Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Weekly Shopping Trip - 3/30/09

Another successful week! But March has been a really tough month with a few unexpected large expenses, so I've attempted to keep costs as low as possible in every available budget line item. I'm fighting the temptation to go back to the store to grab a few meat items that I found on sale to take up the rest of the budget. I'll try again next week, so it comes out of April's budget.

As you can see, I had a darling little assistant this week, helping me dig into the strawberries. He can't say strawberry yet, but started doing a little Snoopy happy dance as he saw me pull them out of the bag. So I relented even though it was 15 minutes before bedtime. Sometimes Momma has a hard time saying no when the Snoopy dance is pulled. He's also very excited about the bottle of ketchup. He's just recently discovered the fun in "dipping" foods.

I just love this little guy!

Target Total - $46.56

Ruffles - 2.50
2 bags bagged lettuce - 5.50
Mushrooms - 1.89
Generic honeybear - 5.29
Heinz ketchup - 2.09
2 cans Generic canned tomatoes - 1.18
Grape Nuts - 3.79
Rice Chex - 2.99
Generic frosted flakes - 2.27
Generic sugar - 1.67
Generic brown sugar - 1.27
Hershey Strawberry syrup - 1.56
4 Bananas - .79
Lemon - .50
Green grapes - 1.60
Apple juice - 1.19
Generic whole milk - 2.29
Generic eggs - 1.67
2 cartons Generic yogurt - 1.14
Kraft cheese - 1.66
Ziploc tubs - 2.25

I'm excited because last week, I was given two coupons with my receipt: a $5 off $50 or more groceries. And a $1 off two jars Barilla sauce, which I purchase all the time. I didn't get to use them this week, but I know I'll squeeze them in at some point. And then this week, I got two coupons: $1 off on Colgate toothpaste and $1 Bounty, two products that know I'll need next week! Maybe I'll be using all four of them and make a major dent in the budget. Woohoo!

Sprouts Total - $19.75

1/2 gallon Rice Dream milk - 3.99
GF Waffle - 2.99
Chicken breasts - 5.13
Cucumber - 1.25
Green onions - .78
Yellow onions - .89
Oranges - .44
Red bell pepper - .49
Roma tomatoes - .44
Russet bakers - 1.90
1 lb Strawberries - 1.50
Bag credit - .05 savings!

Weekly Budget - $75
This Week's Total - $66.31
Difference - $8.69 under budget

To see how other penny pinchers are faring in their Weekly Shopping Trip, visit The Grocery Cart Challenge.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 3/30/09

Last week's menu items were actually really large portions, so I have quite a bit in the freezer that I plan on pulling from this week.

Monday - Tuscan Sausage and Bean Soup
Tuesday - Leftover lasagna
Wednesday - Salmon Patties on fresh greens
Thursday - Breakfast Casserole
Friday - Leftover Stir-Fry

Weekends are always a crap shoot. We have sandwiches, more leftovers or go out. I've stopped planning for them anymore. Again, as I get more recipes posted, I'll have those linked.

For more savvy and economical menu planning, visit Laura over at www.orgjunkie.com!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Recipe: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

At small group last week, one of the members brought some beautiful looking PB cookies. Of course, being the always prepared Girl Scout that I try to be, I took my own little dessert because I can rarely eat the desserts that are brought. But come to find out, I could eat the lovely cookies! This recipe is the bomb! I put a few little chocolate chips on a few because I just felt like it. :-)

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350*.
Beat together peanut butter and sugar in a large bowl until smooth.
Add beaten egg to peanut butter mixture and beat until well combined.
Roll 1 teaspoon of dough into a ball and place on cookie sheet.
Place dough balls one inch apart on cookie sheet.
Flatten with tines of fork making a cross pattern.
Bake until puffed and a golden pale, about 12 minutes.
Cool cookies on baking sheet about 2 minutes and then transfer with spatula to rack to cool.
May be kept in air tight container at room temperature for 5 days.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
Eat with a cold glass of milk.

I won't even tell y'all how many of these I've eaten since they've popped out of the oven. I'm eating for two right?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Product Review: Generic v. Name Brand

Are there some name brand store items that you just can’t get away from? We’ve always been name brand snobs in the W house. I think some of it stems from the fact that I grew up on generic and bulk as a child because we were very poor. So today I feel that we can splurge and get the name brand stuff, so I just do.

But times have changed and many of the store brands are actually the exact same thing as the name brand. Remember the peanut butter salmonella scare in 2006. It wasn’t just Peter Pan that was recalled but the Wal-Mart brand too. They were the exact same peanut butter manufactured in the exact same facility, they just had different labeling. And the WM brand was sold much cheaper! This is probably when it really hit me that sometimes there isn’t much of a difference in generic, if any at all.

So lately I’m experimenting a little with some of the generic/store brands. Some of them have been completely unnoticeable changes from the name brand, but others are different enough that l’ll probably avoid them in the future. Here are some of my latest discoveries:

The Good

Target Papertowels v. Bounty
I’m a Bounty girl by marriage. N prefers the Bounty select-a-size, even though Viva has always been my brand of choice because they are SO soft. But Viva doesn’t have select-a-size, so Bounty is my compromise. Mandy recommended the Target brand select-a-size to me a few weeks ago and I decided to try them. All I can say is wow. I’m impressed. They’re thick, absorbent, come in the select-a-size, and plain. No bunny decorations on my paper-towels please. So I’d give Target brand papertowels a two thumbs up! Wondering now if their toilet paper is as good a quality???

Target Breakfast Cereals v. Various Name Brands
I’m not much of a cereal eater because of my food allergies, but N is a fiend for cereal. He usually eats two bowls a day as his late-night snack, which means lots of cereal during the week. I’ve experimented with some generic brands and he says he can’t tell the difference. So at $1 or $2 cheaper a box, we’re sticking with some of the following: Target raisin bran, Malt-O-Meal frosted mini-wheats, Mal-O-Meal oat circles. Sorry for the bad naming…I don’t know the actual names off the top of my head. And maybe I shouldn’t, but I’ve considered Malt-O-Meal generic only because they come in those HUGE plastic bags at the end of the aisle. I might need to rethink this one…

Target canned goods v. Del Monte, Green Giant, Bush’s, and Ro-Tel
So far I’ve tried the Target canned tomatoes, green beans, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, green chiles, and rotel type tomatoes. I’ve seen no difference whatsoever in flavor, consistency, amount and are all safe for my allergy-ridden diet. But at .25 to .75 a can cheaper, this can have a major impact on your grocery budget. Another two thumbs up!

Target frozen goods v. Tree Top, Green Giant, and Minute Maid
So far I’ve purchased Target’s frozen apple juice, orange juice, frozen corn, and frozen peas. Again, no difference is noted except in cost. Sometimes it’s only .12 a can cheaper or .25 a bag cheaper, but that might just be the amount I need to save to stay under budget for the week. So another two thumbs up!

The Bad and Ugly

Target Roasted Tomato Salsa v. Arriba Roasted Tomato Salsa
I was so excited to try this generic brand because it looked so yummy in the jar and was more than a dollar cheaper than my regular salsa. Dark flecks of roasted tomato and big chunks of peppers. Wow, was this a disappointment. Green pepper was overwhelming and the consistency of Pace. Not to bash on you Pace fans, but as a Texan, Pace is just an unacceptable form of salsa unless you’re a broke college kid with a 6-pack of Nat Light to wash it down. Bleh. Arriba is a smidge spendy on $4 a jar, but what good is the savings if the generic is going down the disposal uneaten? We went back to our yummy expensive salsa.

Target Long Pantyliners v. Kotex Long Everydays
Sorry to review such a personal item, but I have to share this or someone else might make the same mistake. I was very excited about it because for a box the same size as Kotex, it was about half the price. Another disappointment. They’re smaller, less absorbent, the tape on the underside doesn’t go to the edges, so sometimes they come undone, which is never a good thing. Because they’re less absorbent, you find yourself reaching for a fresh one multiple times a day. Again, a total waste of “savings” if you’re using twice as much, even if it’s half the cost. Next time, I’m going back to the Kotex.

I’m sure there are other items I’ll be exploring in the generic side of the aisles, so as I come up with more comparisons, I’ll post about them. If you have any suggestions or have experimented with some generics on your own, please let me know.

Recipe: Crockpot Taco Soup

First off, thanks to my friend Karrie for this one! Secondly, this recipe is naturally gluten and dairy free if you leave out the ranch dressing and cheese topping.

2 cans black beans (drain and rinse)
2 cans pinto beans (drain and rinse)
2 cans corn
1 can Rotel
Large can (32 oz) diced tomatos
1 pkg taco seasoning (or 1 T chili powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 tsp cumin)
1 pkg Ranch dressing (optional)
1 lb browned ground beef (optional)

Drain and rinse all the beans and place in bottom of crockpot. Add ground beef. Sprinkle seasonings on top of that. Add Rotel and diced tomatos last. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Serve with Fritos or tortilla chips and shredded cheese.

NOTE: I tweaked this a smidge. I did not crockpot this because I wanted it the same night I got the recipe. I actually browned the beef, drained, and then just added all the other ingredients into a hard boil with 1 1/2 cans of water. Lowered to a simmer for about 15 minutes and then served. Little Monkey ate two bowls of leftovers tonight with Tostitos - obviously a hit! Which thrills me as he's such a picky eater.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekly Shopping Trip - 3/23/09

I'm happy again this week! Since a few week's ago I was so over budget, it was going to take some work and time to overcome it. I've got a picture, but wanted to go ahead and post this first.

Sprouts Total - $15.38

Rice Dream - 3.99
Rice Dream Orange Swirl - 2.49
Guar Gum - 3.99
Rice Flour - 2.79
Yellow Onions - 1.05
Red Sprouts Bag - .99

Target Total - $52.11

Tostitos - 3.00
Hormel Black Label Bacon - 2.49
1 bag snow peas - 2.99
Organic Celery - 1.50
Organic Carrots - 1.50
Grapes - 2.40
Large Can Tomatoes - 1.07
Generic Rotel - .54
Chef Boyardee Ravioli - .94
Fresh Broccoli - 1.62
Cocoa Pebbles - 2.84
Generic Raisin Bran - 2.60
2 cans Green Beans - 1.50
Generic can black beans - .77
Generic can pinto beans - .77
Motts Applesauce - 1.97
Bananas - .84
Honeycrisp apples - 3.54
Stouffers Panini - 2.50
Lean Cuisine Flatbread - 2.25
2 boxees GF waffle - 3.54
Apple juice - 1.19
Generic OJ - 1.19
12 pack Sprite - 4.00
1 gal milk - 1.99
dozen eggs - 1.67
1 cont yogurt - .57

Weekly Budget - $75
This Week's Total - $67.49
Difference - $7.51 under budget

Menu Plan Monday - 3/23/09

Hopefully, I can stick with the program this week! :-)

Monday - Taco Soup
Tuesday - Chinese Stir Fry
Wednesday - Chicken Enchiladas
Thursday - Oven-Fried Chicken, Fried Potatoes, Green Beans
Friday - Breakfast (Eggs, Bacon, Hashbrowns)

As I go along with these, eventually I'll have links to the recipes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 3/2/09

N's out on a ski trip this week, so I'm attempting to make some items that will make two meals so I can freeze some of the extra portions. This really helps on the dash-in-dine lunches that we inevitably spend money on during the week. Plus, with him gone, I'll actually have the time in the evening to spend time cooking sans guilt. The house should be pretty spic-n-span too!

Amazing how much I get done when he's not here. Am I the only Mom/Wife like this???

MONDAY: Leftover chicken and potatoes
TUESDAY: Mexican Polenta Bake
WEDNESDAY: Gluten-free/Dairy-free Lasagne
THURSDAY: Breakfast (Eggs, bacon, applesauce)
FRIDAY: Egg Salad Sandwiches

WEEKEND: We'll see. With N gone, things will be either uber-easy or we'll be treating ourselves to eating out a bit. :-)

To meet more Menu Planners and get some dinner ideas, visit Laura over at OrgJunkie.com.