Saturday, February 28, 2009

Using Up Leftovers: Biscuit Pudding

This morning my wonderful husband fixed breakfast of bacon, grits, eggs and biscuits. I've had some kind of stomach virus for the past few days and really didn't feel up to eating much. We had three biscuits leftover. A great way to save money and to lessen what we discard in the trash it to use up the leftovers.

Tonight, my husband and son wanted something sweet to eat and I immediately thought of those 3 biscuits. Here is my Nanny's recipe for biscuit pudding. The original recipe called for it to be cooked in the oven at 350 degrees until custardy. I cook mine in the microwave now. It's much faster and tastes the same.

Biscuit Pudding

3 eggs, separated
3 biscuits, crumbled
1 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup Splenda which is what we use) plus 2 Tbsp for meringue
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups milk

Mix milk, egg yolks, sugar and extract. (I use a wire whisk.) Stir in crumbled biscuits. Cook in preheated oven (350 degrees) until custardy. When done, ddd egg white meringue and brown under broiler.

If cooked in the microwave, I add the whites to the pudding separately from the yolks but in the pudding. I then microwave on high for approximately 10 minutes. I stir it every 3 minutes or so.

Strategy: Organizing Your Recipes

I have found a really neat blog on organizing ( and this month's challenge is to organize your recipes. How many of you have tons of cookbooks and recipes but can never find them? When was the last time you used some of those cookbooks?

I want to challenge each of you to work on organizing your recipes. This will probably help you with that meal planning because you'll be reminded of things that you haven't eaten in a while.

I also want to challenge you to declutter just one of those cookbooks. Pass it on to someone who may actually use it. You know which one I'm talking about. The one that someone gave you that you've never used. The one with recipes that involve too many ingredients or maybe too many specialty items that you don't keep on hand. That one that has recipes that you know your family will never eat. That one that is cute but not useful. Get rid of it.

Now you can start to organize those recipes that you really like and use. Let me know what you come up with. I really want to scrapbook some of my favorites from my grandmother. I love to scrapbook and this will help to conserve some of these old recipes.

More on Our Weekly Meal Plan

I forgot to mention yesterday why our weekly meal plan doesn't include breakfasts and lunches. Our son is in preschool and his breakfast and lunch are included in the price of his day at school. He usually eats both meals there. My husband and I usually just grab something quick and easy (cereal, frozen waffles, eggs and toast). I teach school so I do eat there occasionally as well.

Lunches for my husband and I are made up of leftovers from the night before. We both fix a plate after supper for the next day's lunch. This cuts down on leftovers that just grow green things later in the week (I always say I have such a green thumb when it comes to the frig). It also cuts out those daily trips to the unhealthy fast food joints. That's just too pricey for us.

I also buy a bag of frozen burritos and some lunch meat when we need it. This gives us something to grab for lunch if we want something different from last night's leftovers or if there weren't enough leftovers to make two extra meals.

Next year, when my little one starts kindergarten I will have to come up with some better ideas for handling breakfast. His breakfast and lunch will just be too expensive to buy at school everyday. I'll save the lunchroom for days that we couldn't get everything together or if I think it would be best for him to have a hot meal. The main reason that I am choosing not to allow him to eat in the school lunchroom is because I have worked at that particular school and know that the food from the lunchroom is not very good. The preschool where he is now has a wonderful kitchen staff and they prepare the food fresh and try to keep it that way. That isn't the case at the K-8 school.

I'd love to hear how other working moms fit breakfast into their mornings. Any shortcuts or tips?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Our Weekly Meal Plan

After going over meal plans yesterday, I thought I'd share my family's plans with you for the upcoming week. It's made up of meat that we already have in the freezer plus a few picks of what's on sale at the local store.

Sunday lunch:
Roast, potatoes, carrots (we are planting potatoes tomorrow so we needed a recipe that could include what was leftover of the potato after planting - you only plant the eyes, not the whole thing)
Steamed broccoli/cauliflower

Sunday dinner:
Grilled hamburgers/hot dogs (we cook several of these so we have enough for a few lunches next week)
Baked beans

BBQ Chicken
Macaroni and cheese
Cucumbers salad
Leftover baked beans
Sliced bread

Baked fish
Cheese grits

Chicken fried steak (our is venison this week)
Mashed potatoes
Creamed corn
Steamed cabbage

Chicken and dumplings
Butter beans and okra (I add a few pods once the beans are just about done - my little one loves boiled okra)
Fried greens (spinach, collards or mustard greens - whichever is on sale at the grocery store)

Fresh fruit (whatever we have left at this point)

Baked potatoes
Corn on cob

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Strategy: Refrigerator Organization

Our refrigerator has helped us save grocery money. How you may ask? Well, in the organization of course.

Something I read somewhere got me thinking about organizing my refrigerator to give me easy access to everything that needed to be cooked during that week. I have a shelf for leftovers which reminds us to eat them. I have a shelf for breakfast items which keeps us on track with using up breakfast items for the week. I have a dairy shelf so I can quickly see when I am running out of sour cream or butter. We keep vegetables in the drawers which are see through.

I continue this in the freezer. My refrigerator is a side by side which means that I have various shelves. Again, there is a shelf for the frozen meat for this week. There's a shelf for the vegetables and side items which reminds us again to use these up. There's a shelf for breakfast items here as well. Then of course, there's a shelf for the ice cream and other items that we want access to during the week but that don't necessarily make up the meals.

Having easy access to the foods that we intend to eat during the week keeps us on track with our meal plan and grocery budget.

As a side note, I do have another freezer in my laundry room where I keep meat/vegetables that I have found on sale or the meat that we have had butchered from my husband's hunting expeditions. This has allowed me to use the refrigerator freezer for only the week's items.

Strategy: Meal Planning

What have I done that saves me the most grocery money? In a few words, meal planning. This is one of the most successful strategies that I have tried.

Here's how this works for me. One day a week, I sit down with my family and ask for input for what they would like to eat for the next week. We try to put together menus that include everyone's likes and what they feel like for the next week. It mostly consists of the main course. We usually try to fill in side dishes with what we already have in the pantry or freezer. Of course, if there is a side dish that someone prefers to have, we try to add that. Next, I make a grocery list which includes only the items that we need to make the meals for the week.

This idea to plan meals was foreign to me even though I had read about it from various websites. It didn't occur to me that I could actually do this AND save money until we bought a camper and started camping. With limited space, I had to find a way to take only the food that we needed. I found a wonderful form to use when we went camping ( and this form helped me to make sure that I had everything necessary when we got there. After camping several times, I started thinking maybe this form or one like it could help me with my weekly grocery budget. All I can say is IT HAS!

Try this for a week and then compare your grocery expenses this week to last week. This is definitely a worthwhile strategy for us.

Pricebook: Useful or Not?

Have you used a pricebook to track prices? I did this a couple of years ago and found it to be too time consuming for me for what I got from it. With only a few stores in my area and two of them owned by the same company, it just wasn't a worthshile strategy for me. I do think that it would probably be very interesting now if I had kept up with it because I would actually be able to put my finger on how much things have increased in the last year, six months, two months.

A few tips if you do keep a pricebook:

1. Be sure you note the package size with the price. If you haven't noticed, package sizes (cans, cereal boxes, frozen vegetables, etc.) have changed - gotten smaller - even if the price hasn't changed much. You start to notice this when a recipe calls for a 12 oz. can of something and you can only find a 10.5 oz. can.

2. Categorize your book by grocery store aisles. This makes locating an item easier.

3. The following web article is a wonderful resource for price books:

I would be interested in your success stories on price books. I think the idea is good, but I just wasn't willing to put lots of time into it. Maybe I gave up on it too soon.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Strategy: Clean Out That Refrigerator Before You Shop

One of the best tips that I have learned is to clean out the refrigerator before grocery shopping. It reminds me of the things that I need to use up so I don't buy extra vegetables if I already have 4 of them in the frig waiting to be cooked. I try to incorporate these into my week's meal plan (which we'll discuss shortly). It also helps me to be certain that I have enough butter, sour cream, milk, eggs, etc. This eliminates extra shopping trips for things that I don't have when I need them. That always costs me more. I've never been able to just go into the store for one or two items. There's always something else that gets added to the cart.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tip: Check the International Foods Aisle

This week I needed some flour tortillas for breakfast burritos. I have been purchasing those from the dairy case but I happened to go down the international foods aisle (or portion of an aisle as it is) and found flour tortillas there. I was surprised to find that these were not only a good bit cheaper than those found in the dairy case, but the package contained many more tortillas.

I've also noticed on past visits that some spices sold in this aisle are much cheaper than those name brand ones that come in the little shakers. The spices that I have used from the international foods section have been quality spices and added the same flavors as those more expensive ones.

Check it this aisle on your next grocery shopping venture. Acquaint yourself with the items that are available there so when you need that item you can comparison shop.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Blog Started

I am starting this blog to share my experiences with trying to reduce my grocery bill. I think lots of people are interested in this topic in our current economy and hopefully will find something helpful here. Some of the tips, hints and strategies may be things that you have seen or heard before. My blog is going to be about what works best for me and what really hasn't had much effect.

Keep in mind that I live in a rural area and there are only three grocery stores within a short distance. Some of the strategies that I use may not produce the same results if you live in a large city where supermarkets are on every corner.

Check back often and let me know what you think.