Monday, February 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 2/23/09

This week’s menu is a little aggressive. So we’ll see how it goes. But we made an emergency trip to the store for a few things that cut into this week’s budget, so I’m trying to keep things REALLY inexpensive this week. A bit of a challenge as it’s also N’s birthday week and I wanted to make him something special. But he requested Mexican and one of his favorite Mexican dishes is nachos. Such an easy-peasy hubby! Also, he’s not much of a cake guy, but his favorite dish is cherry pie or cherry crisp. So that’s his birthday dessert.

And I’m not too worried about losing the element of surprise. I don’t think he reads the posts here unless it’s got a Monkey picture attached. Ha!

Monday – Sausage Omelets
Tuesday – Meatless Tacos
Wednesday – Crockpot chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean/artichoke casserole
Thursday – Polenta w/Puttanesca
Friday – Mexican Nachos and Cherry Crisp
Saturday – Chicken and Green Chile Stew
Sunday – Super Easy Leftover Buffet

Oh...and we FINALLY made the spicy shrimp and creamy polenta that's been on our menu for the last FOUR weeks. Two words: Yum-O! I'll be sharing this SUPER easy recipe later this week.

To see more easy Menu Plans, visit Laura over at

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Weekly Shopping Trip - 2/16/09

This was a tough week. I had two large priced items that I knew would be hard to work around. (Laundry detergent and N's razor blades) But I did it! And not only that, but found wiggle-room to get a few items on sale. So I'm happy!

When I got to Whole Foods, I realized there was a Dollar Tree next door. So I peeked in just to see what kinds of stuff they had. I picked up a tube of Colgate and a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner. I need to remember that this is a PERFECT place to get party stuff - tons of baby shower stuff, paper plates, cups, etc. Much better than Party City! Anyways, I knew I had two $1 bills and some change in my purse pocket. Not "technically" part of the grocery budget. I would have spent that on something splurgy. Is that considered cheating in this game?

Whole Foods Total - $3.69

Tinkyada GF Lasagna 3.69

Tom Thumb Total- $14.48

Generic Lactose Free Milk 3.29
2 Hot Pockets 2.98
Jennie O Turkey Sausage 1.50
Jennie O Italian Turkey Sausage 1.50
Split Chicken Breasts 3.86
6 pk Club Soda 1.25

Target Total - $56.68

All Free Clear 12.00 (ow!)
Sensor Razor Blades 10.30 (ow again!)
2 Jimmy Dean Sausages 4.08
Can of Tomatoes .92
Clints Salsa 3.19
Barilla Sauce 1.89
2 Avocados 1.98
Cucumber .99
Bananas .77
Lime .33
Gala apples 3.46
Red grapes 2.26
Gluten-free waffles 3.68
Frz apple juice 1.12
12 pk Sprite 3.66
Smart Balance 2.54
Brown sugar 1.27


Maybe someday I'll have the courage to make my own laundry detergent like Gayle does, but I'm not there yet. And I found out tonight that N said he's trying to "help" me out by not shaving so much, thus not using up his expensive razors so quickly. What a sweet husband! LOL! If you haven't done it yet, head over to Grocery Cart Challenge to see how Gayle saves money on her weekly budget.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 2/16/09

This week's menu:

Monday: Brisket tacos, chips, salsa
Tuesday: Lasagna (no, it's not because I didn't make it last week. We're doing an encore!
Wednesday: Pizza Braided Bread
Thursday: Spicy Shrimp and Polenta (ok, this is because I haven't made it yet. Yep, week 4. Should I even bother?)
Friday: Tuna Casserole (ditto)

Dessert for every night: Chocolate covered raisins

For more creative and economical menu plans, visit Laura over at!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Lasagna

FINALLY!!! After several weeks of having Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Lasagna (lasagne?) on my Weekly Menu Plan, I made it! With the help of a friend that works at Whole Foods, I discovered that the store moved all their pastas into one area and my favorite gluten-free lasagne brand (Tinkyada) was now in the mainstream pasta aisle and no longer in the gluten-free aisle. And it was G.O.O.D y'all! I was so tickled, I thought I'd share the loveliness of it here. This is a mix of several different recipes I found online and in my trusty red Betty Crocker cookbook. If you know me, I'm rarely one to follow a recipe to the letter. Either way, I've never made lasagna and it turned out way better than I ever thought it would. (I had N on standby to make sandwiches, but surprisingly didn't need them.)

Anyways, it is VERY hearty, positively DELICIOUS, and even better leftover! (We froze some individual portions for quick meals when I don't feel like cooking.)

Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Lasagna


Gluten-free lasagna - cooked to box instructions
1 package Jimmy Dean sausage
2 jars Barilla Pasta Sauce of choice
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can mushrooms
1 small onion
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 cup frozen broccoli, thawed
1/2 cup sliced zucchini (I didn't have this last week, but will this week)
1 carton firm tofu
shredded rice cheese


  1. Cook pasta per box instructions. Rinse in cool water and set aside.
  2. Dice onion and brown with sausage in large stockpot.
  3. Add 2 jars of Barilla pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, and mushrooms, heating through.
  4. Gently rinse and pat dry tofu. Break up with a fork to the consistency of Ricotta cheese.
  5. Mix spinach, broccoli, and zucchini in a bowl.
  6. Place large ladel of warm sauce in bottom of 13x9 casserole dish.
  7. Place lasagna noodles on top of sauce.
  8. Layer 1/3 of meat sauce on noodles
  9. Layer 1/3 of tofu.
  10. Layer 1/3 mixture of spinach, broccoli, and zucchini.
  11. Repeat with another layer of noodles, meat sauce, tofu, and vegetables a second time.
  12. Repeat with another layer of noodles, meat sauce, tofu, and vegetables a third time.
  13. Finish with a final layer of noodles, meat sauce, and grated rice cheese.
  14. Bake at 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Couple points to consider:

If the thought of cooking with tofu scares you, DON'T let it. It gives the perfect texture of Ricotta or cottage cheese and takes on the flavor of the meat sauce. Even N said it was really good and he's not a tofu type of guy.

If you don't like veggies in your lasagna, just leave them out. I just wanted something really hearty and the veggie mixture was perfect!

Sorry for not having a picture. We excitedly dug in without getting any shots. :-)

For more yummy recipes for the week, check out Gayle's site at Grocery Cart Challenge.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekly Shopping Trip - 2/9/09

Just a smidge over budget this week, but since I've been under the last few weeks, I'm still happy!


Bulk Dark Chocolate Covered Raisins 4.04
Rice Cheese 3.49
GF Bagels 4.99
2 Cucumbers 1.78

Total $14.30

Tom Thumb

Oranges 1.18
Grapes 1.72

Total $4.48


4 pack Monsters 5.99
Hormel Deli Ham 2.99
Hormel Bacon 3.69
1 bag Lettuce 2.00
Organic celery 1.99
Honey Comb 2.84
Bananas .84
Gala apples 2.23
Frz broccoli 1.19
Frz corn .99
2 Boxes GF Waffles 3.78
Minute Maid Frz OJ 2.14
Generic Frz Apple Juice 1.12
1 Gallon Milk 1.99
1/2 Gallon Lactaid 3.49
18 eggs 2.49
Dove Shampoo 5.99
Dove Conditioner 5.99
2 Qt Plastic Bottle 3.19
Bottle Dried Parsley .89

Total $57.47

Grand Total $76.25

So I got just a teeny bit distracted and strayed from my list just a little. Chocolate covered raisins, GF Bagels and the rice cheese. I don't need any of them, but Sprouts always wraps me around her little finger. I'm a little embarrassed to say that I've never realized how expensive my shampoo is. Wow. $12! One new thing I'm trying this week: frozen concentrated juice. Bought a plastic jug and I'm going to see if I save any extra money this week. I might consider doing this with generic bagged cereal as well. But will need to buy one of thsoe plastic jugs a week. They're a bit spendy. Otherwise, pretty uneventful trip.

Menu Plan Monday - 2/9/09

Wow. Last week was a total bust. I won't really go into details, to save y'all the pain, but two words: stomach flu. I was hit Tuesday night and never really recovered until early weekend. N and Monkey are fine (as of the writing of this post) and we're crossing fingers that it stays that way. I'm choosing to say I had stomach flu because I'm really not sure if it was that, food poisoning or reaction to being contaminated by a food allergen. The symptoms are always the same for me - use your imagination. But on Friday when my OB said that over 50% of her patients have struggled with the same symptoms this past month from stomach flu, I'm labeling it as such.

So, to make a long story longer, I didn't cook much this past week in spite of having the ingredients.

But I must share this one very important thing...

Can I tell you how incredibly grateful I am for a husband that is laid-back and easy-going when it comes to his appetite?

Popcorn for dinner?

Ramen noodles?
Let me cook it honey, you rest.

Deli meat, crackers, and cheese plate?
Can I get you a glass of water while I put it together?

I've since quit asking myself what I've done to deserve such a life partner, because the answer is simple: NOTHING! Either way, God has graced me and I try not to take it for granted. Seriously, I have the BEST husband ever!

So, apologies up front for some repeated items (again!!!) on this week's menu.

Monday: Tuna Casserole
Tuesday: Brisket, green beans,
Wednesday: Ramen noodle/Popcorn night
Thursday: Baked Potato Soup
Friday: Lasagne, salad (YES - I FOUND Gluten-Free lasagne noodles!!!)

Since it seems that every week I'm not cooking at least two meals, I'm not even scheduling anything for the weekends. We'll see how it goes this week. To meet more Menu Planning Momma's visit here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Grocery Budget Definition

This will be my third week on the Grocery Cart Challenge Shopping Diet. I've had quite a few of you girl friends email me with questions and pointers about what I'm doing, what's included in my budget, etc. So I decided to just put them out here for everyone to read.

Couple points on what the definition of "grocery budget" is in our household and how I do things:

  • Food, basic toiletries, paper goods (TP, papertowels, girl stuff)

  • Right now I'm keeping make-up, spa-type needs in my "personal" spending budget. Neil has his own too. I use department store stuff and if I run out of base and mascara in one week, our grocery budget is shot. Since most of you know I'm not a fashionista when it comes to clothes, this is one area I allow myself to splurge. I like nice makeup and skincare stuff. :-)

  • We keep pet food in a line item with other pet stuff (grooming, medical, litter, etc.)

  • We keep baby things in a line item with other baby stuff (diapers, wipes, cuppies, formula, etc.)

  • We keep baby gifts for baby showers in a line item for gifts. The simple fact that we have this as a line item shows you where our social circle is right now. Ha! If that budget line item doesn't get used for the month, we continue accruing it every month for special needs. There is always someone in your life that could use some financial help. And when you've automatically been saving every month for that purpose, when a need arises you're not scrambling for cash. It's already there. I imagine at some point, this could also be used for a charity, should we feel led down that route.

  • So what does this mean if I need diapers, kitty litter, and groceries at the same time? I ask the clerk to make three different transactions. This might be trouble-some to some of you, but for me, I'd rather do this than try to figure out general ledger changes once I'm home. If any of you know me, I'm REALLY bad at math. Talk about confusing. I'd have our budget so screwed up.

  • Do I ever purchase pre-packaged snacks? Yes. Admittedly, not much. I purchase just enough for the week. Why? Because Monkey goes to school full-time, his tuition provides him breakfast, lunch, and two to three snacks a day, as well as all the milk he wants to drink. So we don't really need a lot of snacks in the house. But if we do, stuff we have is: dry cereal, goldfish, pretzels sticks, cheez-its, soda crackers, fresh fruit. Simple stuff we always have in the house, although not all of this at once.

  • Do I spend more because of my allergy issues? Yes. I try to keep things manageable, but that's just one of the things I need to consider in my list. Gluten-free items are expensive. A box of penne pasta for N and Monkey costs me 88 cents. For me, $3.59. Just part of the deal. Eat cheap and get sick, or eat healthy and it cost more. *shrug* I will say that Monkey prefers the gluten-free stuff. I've attempted saving money by cooking two pots of pasta, one for me and one for the family. But it hasn't worked. He refuses to eat regular glutenous stuff. Not sure why, but again...another thing I just have to consider in my list.

  • I don't really cut coupons. I simply don't have the time or patience right now. The only exception to that rule is the diaper coupons I get mailed to me. I will say a pointer I learned on another money-saving blog: keep the coupons IN THE CAR. How many times have you been to the store and realized your coupons are at home? Agggg! So anytime I get coupons, I put them in an envelope in the car. Same with those 20% off coupons at Bed Bath and Beyond. What good are they at home?

  • As of right now, I only go to Target and Sprouts. I haven't found good enough deals to make an additional stop to CVS or Wahlgreen's, as they are rather out of my way. With working full-time, I literally have about 45 minutes a week to shop at my two stores before I pick up a baby from school, so my time is pretty limited. Should I find a deal that I cannot pass up, I'm sure I'll adjust for the week. But if I make this too complicated, I will say it won't be fun anymore and I'll quit. And right now, it's important for me to stay in budget and do it EASILY, otherwise I'll give up.

We might find these things changing at some point, but that's how it is for now. I've read Gayle's GCC for around a year now, feeling inspired every week to do something, but just haven't had the courage to actually put a plan into action. Part of why it took me so long was that I was expecting my plan to look exactly like hers. Which I finally realized, I JUST CAN'T DO. We have different circumstances, different needs, different goals. So I decided what I WASN'T going to do is look for perfection. This was going to be something that I could tweak, change, and mold as our needs were discovered through the process. When I mentioned this in a previous blog post, Gayle emailed me and congratulated me simply on the effort and confessed that it took her about 6 months to figure out what was best for herself. SO...with that...I felt even more permission to do what was best for our family. Nor more pressure, no more guilt, I am in charge of this and the only expectations I need to meet are mine. Which I've finally loosened that ridiculous noose around my neck and decided to let this be an experiment for awhile. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But so far, it IS and I'm learning a TON of stuff in the meantime about our spending habits. (Like, that first I really need to buy two pounds of chocolate covered candies. Holy cow, was that embarrassing to post on my list. LOL!)

All of that to say, if you're reading my Weekly Menu Plan and Shopping Trip journals every week, wondering if you can do this, JUST TRY IT. I encourage you to NOT be like me and wait until next year before you realize this is YOUR program. Do not expect yourself to do what the W household does, like I expected me to do what Gayle does. It probably won't work, which means you'll get discouraged and give up before you've really given yourself a chance.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Weekly Shopping Trip - 2/2/09

Woohoo! The best week yet. But, I had no paper goods or proteins to buy. And I have this terrible feeling I'm forgetting something, so I'm not celebrating quite yet. LOL!

Tom Thumb

2 Gallons Whole Milk $3.98
2 1/2 Gallons Generic Lactose-Free Milk 6.58

Total $10.56


4-pack Magic Erasers $3.44
Wavy Lays 2.50
2 cans Red Bull 3.78
Hormel Bacon 3.49
Hormel Ham 3.69
Generic Frosted Flakes 3.94
1 Bottle Liquid Smoke 1.39
Emeril Cajun Spice 3.69
2 Bananas 0.51
2.42 lbs gala apples 3.61
2 Red Baron Pizzas 6.04

Total $36.72


Bulk sea salt 0.24
GF Macaroni 3.49
GF Fettucine 3.49
2 cucumbers 2.50
2.67 lbs oranges 1.84
1.81 lbs Red seedless grapes 3.60
3.77 lbs Russet bakers 2.60
3 Texas grapefruits 0.50

Total $18.26

Grand Total $65.54

This Week's Challenges:

Not reading the adds - If I'd read the adds, I'd have known that Tom Thumb's grapes were half the price of Sprouts.

Indulgences - Like I mentioned last week, N rarely has specific requests from the grocery store. Well, on top of the fact that I have a very laid back, easy to please husband, I found out this week that when he wants something he just gets it on his own. LOL! I went over the bank statement and couldn't figure out all these little debit card requests from a Quik Stop by N's office. The culprit? Red Bull runs. LOL! So we...ahem...talked. And decided for him to start putting it on our grocery list and taking it out of the proper budget.

Lesson's Learned:

Gluten-free lasagna noodles are nowhere to be found in the town I live in - Even Whole Foods didn't carry it. They used to a long time ago, but that was the WF up in Plano when we lived up there. So I'm a little bummed. I've had lasagne on the silly menu plan for three weeks and I still haven't gotten to make it. If anyone see gluten-free lasagne noodles at their local store, would you please just buy it for me? I'll pay you back, I promise!

Take shopping bags to Sprouts - I mentioned this last week, but I am disappointed I didn't take my bags to Sprouts. Five bags of groceries could have saved me twenty-five cents. Not much, but it all adds up.

To meet other savvy, budget-minded shoppers, visit Gayle's site at Grocery Cart Challenge.


(last minute work baby shower)


Red bell pepper
Yellow bell pepper
Orange bell pepper
2 fresh jalapenos
Organic corn chips

Total $5.99

Bringing new weekly grand total to $71.53! Woohoo! Still under budget.

Menu Plan Monday - 2/2/09

I'm excited about finding some "lost items" in my pantry and freezer this week, so I'm hoping it contributes to another successful week at the Grocery Store! But my menu plan this week is pretty aggressive and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to stick with it. We'll see...

Monday: Baked potato and salad bar
Tuesday: Ramen Noodle Night (God bless my husband for agreeing to this!)
Wednesday: Tuna Casserole (Can you believe I've never made this before?)
Thursday: Red Beans and Rice w/Cornbread
Friday: Blackened Shrimp and Creamy Polenta (The third week for me to put this on the menu plan. I just keep not cooking it for some reason.)
Saturday: Lasagne (Again, on the menu again, because I didn't cook it last week.)
Sunday: Brisket, green beans, corn

My gut feeling is this is slightly too ambitious, but if so, I know we'll just have more meals to put on next week's menu. LOL! Either way, I've been sticking to my weekly budget and that's really what my priority is.

For more creative and economical menu plans, visit Laura over at!