Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Grocery Cash Experiment

I don't use credit cards.  However, I do use my debit card all the time.  I decided that last month, January, I would try to only use cash for groceries, since this is the area we have the most control over.  I slashed my food budget by 35% (just to see if I could do it), got that amount of cash, and put it in an envelope.  Every purchase I made at the store for food, laundry, household goods, etc, I used this cash.  Here is what I found out:
  1. I really had to plan out what we were going to eat for each week.
  2. I tried to only go to the store once each week.
  3. I tried to only buy what was on my list (that didn't work too well)
  4. I "ad-matched" all of our produce, making it really inexpensive.
  5. I was able to buy about $100 of food storage.
  6. Not only did we eat fabulously, I had money left over!  
From now on, I am only using cash for groceries.  When it is gone, it is gone.  

Friday, January 29, 2010

Chicken Rice Soup Mix

Chicken Rice Soup Mix
2 cups uncooked long grain white rice*
1/4-1/3 cup chicken bouillon granules
4 tsp dried tarragon
4 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/2-1 tsp pepper, to taste

Combine above ingredients.  Cover, label and date.  Store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.
*can use long grain brown rice; store up to 3 months

To prepare soup:
In a saucepan, bring 3 cups water, 1 TB butter or margarine and 2/3 cup soup mix to a boil.  redulce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the rie is tender.  Add more water as needed for desired amount of broth.  Serves 12.
*If using brown rice, simmer 45-50 minutes or until rice is tender.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup Mix

Chicken Noodle Soup Mix

1/4 cup dried red lentils OR 1/4 cup dried carrots
3 TB dried minced onion
3-4 TB chicken bouillon granules
1/2 tsp dried dill weed
1/8 tsp celery seed
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 cup uncooked egg noodles

In a clear pint jar, layer from bottom to top, lentils, minced onion, bouillon, dill, celery seed, garlic powder, bay leaf and enough noodles to fill jar.  Close tightly.

To prepare soup:
Bring 8 cups water to a boil in large saucepan over high heat.  Stir in jar of soup mix.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf.  Stir in 1 (10 oz) package frozen mixed vegetables and 2 cups cooked, diced chicken or turkey.  Cook 5 minutes more, or until vegetables and chicken are heated through and tender.

Serves 8-10.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Minestrone Soup Mix

Makes enough mix for 2-2 1/2 quarts of soup (8-10 generous servings).  This is a cute gift packed in glass canning jar.

Minestrone Soup Mix
  • 2 TB plus 1 tsp good-quality beef bouillon granules (may substitue vegetable bouillon granules)
  • 3 TB minced dried onions
  • 3 TB coarsely chopped dry-packed (not oil packed) sun-dried tomatoes (or dried vegetable flakes)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram or thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried minced garlic (may substitute garlic powder; do not use garlic salt)
  • Scant 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (may substitute 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper)
  • 1/4 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 2-3 TB dried celery
  • 1/4 cup dried red or brown lentils
  • 1/4 cup dried green or yellow split peas
  • 1/4 cup dried kidney beans
  • 1/4 cup dried light colored beans
  • 1/2 cup dried medium-size pasta
Ingredients to add to prepared soup:
1 lb. browned hamburger or sausage (can use bottled)
1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1-2 cups vegetables, frozen or canned

Combine the dry spices, barley, lentils and split peas and put in plastic bag.  Then layer the beans into clean, glass jar: kidney beans and white beans.

Pack the pasta spearately in a small, sturdy plastic bag and tuck it into the top of the jar along with the spice mixture bag.  Close tightly.  The soup mix can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 months.

For a .pdf of the tag to attach to the jar, click here.
To prepare soup:
Remove the pasta & spice packet from the jar and set aside.  Soak kidney beans and white beans over night or do a quick soak by boiling them in water for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and soak 1 hour.  Drain water after either method.

Combine the soaked beans and spice mixture with 9 cups of hot water in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium.  Cover and cook for 50-55 minutes, until the beans are tender.  Adjust the heat as needed so the soup is barely bubbling.  Add 1 can (15 oz) whole or crushed tomatoes (do not add before beans are tender or it may make the beans tougher and take longer to cook).  If the soup is too thick, add more water or tomato juice to achieve the desired consistency, then increase the temperature to medium-high to bring it to a boil.

Add 1 lb. of browned hamburger or sausage and any combination of vegetables (suggestions: 1 cup green beans, 1/2-1 cup cooked carrots, etc).  Add the pasta from the packet.  Cover and cook, stirring ocasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.  Add salt and pepper or other seasonings to taste.

Ladle portions into individual soup bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Cover and refrigerate the cooked soup for 3-4 days.  The soup usually thickens upon refrigeration; thin it with water before re-heating.  The cooked soup can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Crock Pot Directions:  To adjust recipe for the slow cooker, estimate 3-4 hours on low for every hour of conventional cooking.  Estimate about 2-2 1/2 hours on high for each hour.


Adapted from:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Basic Cream Soup Mix

This past week I attended a class on "Soups & Artisan Breads".  When we (The Advisory Board for USU Extension Classes) were planning the upcoming classes for 2010, each of us on the board were really excited for this class.  A guest chef, Chef Adalberto Diaz Labrada, from the UVU Culinary Institute came and taught us.  It was phenomonal!!  I have never done true "artisan" breads, so this was quite a treat.  As much of a treat for me, however, was getting the recipes for each of the soups.  Each soup is made from food storage ingredients that can be made up ahead of time and packaged in a canning jar, airtight container, or a ziplok bag.

Basic Cream Soup Mix
2 cups powdered non-instant, non-fat dry milk (the kind that the LDS cannery sells works GREAT)
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup instant chicken bouillon
2 TB dehydrated onion or vegetable flakes
2 tsp Italian Seasonings (or a combination of your favorite seasonings)
Optional: 1/2 cup mashed potato flakes

Combine all ingredients and store in closed plastic bag or air tight container until ready to use.  It does not need to be refrigerated.

Yield: Equal to 9 cans of cream soup

To substitute for 1 can of cream soup:
Combine 1/3 cup of dry mix with 1 1/4 cups cold water.  Cook and stir on stove top or in microwave until thickened.  Add thickened mixture to casseroles as you would a can of soup.

Creamed Soup Adaptations:
Add any of the following ingredients for a delicious soup:

Potato:  to cooked soup, add 1 cup cooked potato cubes
Mushroom: to cooked soup, add 1 (4 oz) can mushrooms
Tomato:  Heat 2 cups tomato sauce; do not boil.  Slowly add warmed tomato sauce to cooked soup with a whisk.  This will help control curdling.
Broccoli Cheese:  Combine dried soup mix with 1/3 cup fresh or frozen broccoli and water.  Cook and stir until thickened.  Add 1 cup grated cheese and mix until well blended.

(Adapted from: SOS Soups or Sauces, Proctor, D. & Serfustini, E., online publication:

Basic Cream Soup with Potato (cheese and bacon too!)  It was really, really good.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lemon Pies....

Yum, Yum!  For my mother in law's birthday celebration, I was asked to bring Lemon Meringue Pie.  Since there was more people than 1 pie would feed, I made a variation of the Lemon Meringue- a Cream Cheese Lemon Meringue, as well as the traditional Lemon Meringue.  Here are the recipes for both:

Lemon Meringue Pie
1 baked pie shell
1 1/2 cup sugar
6 TB cornstarch
2 cups water
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 eggs, separated
3 TB butter
1 1/2 tsp lemon extract
2 tsp vinegar

1 TB cornstarch
2 TB cold water
1/2 cup boiling water
3 egg whites
6 TB sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Mix together sugar and cornstarch in a heavy pan.  Add the two cups of water.  Combine egg yolks with lemon juice and beat.  Add eggs to rest of mixture.  Cook until thick (this takes about 20 minutes). Add lemon extract, butter, and vinegar, and stir thoroughly.  Pour into a deep 9 inch pie shell and let cool.  Cover with meringue and brown in oven.

Blend cornstarch and cold water in a saucepan.  Add boiling water and cook, stirring, until clear and thickened.  Let stand until completely cold.  With electric beater at high speed, beat egg whites until foamy.  Gradually add sugar and beat until STIFF, but not dry.  Turn mixer to low speed, add salt and vanilla.  Gradually beat in cold cornstarch mixture.  Turn mixer again to high speed and beat well.  Spread meringue over cooled pie filling.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until brown.  This meringue cuts beautifully and never gets sticky.

Lemon Cream Cheese Pie
1 baked pie crust (or 1 graham cracker crust)

Cream Cheese Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Lemon Filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 TB cornstarch
dash salt
1 cup water
2 egg yolks (save the whites if you want merengue)
2 TB fresh lemon juice
1 TB butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the cream cheese filling by mixing cream cheese with 1/4 cup sugar, vanillan and an egg using an electric mixer.  Mix well untl smooth.  Pour cream cheese filling into crust and bake for 30-35 minutes or until center is cooked.  A knife stuck int he middle of the filling should come out mostly clean.  As the pie cools, make the lemon filling by combining 1/2 cup sugar with cornstarch, salt and water in a small saucepan.  Set mixture over low heat and bring to a simmer, stirring often.  Wisk in egg yolks, then add lemon juice and butter.  When mixture simmers again remove it immediately from the heat.  Pour the lemon filling over the cream cheese filling, and let the pie cool.  When cool, chill pie in the refrigerator for several hours before serving.  If desired, top with merengue and brown in oven.  See recipe for merengue above.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Delicious Food Storage Muffins- Cranberry, Blueberry, Chocolate etc.

This versatile recipe can be used to make all sorts of muffins.  Our favorites are cranberry, blueberry, chocolate chip and blackberry (not all together- although that might be good :).

The secret to this recipe is to NOT OVERMIX.  Only stir barely enough to incorporate the ingredients.  It will be lumpy.

4 TB quick cooking oats
2 TB flour
4 TB packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp water

3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 TB brown sugar
1/2 cup milk (can use powdered)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (can use white bean puree)
1 large egg (can use powdered)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries (or blueberries, or chocolate chip, or whatever you want....)
1 1/3 cup flour (can use 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour)
2 tsp baking powder

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Make topping:  In small bowl, combine all ingredients.  Sir until crumbly.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, using a whisk, combine sugar, milk, oil, egg and vanilla. If you are using powdered milk and powdered eggs, only add the water (remember to add 2 TB extra water for egg), and add the dry milk and dry egg in with step 4.  With a wooden spoon stir in cranberries (or what you choose).
  4. In separate bowl combine flour and baking powder.  With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture into the cranberry mixture just until everything is combined.  Divide the mixture among the prepared muffin cups.  Sprinkle topping evenly over top.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out dry. 
Note:  Try 1/2 cup cranberries, 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, and 1/4 cup chopped pecans,  Use your imagination for the mix-ins!  Also, try substituting the cinnamon chips for the fruit.  Yum!

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    50 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill

    1. Use an envelope system for grocery money.  Only use the cash from the envelope.  When its gone its gone. This makes me really think and plan for my purchases.
    2. Use both manufacturer and store coupons together.  This can often make the item free.
    3. Plan your meals in advance.
    4. If you use a rebate, fill it out and send it in as soon as you get home from the store.
    5. Cook from scratch.
    6. Use your food storage.
    7. Keep a running list of items on your fridge (I use my grocery list)
    8. Shop at the Farmer's Market (in season)
    9. Buy multiple copies of the Sunday paper for the coupons.
    10. Use what is in your freezer.
    11. Use your store loyalty card.
    12. Buy a deep freeze.
    13. Plant a garden.
    14. Learn your store's sale cycle (usually it rotates every 3 months)
    15. Check the store's website for printable coupons.
    16. When making a meal, make double, and freeze the rest for another meal.
    17. Quickly check your fridge, freezer, cupboards and pantry before heading out the door.
    18. Never shop hungry.  
    19. Go alone if possible.  When my kids and/or husband come, we end up getting more than planned. 
    20. Stock up when things are on sale.  If it is deeply discounted, buy a year supply.
    21. Plan your trip through the store.  Do not go back to the section once you have left.
    22. Shop the perimeter.
    23. Buy non-grocery items at different store (Wal-mart, Target, Dollar-Tree etc)
    24. Don't forget your list!!!
    25. Watch for instant coupons that are on the product.
    26. Watch for the coupons that the store has by the product.  Often times they are flashing/blinking.
    27. Buy in bulk when you will use that amount.  However, some sale prices are much better than the bulk price at the warehouse stores.
    28. Get rain checks if the store is out of the advertised product.
    29. Price match if your store allows.
    30. Don't waste leftovers.  Have a leftover night once a week.
    31. Shop from the weekly ads.
    32. Have a budget.  Stick to it.
    33. Watch for pricing errors on your receipt.  One time at Wal-mart, I bought 20 cans of Mandarin oranges because they were supposed to be .33 cents per can.  They rang up at 5.00 per can!!!
    34. Check unit pricing between brands.
    35. Bring a calculator.
    36. Eat produce that is in season.
    37. Visit multiple stores if they are close, to get the best deals.
    38. Watch for any "double coupon" days or promotions.
    39. Use store brands.  I have found many store brand items that I prefer to the expensive name brand.
    40. Drink more water, and less soda.  
    41. Don't be afraid of the "reduced for quick sale" stickers.  One local grocery store puts out all fresh meat daily.  If any meat is not sold that day, it gets a sticker.  I recently got 93% lean ground beef for $1.29 per pound that way.  I bought them out, and froze it all.
    42. Check for any internet coupons for the name brand items on your list.  You can find an alphabetized list of all coupons online ( and other coupon sites).
    43. Don't dismiss stores like Walgreens and Rite-Aid for groceries.  They often have sales combined with "register rewards" etc.  My favorite cereal that is normally $4 per box was just on sale at Walgreens for $1.33 per box (plus I got register rewards used like cash), so they were almost free.
    44. Be familiar with regular prices so you will know when you see a good deal.
    45. Be disciplined.  As with any part of saving money, it is 20% knowledge and 80% doing.
    46. Break your list down by store, and plan your outing accordingly.
    47. Make fewer, larger trips. 
    48. Avoid prepared entrees.
    49. Watch for shrinking packaging.  Many brands keep the same price, but the package is smaller. Be aware.
    50. Remember, grocery shopping is one of the few budget categories that is flexible and is often the most gone over. 

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Free Loreal Make-up!

    Right now at Fresh Market (who bought out Albertsons in my area) ALL their Revlon and Loreal makeup is 75% off!  To make the deal even sweeter, there are GREAT coupons you can use with them (for Loreal)!  The best ones are in the Loreal RedPlum insert from Jan. 3rd.  With the coupons, I got $70.00 worth of make-up for just over $2.00.  Woo-hoo!!!!  Isn't it great that you can combine clearance items with coupons? 

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Using a Grocery List

    How many times have you wandered into the grocery store to buy some milk and bread, and end up spending $100 that was not planned?  Using a grocery list is a great way  to minimize this!  I laminate mine, keep it on the fridge and when I need something, use a wet erase marker to circle the item.  Also, when I go through the sales and coupons, I will write a "c" by the item, alerting me that I have a coupon for that item.  Right before heading to the store, I paper clip all the coupons on the back of my list. To download the list (.pdf), click here. For the list (.doc) that you can change, click here.

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Freezer Inventory Sheet

    When cleaning out my freezers, all items were taken out, organized, and then put away.  Before putting away, I wrote each item down (what it was, how many pounds it was, and the date I froze it- if I had that info).  Today, I put all the info onto a Freezer Inventory list that I made.  This is now on my freezer door with a wet erase marker attached to it.  Each time something is added or taken from the freezer, I update the list.  I use a wet erase marker- the dry erase comes off too easily.  This sheet is a tally sheet, so I can know what I have just by looking on it.  I will use this list before I buy more-  Do I have room for it?  Do I need it? I will also use this list as I plan my menus.  I want to use up everything that I have stored first, before using something I just bought, to make sure everything in my freezer is rotated.  For the freezer inventory list (.pdf) click here.  For the freezer inventory list (.doc) that you can make changes to, click here.  Make sure to print on cardstock and then laminate.  This way the wet erase marker will work!
    Happy organizing!
    Freezer Inventory

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Time to Clean the FREEZER!!

    We all know it.  Food costs a lot of money!  I think most of us are very conscious about our food budget.  We try to save money by shopping sales, using coupons, etc.  Think for a minute- how much food has your family thrown away over the past month?  Year? I hate to say it, but I have thrown away quite a lot (leftovers that didn't get eaten, vegetables that went bad... etc).  Just this week, I sent my daughter to the freezer to get some pork chops.  She came back in with frostbitten hands (well, almost), and no pork chops. I knew we had pork chops somewhere buried in the freezer.....  Well, I found them, buried, and much to my dismay, they were old & freezer burned.  I try to be so frugal- and when I calculate how much money that I waste from discarded food, it made me think-  What can I do to make sure this doesn't continue?  I came up with a couple of ideas that I hope will help me:
    1.  Clean the Freezer
    2.  Inventory the Freezer
    3.  Continue to use a shopping list
    4.  Plan and stick to a menu
    5.  Have a "leftover night" once a week

    So, lets get started. 

    1.  Cleaning the Freezer:
    I should have taken a before picture (honestly, I was too embarrassed).  Over the past several months, our garage freezer (we have three freezers: Garage, Kitchen side by side, and downstairs side by side) has had to be locked because it was so full that it wouldn't close tight. The overwhelming task to clean the freezer was managable with the following steps.
    •  Wear gloves.
    • Get 7-8 bins or laundry baskets to put the food into: 1 bin for chicken, 1 bin for pork, 1 bin for beef, etc.
    • Start at the top shelf and separate each item into the bins, continue for the rest of the shelves, and the door.  Now, all like items should be together in the bins.
    • Using hot soapy water and a scrubbing sponge, start with the door, top to bottom.  As soon as each shelf is clean, quickly wipe it dry with a dry towel. Any moisture left will quickly turn to ice.
    • Continue with each shelf, and the walls of the freezer.  
    • Lastly, do the bottom.  This is a bit tricky since it is so cold.  I put my hot soapy water down, scrubbed, and quickly dried again.  If it turns to ice before the scrubbing is finished, use a spatula to remove all ice.  Once again, make sure everything is completely dry.
    • Assess your food- What do you have the most of?  What space would it fit in the freezer best? I had the most chicken and beef- so those went into my two big drawers.
    • Put like items together: I put the pepperoni and pizza sauce in its own bin, since the kids make pizza every Friday night. 
    • As you put your food back, write down what you have.  This will go onto your freezer inventory that remains on the outside of the freezer.  
    • I labeled each shelf.  When my kids help with things, everything goes a lot smoother when they know where to put (and to find) things.  To get a copy of the labels, click here.
    Now, as I plan my menu shopping list, I can quickly look at my freezer inventory and use first what I have.  If you have a deep freeze as well as a side by side with your fridge, you may want to consider this.  Why not use your kitchen freezer only for the items you will be using for the next 2 weeks-1 month?  Every two weeks when you do your menu, bring in the items from the freezer you will use next.  Then, everything gets rotated, you know exactly what you have, and where, and things are a bit more organized. 

    Watch for the next post: Freezer Inventory 

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Making your own Cake Flour

    I have several recipes that call for cake flour.  What is it?  When do you need it? How do you make your own? If you have ever purchased cake flour, it is about $2.00 per pound, so it is much more than regular flour. Almost all cake flour is bleached. Bleaching toughens the molecules allowing the flour to carry more sugar and fat, as well as breaking down the protein in the flour.  Cake flour is made from the endosperm of SOFT wheat.  The endosperm is the softest part of the kernel, making cake flour the finest available.  Cake flour typically has about 7% protein, about 1/2 that of regular bread flour.  Note: Cake flour is great for pastries (cookies, cakes, etc).  It is HORRIBLE for breads! 

    Recipe for Cake Flour:
    1 cup all-purpose flour, removing 2 tablespoons of the flour and replacing it with 2 tablespoons of corn starch.
    For Self-Raising, add a pinch of salt and 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder to the mix.

    Write these measurements down and tape to the back of your flour canister so they are handy when you need them..

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    New Year... Financial Peace University!!

    Happy New Year!  I cannot believe that 2009 is now a thing of the past.  I loved Christmas, and New Year's, but I am sure glad to be starting a new year.  I am ready to start saving money again.  It seems like Christmas always costs a lot, even when budgeted for.

    My ward is hosting Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University!  I can hardly wait!  My bishop asked me to be the moderator of the class.  We passed around a signup sheet today, and it seems like there is a lot of interest.  We are starting the 9th of February, and I will post what is taught each week. I can hardly wait!  I love Dave Ramsey, and we have been following his plan for several years.  What a difference he has made in our lives!! Those who complete the 13 week course on average pay off $5300.00 of debt and save $2700.00 in the 90 days.  Amazing!!