Friday, July 30, 2010

Penny Pinching Pantry Raid: Days 18 and 19 and a look at what we've been drinking this month

Wednesday, July 21st
Breakfast: Jeremy and I both had cereal and coffee/cream. I had Special K Red Berries and he had Cheerios.
Lunch: Jeremy had leftover squash casserole, chips and a granola bar for lunch with 2 bottles of water and 2 packs of instant peach tea. I had leftover jambalaya, corn and tomatoes.
Dinner: I had leftover squash casserole and salad. Jeremy had leftover corn, stuffed jalepeno peppers and a salad.
Snacks: I had some yogart, almonds, plus some tomatoes and tortilla chips at work.

Thursday, July 22
Breakfast: We both had cereal with coffee/cream.
Lunch: I had leftover jambalaya (finally the last of it.. I feel like I've been eating on it forever, but it's still pretty good) and a cucumber. Jeremy had leftover squash casserole, chips, a granola bar and two bottles of water with a peach tea packet.
Dinner: Homemade frozen pasta with tomatoes, onions swiss chard, garlic olive oil and white wine. It's one of those meals that you just throw whatever you have on hand together.
Snacks: I had a peach, yogart, a hard boiled egg and some tortilla chips.

A word (or several ) on saving money on drinks:

Since I've been keeping track of what we're eating in doing the Penny Pinching Pantry Raid, I've been noticing more what we're drinking at our meals: coffee, water and occassionally a beer.

We stopped drinking pop a while back. I probably had bigger pop habbit than Jeremy did, but last year, I began trying hard to cut out artifical sweeteners. It's impossible to cut them out altogether, but at least I did loose the pop. If I still was drinking it, I'm seeing now how big of a chunk that would have taken of my budget. It's amazing.

We're not juice drinkers at breakfast at all. I drank juice for breakfast when I was a kid--orange and grape. But since I became an adult (and habitual dieter), I don't drink it because of the sugar in it. I don't know why Jeremy has never asked me to buy juice. He's only started drinking coffee more than occassionally in the last year or so. Before that for breakfast he preferred pop (horrifying, I know). And if there wasn't any pop, whatever was to drink in the fridge--besides water. I like a big glass of ice water when I wake up in the morning. I think I read a while back somewhere that it helped your metabolism. Like I said, habitual dieter. But who knows if that's true or not? Before he started drinking coffee regularly, I only made it at home on the weekends. But now, I generally make a half a pot at home to drink for breakfast.

Before the Raid, I bought Lipton (or generic brand) diet green tea to put in Jeremy's lunch. I bought a twelve-pack at the beginning of the month, but one thing I've been doing since we ran out is refilling plastic water bottles with water from our Brita pitcher for Jeremy's lunch.

I don't buy bottled water anymore, but sometimes Jeremy brings home some of what they provide him a work. Especially during fire seasons, when he works long hours on brush fires, his work provides them with a case of bottled water to leave in the truck or whatever so they always have water when they are out. There might be a few leftover at end of fire season, so he has just put them in the garage to grab if we need one.

I LOVE the stainless steel water bottle I got for Christmas, which I fill up from the Brita pitcher when I want a bottle of water to go. He has a stainless steel bottle, too, and last year I bought him a bigger reusable plastic water bottle. But, they don't fit in his lunch box, and he doesn't like to take them in the summer because they don't stay cold. The plastic bottles I've been refilling for him fit perfect in his lunch box. And, I've been freezing one of the bottles, which works double duty. It keeps the whole lunch box cold inside and melts enough so he has a cold bottle of water in the afternoon.

My office has a water cooler, and I ususally drink water from it throughout the day and at lunch. It's nice to have it provided for free, but if it weren't there, I'd probably just drink it out of the tap in the bathroom sink rather than buy bottled water from the vending machine. I'm more of a cheap-o than I am a water snob.

For dinner, we usually drink water. Sometimes a glass of wine or a beer. Occassionally, I make iced tea or make some Crystal Light lemonade. Jeremy doesn't drink milk at all, and I only do occassionally for dinner. I like milk a lot, but I don't drink it often mostly because it is more expensive than water.

Now that I think about it, I don't know what I would do if I didn't like water all that much. Some people don't. Feeding yourself is undoubtedly more expensive if you don't like tap water. I definitely think drinking water has helped the Raid at the Jones home.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Penny Pinching Pantry Raid: The celebratory weekend and start to a crazy week at work.

I'd like to point out that I worked for several hours both Saturday and Sunday... Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but sometimes it's a little ridiculous. Especially when it ruins my anniversary/husband's birthday weekend plans.

Saturday, July 17th
Saturday was supposed to be the end of a two and-a-half-day celebration. But it was just the beginning of celebrating Jeremy's birthday, as my job threw a wrench into the plans.
Breakfast: oatmeal with milk, cinnamon and raw sugar. Coffee and cream.
Lunch: leftover zucchini casserole and green beans.
Dinner: Cookout at the inlaws! Brats with peppers and onions, corn on the cob and earthquake cake.
Snacks: a raspberry muffin, leftover birthday cake at the office

Sunday, July 18th
Breakfast: sausage sandwich with american cheese and mayo at Jeremy's parents' house. We stayed all night.
Lunch: leftover brats and stuffed jalepenos that Jeremy's mom sent back home with us
Dinner: Pasta primavera and salad made and brought in by our angel-of-a-coworker, Melanie. She loves to cook and is from a big Italian family, so she frequently treats us with her goodies. Jeremy had a salad.

Monday, July 19th
Breakfast: Both of us had coffee/cream a frozen biscuit and an egg over-easy. I was out of milk. Boo.
Lunch: I had leftover pasta primaver and salad and a garden-fresh tomato from another general coworker. I'm starting to realize that I've really got it made when it comes to the people I work with. I packed for Jeremy a PB/J sandwich, cucumber, chips, almonds, two bottles of water and a raspberry muffin.
Dinner: I had a meeting Monday night, and luckily there were refreshments provided, because I went straight from work (at 7 p.m.!!!) to the meeitng. I had a gyro, potato chips and root beer. Jeremy had Arby's, paid for with his own money.
Snacks: I had tortilla chips and salsa, and some garden-fresh tomatoes.

Tuesday, July 20th
Breakfast: we both skipped breakfast this morning. I just wasn't hungry.
Lunch: I had leftover jambalaya that I made Friday and some garden-fresh tomatoes. Jeremy had a PB/J, a cucumber, chips, almonds and a muffin and two bottles of water.
Dinner: Squash casserole
Snacks: I had a hard-boiled egg, yogart, almonds and tortilla chips and salsa.

I did have to break down and go to the grocery store Tuesday evening to get milk and some stuff to put in our lunches. I got milk, granola bars, humus, tortilla chips (for work), Kroger-brand instant drink mixes for water bottles, and saltines.

Pantry Raid budget remaining: $1.96
Special occasion budget remaining: $1.78

I should mention that I planned on making guacamole for Jeremy's cookout at his parent's house. But because of work, I didn't get to. So, I didn't even make anything. I wasn't really sure what I should do about reconciling the budgets, but I kept all the food I bought for the cookout and didn't use, so why don't I add them together? $125 for the month total? I totally would have used the food I bought for what I bought it for, but plans fell through. So now it's in my freezer. It wouldn't be fair not to count it.

I also gained quite a bit of food over the weekend, without having to buy it. Gardens are in full-swing, and it seems I know all the right people. My mom has a good friend who has a farm and has way to much growing around her home for a single lady to eat or even put up. Mom helps her with her garden sometimes, and she brought me the fruits of their labors last weekend... no pun intended. I got a bag of peaches, a bag of cucumbers, a handful of tomatoes, and an eggplant.

Also, going to visit Jeremy's parents is like visiting a farmers' market. His dad sent us home with another pint of blackberry jam, about 4 lbs of new potatoes, two "peter pan" squashes, several cucumbers and some tomatoes.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Can Jam July: Cucurbits

As soon as I read what the July Can Jam ingredient was going to be I knew I would make bread and butter pickles. Why? Well, because my husband and I love them and I'm almost out of what I canned last year.

I waded into the canning waters last year, when a volunteer cucumber vine left me with multiple grocery bags full of "Straight 8s". I was sick of eating cucumbers in salads or peeled and with salt. I went so far as to try and bake them--by a recipe I found in my Masterin the Art of French Cooking. Leave it to the French and Julia Child to come up with creative ways to serve just about any vegetable. But, baked cucumbers weren't that good. It was a texture thing. So, I did what anyone with a glut of cucumbers would do: made pickles. My mom, who's a veteran canner, helped me, and we made both bread and butter (sweet) and dill pickles. She has a fancy vegetable cutter that works like a meat grinder with a crank that makes the crinkle cuts. These bread and butters were fancy, I'm telling ya.

So, fast forward to this year. I've got one quart left in the larder and knew that I would can more this year, notwithstanding the Can Jam. When I found out what it was going to be, I decided I would just make this easy on myself and use these as my entry for July. Especially, since it's just starting to get high canning season here, and I've got blackberries and peaches coming out my ears that I'm going to be canning as jam this week, too.

I should also mention that I went to a canning class on July 9th taught by the West Virginia University Extension Service. I was so excited when I saw the class advertised in the newspaper. I felt like the geek who sits in the front row of class on the edge of her seat! I got a few tips and tricks that even my mom, who went with me, didn't know about, and she's been canning for years. It was also good to get a refresher on canning safety--something we all can brush up on from time to time.

So, here's the goods (along with some of the tips and advice presented at the canning class):

Don't forget to wash your jars thoroughly and check the rims for nicks. A step I often overlook, as I run them through the dishwasher after I use them. But I store them on a shelft against the wall in my garage, and they could easily (and probably do) get dusty. Also, a chipped jar won't seal propely, so don't use those at all.

Fill up your hot water bath canner and get it on the stove to get the water hot. When I made pickles, this step took the longest. In the canning class, I learned that those funny looking handles of the jar rack are made that way so you can rest the rack half-way out of the water, which makes it easier to load and unload the jars... Hmm. I always wondered why the handles had that funny "crook" in them. I can't believe that never occured to me.

I confess, I didn't make the spice mix from scratch. I bought Ball Bread and Butter Pickle Mix and followed the directions on the back of the package. I also cut the batch in half because I only had enough cucumbers for half. This is nothing like last year when I was overrun with cucumbers.
Jarden Home Brands 1440072500 Ball Bread And Butter Pickle Mix

Ball Bread and Butter Pickles - yields 4 pints
3 lb. cucumbers, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups vinegar
1 half a pouch of bread and butter pickle mix

Pack cucumbers tightly in 4 prepared pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. When you think you've packed them as tight as you can, pack a little more in. The pickles will shrink when you process them. Bring sugar, pickle mix, and vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Ladle into jars over cucumber slices, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe rims of jars well (the pickling juice is sticky, so this step is VERY important). Place two-piece lids on jars and process 15 minutes in a hot water bath canner.

Three tips from my canning class:
1) I can't stress how important it is to wipe the rims clean. The lids won't seal if there's sticky pickling juices on them.
2) We all know that when we can, we put the lids and rims in a saucepan of hot water. Well, I always brought it to a boil before I used them. The lids and rims should be kept at a bare simmer. Boiling them can damage the rubber seals and cause them not to seal properly. I always thought they needed to be boiled to sterilize them, but that's not the case, as hot-water bath canning is done for high acid foods, so sterilization isn't as big a concern. But the lids need to be hot to help the sealing process.
3) Do you have a glass-top electric stove? Well, it's not recommended to can on those. My hot water canner had a little disclaimer on the papers that came with it, that is should not be used on those types of stoves. I have been canning on mine since last summer. I asked about it at the canning class, and the instructor didn't recommend on doing it, but said definitely DO NOT use a pressure canner on a glass-top stove. They simply get too hot, and the stove top will crack. I guess the advice here is hot-water bath can on a glass-top stove at your own risk.

Cut the cucumbers into 1/2 inch slices. No fancy crinkle cut pickles for me this year.

The finished deliciousness.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Penny Pinching Pantry Raid: Halfway there!

Thursday, July 15th -- (Our anniversary!!!)
Breakfast: I had Special K Red Berries and milk. Jeremy had a Kroger-brand Nutri-grain bar.
Lunch: I had the delicious salad that was leftover from dinner Tuesday--with proscuitto, eggs and mozzarella, and leftover green beans from dinner Wednesday and water. Jeremy's coworkers took him out for lunch today since tomorrow is his birthday and he's not working.
Dinner: I had more leftover salad from dinner Tuesday and water. Jeremy had leftover zucchini casserole from dinner Wednesday... such a romantic anniversary dinner.
Snacks: I had coffee/cream, a raspberry muffin, hard-boiled egg and a sliced tomato.

Friday, July 16th -- (Happy Birthday, Jeremy!!!)
Breakfast: I had Special K Red Berries and milk. Jeremy had coffee/cream, and got to sleep in late :)
Lunch: I took Jeremy out to lunch at one of our favorite casual/bar-type places, Tricky Fish.
Dinner: Since I was planning on making it for the cookout before the menu changed, as per the birthday boy's request, I made jambalaya. I also made stuffed jalepenos.
Snacks: a raspberry muffin and almonds.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Penny Pinching Pantry Raid: Days 9 and 10 and a zucchini recipe

Tuesday, July 13th
Breakfast: we each had a raspberry muffin from the batch I made on Sunday evening. I had coffee/cream with mine.
Lunch: I had leftovers from the potluck: salad with smoked pork and grilled veg and water. Jeremy had a PB/J, two bottles of water, cereal bar, chips and almonds.
Snacks: I had a hard boiled egg and the rest of the strawberries. Jeremy had some tortilla chips and finished off the humus.
Dinner: We had a salad with prosciutto, the rest of the mozzarella, goat cheese and egg ribbons and water to drink.I also made these grilled hot peppers with feta cheese. It's from one of my FAVORITE cooking blogs. This guy's food is easy and always looks soooo good. We also had leftover cobbler for dessert.

Wednesday, July 14th
Breakfast: Jeremy didn't eat breakfast. I had Special K Red Berries and milk and water to drink.
Lunch: I had leftovers from the potluck and water. Jeremy had PB/J, two bottles of water, a cucumber, cereal bar, chips and almonds.
Snacks: I had a raspberry muffin, coffee/cream, and almonds.
Dinner: zucchini casserole sans zucchini, green beans and a sliced tomato, and split the last piece of cobbler for dessert. For the casserole, I used a mix of yellow squash and "peter" pan squash. That's what Jeremy's dad calls the green patty pan (scalloped) squash. It's my mom's recipe from when I was a  kid. I've halfed it below.

Connie's Zucchini Casserole
2 cups of sliced zucchini or a mix of yellow squash and zucchini
1/2 a large onion, sliced
2 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tb. parsley flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper
2 cups of shredded mozzarella
1 egg, beaten
8 refridgerated pillsbury crescent rolls
2 Tb brown spicy mustard, divided

Heat oven to 350. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and zucchini and seasonings. Saute until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit. Add cheese and beaten egg. Mix well. In a 9 X 9 baking pan, unroll 4 crescent rolls so they are flat on the bottom. Brush with 1 Tb of the mustard. Pour in zucchini mixture. Top with the other 4 crescent rolls. Brush top with 1 Tb mustard. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

This is an easy recipe and a good way to use up the glut of squash in mid-summer. I also make it with frozen squash and zucchini, just make sure it is drained well so the casserole doesn't get soggy. The original recipe was doubled and baked in a 9 x 13 baking pan.

I should point out that my coworkers have quite and green thumb and are generous enough to share. Tuesday I brought home about 2 lbs of half-runner green beans, and Wednesday, I brought home 2 bright red tomatoes. It's a good thing, too. My garden seems to be faltering this year. It's all still alive and green, it just isn't bearing much to eat, which makes me sad. Now, I only have a handful of bean blooms, and I should be picking beans now. The rain also beat off the blossoms of the squash plants a while back. I should be eating fresh yellow squash now, but I doubt I even get a single one. There are a few bright spots in my garden, though. I an going to stop short of saying that I am sick of salads, but tomorrow, I think I'll bring in some of the salad greens from my garden to share with my coworkers.

I went to the grocery store Wednesday evening to get stuff I needed for Jeremy's birthday cookout and for dinner tomorrow eveing. I spent $5.45 for groceries NOT for the cookout. I got a box of stuffing mix, a box of brown rice, turkey kielbasa, and I had a coupon for a free bag of Dole salad (wasn't I just saying I was sick of salads...) For the cookout, I spent $6.47, and I bought cilantro, avocados, onions and tortilla chips. I still need to reconcile the hamburger and grilled I ordered from Monroe Market for the cookout, now that we're not haivng hamburgers and jambalaya. I'll add that to my regular grocery budget, and that will probably finish it off for the month. And, I'm not worried about that. I really shouldn't need anything else, except maybe a half gallon of milk, but I might try to live without that next week, too.

Pantry Raid Budget Remaining: $13.88
Special Occassion budget remaining: $1.78.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Penny Pinching Pantry Raid: Days 7 and 8

Sunday, July 11th
Breakfast: I made some frozen biscuits and fried each of us an egg. We had coffee and cream.
Lunch: I had leftover chili and crackers with water, and some leftover cobbler. Jeremy didin't eat lunch.
Snacks: I leftover potatoes and squash from dinner Saturday night. Jeremy had some leftovers I brought home from the reception I was at on Saturday afternoon: mini salmon cakes, olives and chicken salad on a croissant. I also brought home a bunch of strawberries and cut veggies.
Dinner: I made the best pizza you ever laid eyes on. Seriously...
I wasn't even sure what I was going to make for dinner unitl I was watching "Alex's Day Off" on Food Network Sunday morning. She was making pizza, and I decided I could scrape together enough ingredients for a pizza for dinner: goat cheese, sausage, carmelized pearl onions, and wilted swiss chard. I bought the goat cheese for the salad I was supposed to bring to my pot luck at work on Monday, but oh well. We just got back from Chicago, so I was inspired to do a deep dish pizza. I had never made a pizza in my cast iron skillet before, but it worked beautifully! I just seasoned it the last time I used it, so the crust didn't stick a bit. I baked it at 375 for about 30 minutes. I love it when you just throw something together and it turns out delicious!

Monday, July 12th
Breakfast: I had cheerios with raspberries, milk and sugar. Jeremy had a raspberry muffin I made yesterday and some yogart. We both had coffee and cream.
Lunch: Jeremy had a PB/J sandwich, chips, two bottles of water, almonds, and a cereal bar. We had a pot luck at work for a coworker's birthday. We really know how to cook as a group. I had a smoked pork BBQ, grilled veggies, baked beans, chinese slaw, fresh fruit, salad and for dessert, a triffle with berries, lemon pudding and limoncello-soaked angel food cake in it. Man, was it delicious! The good news is that we will eat on the leftovers for at least another day, maybe longer.
Snacks: I had a hard boiled egg and some strawberries.
Dinner: I made pizza again. My pizza dough recipe makes enough for 1 large pizza, but I usually just make 2 small ones since there's only 2 of us. But tonight, I made Margherita pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes, balsalmic vinegar and olive oil. It was amazing. But we're not sure which one was better: that one or the deep dish.

Total spent: $0!
Pantry Raid budget remaining: $19.33.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Penny Pinching Pantry Raid: Days 5, 6 and 7 and a super-easy blackberry cobbler recipe

Thursday, July 8th
Breakfast: I had Cheerios, milk and raspberries with coffee/cream. Jeremy had a breakfast Lean Pocket and coffee/cream.
Lunch: I had leftover chili (the best kind) and crackers and water. I packed for Jeremy a PB/J sandwich, watermelon, almonds, a cereal bar, some chips and a bottle of green tea.
Snacks: I had a cup of watermelon, 1 oz. of almonds, some oatmeal and cantelope leftover that my coworker brought to work.
Dinner: a Wanchai Ferry sweet and sour shrimp kit (Thanks, Susan, for getting me hooked on these... easy-peasy and delish!) and water.

Friday, July 9th
Today, my mom and I took a canning class taught by WVU Extension. It only cost $10, and we got to keep what we canned. We pressure canned green beans and tomatoes, and boiling water canned blackberry jam. I had so much fun, and I actually learned a lot. I brought home 1 quart of green beans, 1 pint of tomatoes and a half pint of jam. I also brought home 3 big tomatoes since we had so many leftover.

Breakfast: I had a bowl of cereal, milk and coffee. Jeremy had a breakfast Lean Pocket and coffee/cream.
Lunch: My lunch was provided by the class. It was a Subway sandwich and water, and we also had leftover fresh tomatoes from the canning and we made a pot of green beans. Jeremy had a PB/J sandwich, chips, watermelon, almonds, a cereal bar and a bottle of green tea.
Dinner: BBQ ribs from Monroe Market and boiled new potatoes and Yuelingling.
Snacks: I had a piece of blackberry pie and some bean salad at my mom's house. Jeremy had some humus and tortilla chips.

Saturday, July 10th
Breakfast: Jeremy had a breakfast Lean Pocket and coffee/cream. I had coffee/cream and oatmeal with milk and berries.
Lunch: I had a reception for one of the community service groups I'm in today, so I ate the food catered for the reception for lunch. Jeremy played golf, and he had something out of the vending machine at the clubhouse for his lunch bought with his money.
Dinner: ribeyes with balsalmic mushrooms, roasted potatoes with garlic in a foil pouch on the grill, blackberry cobbler, and a bottle of Fisher Ridge Pork Barrel Red that I've been saving.

Saturday, we celebrated our anniversary... 4 years! Our actual anniversary is Thursday, but our schedules this week are shaping up to be crazy. I actually have 2 softball games on Thursday and we have one on the team we play on together on Friday. And Friday is Jeremy's birthday, so all this softball kinda blows any plans to celebrate on Thursday and Friday up. (Makes me wonder why I signed up to play for 2 teams...) And, It looks like the Legislature will be in special session beginning either Wednesday or Thursday, too, so who knows how late I will be working later this week. It's just really bad timing. So, we did what we planned to do on Thursday night on Saturday: grill steaks, open a bottle of red wine and sit on our patio until really late.

Super Easy (and even Weight Watchers!!!) Blackberry Cobbler
I think a lot of people have heard of this recipe, but when I googled it, I had a hard time finding it. So just in case you don't have it...

2 or 3 cups of berries such as raspberries, blackberries or blueberries
1 Tb of sugar per cup of berries
1 box of yellow cake mix
1 can of diet lemon lime soda

Pre-heat oven to 350. In a bowl, add sugar to berries to coat, and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Pour berry mixture in a 9 X 9 baking pan, coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle cake mix over berries evenly. Pour the can of soda over the mixture. Do not stir. Bake for 350 for 45 minutes. You can substitute 1 can of cherry pie filling for the berries, and omit the sugar.

In other developments, Jeremy has decided to move his birthday cookout to him mom and dad's because the people we were going to invite from our area can't come now, so pretty much everyone who could come lives closer to his parents than us. And they have more parking. It's good, because she has offered to help with the food. She's making him a cake, and he's decided he wants brats rather than burgers, so they are going to buy those. We might take a package of the hamburger up to make incase someone wants hamburgers rather than brats. I'm not sure yet. At any rate, all I'm making now is guacamole and bringing chips... That's at least do-able with my $25 special occassion budget. I'll have to move the cost of the hamburger I already bought over to the main Pantry Raid total once I figure out how many packages we take up for the cookout. It looks like he and I will be having hamburgers for dinner here at least once this month.

I went to the grocery store today to get a bag of tortilla chips and some beer, and on Monday, we are having a potluck at work for a coworker's birthday. I was asked to bring salad. I bought 4 bags of salad, 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, 1 bell pepper and a container of goat cheese for $14.54.


BTW, our beer budget of $25 is cashed out. We spent $18.00 last weekend when we went four-wheeling on the 4th of July on beer and ice, which we shared with the group. And I spent 9.49 on Friday... that's $27.49. I'm done.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Penny Pinching Pantry Raid: Days 3 and 4

Tuesday, July 6th
Breakfast: both Jeremy and I had Cherrios with a handful of fresh raspberries, milk and coffee/cream.
Lunch: I had leftover boiled new potatoes and a salad with cucumbers and feta cheese and water. I keep a bottle of salad dressing in the "community" fridge at work. The salad greens are from my cold frame--which I am loving, by the way. I packed for Jeremy a PB/blackberry jam sandwich, cucumber, cereal bar, a bottle of green tea, 1 oz of almonds, and 1 cup of watermelon.
Snacks: I had a cup of Oikos yogart, 1 cup of watermelon and 1 oz. of almonds.
Dinner: Bitokes a la Russe and green beans canned last year by my MIL.

In case you're wondering what Bitokes a la Russe are, here's the recipe. Basically, hamburgers... fancy French hamburgers with cream sauce.

Bitokes a la Russe (p. 302 from Mastering the Art of French Cooking -- slightly modified)

3/4 cup of finely minced yellow onions
2 Tb butter
1 1/2 lbs of lean, ground beef (I use ground venison.)
2 Tb softened butter, ground beef suet, beef marrow or fresh pork fat
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp thyme
1 egg (I didn't have an egg, so I used 2 Tb skim milk).
1/2 cup flour on a plate
1 Tb butter and 1 Tb oil

Cook the onions slowly in the butter for about 10 minutes until tender, but not browned. Place in a mixing bowl. Add the beef, butter or fat, seasonings, and egg to the onions in the mixing bowl and blend throughly. Correct seasoning. Form into 6 even balls. Just before sauteing, roll the beef in flour and pat into patties. Place the butter and oil in a skllet and set over high heat. When you see the butter foam begin to subside, saute the patties for 6 to 8 minutes or more on each side (or if using beef, 2 to 3 minutes for rare, and longer depending on how done you like hamburgers. I ALWAYS make sure ground venison is well done, just to be safe.)

For the cream sauce:

1/4 cup of stock or beef bouillon (I used veg stock)
2/3 cup of whipping cream
salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg
a few drops of lemon juice
2 to 3 Tb softened butter
2 Tb green herbs chopped

After sauteing the patties, pour the fat out of the skillet. Add the stock and boil it down rapidly, scraping up the coagulated cooking juices, until reduced to almost a syrup. Pour in the cream and boil down rapidly for a minute or two until it is reduced, and thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt, pepper, nutmeg and drops of lemon juice. Off heat, swirl in the butter by half-tablespoons until absorbed. Stir in herbs. Spoon over patties and serve.

I've made these before, and it's actually a really good way to use ground venison--something I am always looking for. In my last post, I forgot to include the half of a seedless watermelon Jeremy's dad sent home with us on Sunday. Fruit for our lunches this week--check!

On Monday evening, I had to go back to the grocery store because I forgot to get vegetable juice for chili Wednesday evening. I dropped another $2.29.

Wednesday, July 7th
Breakfast: I had oatmeal with fresh raspberries and milk, and coffee/cream. Jeremy had a breakfast Hot Pocket and coffee/cream.
Lunch: I had leftover green beens and hamburgers and water. A coworker also brought in some cantelope that was off the chain. I ate some of that. I packed for Jeremy a PB/jam sandwich, 1 cup of watermelon, 1 oz almonds, a bottle of green tea, half a cucumber, and a cereal bar.
Dinner: Chili and crackers and water for both of us. Ideally, I would make Mexican cornbread, but I'm not getting my eggs until tomorrow. We picked our first two peppers out of the garden Tuesday night, and I chopped one up and added it to the chili.
Snacks: I had a cup of Oikos yogart, a cup of watermelon and 1 oz of almonds.

I also placed my monthly (or semi-monthly) order with the Monroe Farm Market on Tuesday morning. 1 pound beef bones, 2 packages of boneless skinless chicken breast, 3 2-lb. bags of hamburger, 2 dozen eggs and $31.00 later. The hamburger and one package of chicken breasts are for Jeremy's birthday cookout--which has a seperate $25 limit for the Pantry Raid. More on that later.

Total remaining: $34.91.
Special occassion total remaining: $8.25... this is going to be tough.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Penny Pinching Pantry Raid: Days 1 and 2

Yesterday was my first official Pantry Raid day, and I'm off to a smokin' start.

I decided to start yesterday, rather than July 1st, because I was in Chicago last week with my mom, and I knew there was no way to plan part of the trip be the Pantry Raid. My mom's birthday was friday, and I took her out to dinner. I almost would've blown the budget on that meal.

But, that's okay. Four weeks from yesterday I'll be done and hopefully RICHER. Kind of.

You may recall my inventory from a few days ago. In Chicago, I found a Trader Joe's, and bought a few more things: coffee, peanut butter, 1 lb of roasted almonds, 2 5-oz containers of hummus, a bottle of wine. We also bought a 12-pack Big K green tea for the car ride, and we have several of those left.

Yesterday, for breakfast, I had 2 slices of leftover Gino's East pizza that we brought back. Don't worry, it was in a cooler... Jeremy had Burger King for $4.24, which I was nice enough to buy him with my money, cause I didn't want to start out that way on the Pantry Raid, and there was pretty much nothing at our house to eat.

By the way, I wasn't planning on counting anything we buy with our own money on the Pantry Raid. We each give ourselves an allowance every payday to cover things like if I want to go out to happy hour with my coworkers or buy some clothes at the Gap. It's never much. Last month it was $70 each, and mine is pretty much gone until next payday.

For dinner, we ate at his parents'. They made a "beer can" chicken, green beans, pasta salad and blackberry cobbler.

Then, we went to my mom's house, and I ate again. This time grilled scallops and grilled veggies. We stayed all night at my mom's.

This morning, I had an egg sandwich at my mom's. Jeremy had leftover pasta salad (since he slept until 11:30). For lunch I had leftover pasta salad, and he had leftover cobbler. For dinner, I'm going to make fish poached in white wine with some boiled new potatoes.

To celebrate America's birthday, we went four-wheeling with Jeremy's sister, brother-in-law, uncle and his family yesterday. It was a lot of fun, actually. AND I took along a 3-gallon bucket to pick blackberries. I was about a week early, but I still got about a gallon. I also got about 2 cups of red raspberries. I gave half of the blackberries to my mom. As we were leaving his parent's house, Jeremy's dad gave me 3 quarts of frozen blackberries from last year to make jam with, a pint of black raspberry jam, and a grocery bag of hot peppers and cucumbers.

Today, I made a much-needed trip to the gorcery store. It was so hard not to load up the buggy with good sales, but I diligently stuck to my list. I only spent 48.55!!! Yes, this is almost half my budget, but it's such a novelty to me to spend that little!

I got: 1 box Cheerios, 1 box of Special K,  2 boxes of yellow cake mix, 1 box of Kroger-brand Nutri-grain bars, pearl onions, 1 can tuna, 1 Cali Pizza Kitchen, 2 boxes of lean Buffalo Chicken bites, 2 boxes of breakfast lean pockets, 2 containers of Oikos yogart, 1 4-pack of yoplait yogart, 1 jar of Miracle Whip Lite, 6 oz of fresh mozzarella, organic mushrooms, 2 ribeyes (boo, Monroe Market is out of steak!), 1/2 gallon of skim milk, a loaf of bread, chips for Jeremy's lunch, and tortilla chips.

Not too shabby for $48.55. This should last me 2 weeks for the most part, some items for the whole month.

Looking back, it might seem like mooching meals at my mom's and in-laws, and not counting my own money is a little bit like cheating. But in all honesty, I knew we'd be having dinner at his parents before I even got read to start, just like we do just about every weekend. It's just our normal routine. And, the rest of the month is not going to be a walk in the park anyway. I am going to be super-busy this month, but I know I can do the challenge with a little planning ahead.

Money left: $51.45.