Archive for the ‘Menu Plan’ Category

$5 Dinners

You’ve seen the awesome website, $5 Dinners, right? With complete meals coming in at under $5 for a family of four, the website has garnered much attention, and its writer has published an equally awesome book, called (not surprisingly) $5 Dinner Mom’s Cookbook!

If you are new to couponing and shopping with a tight food budget, you’ll find the first section of this book to be a great primer. It gives a number of strategies  and explains in easy to understand terms how to maximize your budget and spend as little as possible without sacrificing your family’s health by serving junk food. I am really enjoying the book so far, and am excited to try a few of the recipes.

This week’s menu includes 5 of the $5 meals from the book.

1. Maple chicken, brown rice, asparagus
2. BBQ Lentils, brown rice, broccoli
3. Broccoli tuna casserole, spinach salad
4. Lentil (and beef) meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrots
5. Curried split peas, brown rice, garlicky green beans

I’m also making bean burritos and broccoli slaw, testing refried beans and flour tortillas for two weeks’ worth of Scratch vs. Store Bought articles.

Also, if you’re planning your garden, check out $5 Dinner’s free gardening planner printables.


Last week, I used the Mark Bittman cookbook “How to Cook Everything” and it was an easy to follow cookbook with tasty meals. I particularly liked the stir-fried chicken and spinach, and the meatloaf with spinach. I’ve been in a meatloaf mood lately, as you can see by its presence in both last week and this week’s menus!

Coming this week:

* “After” pictures of the cleared out entry cabinet
* Scratch vs. Store Bought: Refried Beans
* More money making and saving tips
* An EXCITING announcement and BIG change at the end of the week!

Check out more menus at Menu Plan Monday.

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This week, I’m making meals out of the book “Pressure Perfect” by Lorna Sass. I *love* Lorna Sass’ cookbooks, and I *love* my pressure cooker, so this is a menu plan sure to rock my socks. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, let me tell you the number 1 reason you should go get one: dry beans, without soaking, ready in under an hour.  Brown rice takes just 15 minutes, even when the package calls for 45 minutes of cook time. Quick work is made of tough cuts of meat, making them fall-apart-tender in no time. It’s like the crock pot’s speedy cousin; you get all the long cooking flavor in a very short time.

New pressure cookers are very safe and have multiple safety features, so you need not be worried about bean soup all over the kitchen ceiling like in your grandma’s day. I have an electric cooker  (bought second hand, of course!) made by Russell Hobbs, and I’ve seen the same model used on Iron Chef, where they know their speedy cooking! I put the food in, set the timer, and walk away til it beeps with a flavorful one-pot meal ready in no time.

This week, we’re eating up the following recipes from “Pressure Perfect”, my favorite of Lorna Sass’ pressure cooker cookbooks:

Cuban-inspired shredded chicken over rice, broccoli
Madras chickpeas with spinach and rice
White beans, chicken sausage, Swiss Chard, and sweet potatoes
Split pea soup (omitting ham, adding smoked paprika), cornbread
Un-Stuffed Cabbage in Sweet-and-Sour Tomato sauce with meatballs, rice
Pollock with Sour Cream-Dill Mashed Potatoes, zucchini

See more menus over at Menu Plan Monday.

Coming up this week:
* By request, pictures of our kitchen and bathroom
* The Peanut Butter Sandwich Matrix
* Scratch vs. Store Bought: Brownies
* More money making and saving tips

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Ten Dollar Dinners

Melissa d’Arabian, host of Ten Dollar Dinners on Food Network, is delightfully down-to-earth, makes hearty meals with wholesome ingredients, and does it for under $10. I can get behind that!

Roasted vegetable penne without the sausage

Crispy skinned chicken a l’orange, fennel and cabbage slaw, roasted potatoes (my own recipe)

Salmon cakes, roasted asparagus with lemon vinaigrette, brown rice

North African meatballs, couscous with raisins, glazed carrots

Rice with caramelized shallots (in the rice cooker), black beans (in the pressure cooker), spinach and citrus salad with sweet and spicy pecans

Lemony shrimp scampi pasta, roasted broccoli with Parmesan

For more menus, check out Menu Plan Monday.

While you’re here, hop over and check out my incredible transformation in my dining room!

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Last week, I made several menus from Clara, the Depression cook from Youtube. The meals were simple and inexpensive, but not the most flavorful. This week, I’m kicking it up a notch with a lot of inexpensive, flavorful ingredients, like smoked trout, chipotle in adobo, and miso – all delicious flavors where a little goes a long way!

Monday: Smoked trout salad nicoise

Tuesday: Chicken cacciatore, whole wheat pasta, green beans

Wednesday: Zucchini meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrots

Thursday: Chipotle Black bean chili, cornbread, canned peaches

Friday: (we’re out for our 10 year anniversary – probably out to eat)

Saturday: Home made brown rice California rolls, miso soup, green salad, and oranges

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

Check out other menus at Menu Plan Monday.

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Have you entered my giveaway yet? If not, go enter now! The winner will be chosen on Tuesday, February 16.

Have you seen Clara Cannucciari’s Great Depression Cooking videos on YouTube? Isn’t she darling? Simple, inexpensive, healthy meals are shown along with charming Clara telling her family stories from the Depression. Filmed by her grandson, they make you wish you could be at her dining table, listening to her talk and eating her meals made with love. Clara has a book out now, which I haven’t checked out, called Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression.

This week, I’m including a few of her meals with minor adaptions (namely, less oil and salt.) Click the links to see Clara preparing those dishes.

Breakfast – Cereal, milk, orange slices
Lunch – PB&J sandwiches, apple, string cheese
Dinner – Poor man’s meal (Potatoes, onions, with sausage instead of hot dogs), green beans

Breakfast – Oatmeal with raisins, milk
Lunch – out for our nephew’s birthday
Dinner – Crockpot lentil soup, corn muffins, canned peaches

Breakfast – Baked oatmeal with bananas, milk
Lunch – Leftover lentil soup, corn muffins
Dinner – Tuna noodle skillet, broccoli

Breakfast – Cereal, milk, bananas
Lunch – PB&J, carrots, string cheese
Dinner –Peppers and eggs, green salad, smoked paprika oats and peas

Breakfast – Egg sandwiches, oranges
Lunch – mystery shopping
Dinner – Pizza, green salad

Breakfast – Pancakes with berry compote
Lunch – Leftovers – whatever in the fridge needs to be eaten up!
Dinner – Curried beef and barley, spinach, chutney and yogurt

Mr. Penny has the kids all day and I’m painting the dining room! I’ll snack on whatever needs to be eaten up in the fridge.

Clara has a book out now, which I haven’t checked out, called Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression.

If you want to see other yummy menus, check out Menu Plan Monday.

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When I moved out of my parents’ house, I brought along my mom’s tattered copy of “Great Dinners with Less Meat” by Dorothy Ivens. Its frugal menus include dinners that serve up to 10 people with one pound of meat or less, and all of the menus include recommendations for appropriate starters, side dishes, and wine pairings. As a new home maker, it was great for getting ideas of what to pair with what, and I’ve been happily finding ways to stretch the meat in our meals with this book for the past 10 years. Since meat is the most expensive part of most of our meals, this can add up to a big savings!

This week’s menu comes exclusively from the cookbook, which can be found used for pennies on amazon.com. Perhaps I should get my own copy and return my mom’s to her after all these years!

Monday: Zucchini meatloaf, potatoes, broccoli

Tuesday: Chicken and spinach crepes, fruit salad

Wednesday: Mediterranean salad with rice (meatless)

Thursday: Piroshki (beef turnovers with dill and horseradish cream), cauliflower, and beet salad.

Friday: Lentil soup (meatless), corn bread, green salad

Saturday: Ham balls with pasta, orange and cucumber salad

For more menus, check out Menu Plan Monday at Orgjunkie.com.

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OAMC stands for Once a Month Cooking, which is basically making up a bunch of meals all at once, stashing them in the freezer, and pulling them out instead of cooking from scratch every day. This week, I’m going to prepare 6 packages of chicken in marinade/sauce. It’s not exactly OAMC since I’m not making up a month’s worth of meals at a time, but having them ready in the freezer will make meal prep fast and easy over the next month.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts were on sale for a crazy $1.88 this week, so I bought several packages with the intention of making freezer bags full of marinated chicken, ready to defrost and simmer, saute, grill, bake, or broil.  A general guide is 1 cup of marinade per pound of meat when marinated in a heavy-duty plastic bag. I’m planning variations on the following marinades:

  1. Barbecue (store bought BBQ sauce)
  2. Tomato basil (without pasta)
  3. Teriyaki
  4. Peanut ginger
  5. Citrus Mojo
  6. Coconut Curry
  7. “Pretty Chicken”

This week’s menu includes:

Monday –  Citrus Mojo chicken, brown rice, broccoli

Tuesday – Mujaddarah (lentils with caramelized onion), bulgur wheat, spinach

Wednesday – Tomato basil chicken with pasta

Thursday – Meatloaf, baked potatoes, sauteed mustard greens with caramelized onions (extra onions cooked on Tuesday)

Friday – Salmon souffle sandwiches, peas and carrots
(This is a take-off from a recipe in More-With-Less, the classic real food on a budget cookbook by Doris Jansen Longacre. The original has tuna instead of salmon, and it’s like a savory baked French toast with salmon salad and Swiss cheese between the bread layers. Surprisingly delicious, simple, cheap!)

Saturday – Crockpot bean soup w/lots of veggies, cornbread

This menu is shared on Menu Plan Monday over at Orgjunkie.com

and Freezer Cooking Day at MoneySavingMom.com.

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Menu Plan Monday

Another week, another menu! Sticking to my menus have really been saving us money, and we’re working through the pantry staples. I’m happy to report that I have stayed on budget for the month and will end the month with a little left over for the savings goal at this rate!

We taste tested hot cocoa for Scratch vs. Store Bought yesterday for a fun treat. Come back later in the week for this week’s Scratch vs. Store Bought is stove top stuffing.

Monday: Chicken tortilla soup

Tuesday: Shepherd’s pie with lots of veggies

Wednesday: use up the leftovers!

Thursday: Barbecue chicken, cornbread, kale

Friday: Broiled fish, brown rice, zucchini

Saturday: Creamed chicken with stove top stuffing, carrots

Sunday: Monastery lentils, green beans, crusty bread

For more menus, check out I’m an Organized Junkie, and check out Life As Mom for more pantry menus.

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Occasionally, whole, sustainably-raised, local chickens go on sale at our independent market for $.99 per pound. At that price, cheaper than their conventionally raised counterparts, I stock up and fill the chest freezer. When it’s time to cook them, I s-t-r-e-t-c-h the meat so they last until the next great sale. Generally, I get 4 meals out of each 4-5 pound bird. Here’s how I do it.

1. Cut the chicken into quarters and remove skin and visible fat. Cook it in the pressure cooker with an onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, and enough water to cover by at least an inch.

2. Shred or cut the cooked meat off the bone. I keep the bones and return them to the pot, but stock will be Wednesday’s post!

3. Package shredded/diced meat into 1 1/2 cup portions, and freeze the portions to be used later in the week. Generally I can get at least 4 meal sized portions out of one chicken, plus about 6 cups of stock. If you’re using this method, it’s just as easy to do two chickens at once (if your pressure cooker is big enough) and you’ll have enough chicken for 8 meals, plus about 12 cups of stock.

4. Choose 4 meals that call for cooked chicken, including one soup.


Coconut curry chicken with peas and potatoes
Barbecue shredded chicken sandwiches
Chicken and bean burritos
Chicken with pasta and sauce
Chicken casserole
Chicken soup, stew, or chili
Creamed chicken with cornbread stuffing
Chicken pot pie
Chicken salad sandwiches (stretch with hard cooked eggs)
Waldorf Salad, or any salad calling for cooked chicken

There are lots of possibilities, and the basic method allows for a lot of flexibility. The important thing in stretching meat is to make it a supporting player, not the main dish. Most soup, stew, chili, pastas, or casserole recipes are great places to use a little less meat but still have a filling and flavorful meal.


This week’s chicken-heavy menu, still working out of the pantry and freezer:

Monday: Lentil tacos, orange slices

Tuesday: Barbecue shredded chicken sandwiches, cole slaw, pickles

Wednesday: Chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole

Thursday: Huevos Rancheros, refried beans, carrot coins

Friday: Baked beans, corn bread, greens

Saturday: Creamed chicken over cornbread dressing, peas and carrots

Sunday: Chicken tortilla soup with lots of veggies

For more menus, head on over to OrgJunkie.com and to see what people are cooking from their pantries, stop by LifeAsMom.com.

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Another week of pantry eating is upon us! We have quite the variety of dry beans, so you’ll see those as the staple of the week, and likely for the next few weeks as well as we work down the stash!

Monday: Black bean and sweet potato soup

Tuesday: Chinese meatballs, brown rice, green beans

Wednesday:  Mac and cheese with white beans, broccoli

Thursday: Lemon chicken with capers, brown rice, carrots

Friday: Baked beans, cornbread, oranges

Saturday: Creamed chicken with cornbread dressing, mixed veggies


We spent the day at The Tech Museum in San Jose today. Every second Sunday is free day, and we took advantage! Readers, would you be interested in posts about local free events and activities for families?

Their current display shows technology benefits humanity, with technologies that are making a difference in the lives of impoverished people around the world. The one that struck me was a stair-master type water pump to irrigate fields and provide drinking water to people who otherwise would be reliant on rainfall. We take easy, affordable, readily available drinking water for granted, and explaining to Peanut that not everyone has running water reminds us that our situation, which I often think of as “poor”, is so much better than so many people who are struggling around the world just to have basic needs met. I am humbled and grateful!

For more menus, check out Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com!

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