more out of my grocery budget than eating convenience foods. However, when I went to do my budget this month I gave my grocery line some extra padding.

I mean clearly eating no meat is going to cost more as it’ll be harder to get all necessary ingredients on sale. That turned out to be a mistake, a great one.

I turned my usual process around by selecting recipes,  then checking my pantry, and finally the flyers.

I ended up getting this for about half my grocery budget:

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They’re the necessary ingredients for:

I’m pleased with our planning and think we’re off to a fine start.

My zero waste goal, however, isn’t doing as well. Unfortunately most of the items are packaged in plastic. I’m going to keep working away at both of these and see where my grocery life ends up at the end of the month.

Do you have frugal pescatarian recipes you’re willing to share?

World War Two Rations

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World War 2 Weekly food ration

I’ve always been curious about food. I devour the pages in Agatha Christie where she details menus, I pretended to recreate pioneer meals from one of my books as a child, and dreamt of the meals that Enid Blyton’s characters feasted on. I even requested tongue sandwiches not realizing that this treat was really cow’s tongue. My mum didn’t go for the new menu addition.

It was through my reading historical fiction that I gained a better understanding of rationing. A lot of the books I read that are set in WW II  addressed this huge issue of the time in some form. So of course I got curious and soon found myself in the midst of researching how people cooked and ate with such strict limitations.

Every few years I attempt eating in this manner and I usually last less than a week. This is often due to our meat consumption and convenience foods. So imagine my surprise when I realized that, without trying, I have come close to eating in a manner that aligns with those rations this week.  We’ve been stretching our meat, eating home made snacks, and filling up on a lot of vegetables.

As you can guess, I’m once again curious about eating this way. I don’t intend to hold myself to the strict diet but I do see that using it as a basis can help me in many ways such as opting for a healthy diet and keeping me on the zero waste track.

With this in mind, I am aiming to:

  • Continue shopping for local produce
  • Limit our meat consumption
  • Increase the number of filling vegetarian dishes we make
  • Make our own snacks

If you’re interested in recipes and learning from someone who is incorporating it into their lives Carolyn at The 1940’s Experiment is a great resource.

Photo from here

Going Old Fashioned in the Kitchen Vegetable Soup

Fresh off my success of making and freezing loads of vegetable stock I decided I’d love have a spicy vegetable soup to start the week. The only thing was that all my recipes listed vegetable broth as an ingredient. This didn’t make sense to me, vegetable broth is halfway to soup so why would I use my broth for this. Luckily I found someone else who completely agreed with me!

This recipe for loaded vegetable soup is perfect on so many levels. I love that her attitude is to add and saute ingredients as they’re chopped.

It was a great way to use fresh vegetables as well as to use up some of the frozen items I had. My ingredients were:

  • 2 onions
  • 1 leek
  • 4 carrots
  • 2 packages of frozen green beans
  • 1 package of frozen zucchini
  • 4 potatoes
  • 5 softened tomatoes, squished with skins on
  • Seasonings: granulated garlic, salt, a generous amount ground black pepper, and a hefty dose of Cajun seasoning

Once everything was in, I added 6 cups of water and left it to simmer for ~2 hours. Though I enjoyed it, I did find it a bit spicy for me. I may cut back the hefty dose to a generous amount of Cajun seasoning.

I’m really excited to have a soup recipe that is 100% from scratch! It’s not often I can say I know exactly what’s going into my food but with this one I can definitely do that.

 

Domestic Goddess

I’m definitely overstating it! Though I did feel like a domestic goddess this weekend when I pickled and froze vegetables for later use. Two things that weren’t previously in my realm of possibility.

Do you remember me joining the CSA? Last week was the first week for pick up and I’m so glad that we got a 1/4 bushel! This is what it looks like for us:

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fresh onion, a pickling cucumber, kale, a giant zucchini, 3 leeks

Though we try to eat our vegetables that’s a lot for two people. So I did some quick research on how to store them properly in the fridge as well as how to freeze them as I suspected we would need to.  Turns out it is as simple as plunging the green beans and zucchini into a pot of water that’s been brought to a rolling boil for 3 minutes then dumping them directly into an ice bath for another 3. The leeks were even easier as I just washed them, sliced them and flash froze them before actually freezing them.

Then I did something I never thought I would do: I pickled the cucumber and one bunch of the green beans.

I sampled the cucumber yesterday and I can’t believe I haven’t done this before! It was amazingly delicious.

I turned my quarter bushel into this!

the garden vegetables in packages for freezing
pickles, pickled green beans, 2 packages of leeks, 4 packages of zucchini, 2 packages of green beans

 

This is a huge leap from who I was 2 years ago and I’m really loving that I’m able to combine frugality, my wish to be good for the environment, and feeding myself well. Emily at Through my Lens wrote a fantastic post about her journey toward finding a balance when it came to eating real food.  Her tips are fantastic and really help you recognize that eating well can fit into your lifestyle no matter what. It’s not about doing it all, it’s about doing a little bit at a time.

As I’m only now exploring freezing and canning I’d love any tips or tricks you can share!