Sunday, February 21, 2010

Menu Plan Feburary 21 - 26

We didn't eat what we were supposed to last week. We still ate at home, except for Friday night, but the menu changed a little. That's fine with me, it didn't mean any extra trips to the store or anything!

Last week, we ended up with sausage and peppers with penne, tacos, and baked chicken and potatoes. On leftover night (Thursday), we didn't have enough leftovers to go around, so I threw a corned beef in the crock pot and ate some of that with some toast, leaving the leftover sausage and peppers with penne for hubby and the girl (since hubby hates corned beef and the girl seems to be anti-meat these days, but will eat anything involving pasta). Friday I had a buy one get one free burger coupon for Red Robin, so we went out. Love those bleu ribbon burgers!

Now, on to this week:

Tonight, we had grilled chicken fajitas.

Monday: baked ziti (with turkey italian sausage in place of ground beef. Yum!)

Tuesday: Corned beef hash (because hubby who hates corned beef won't hesitate to eat it in hash. Weird). I'm going to try cooking all the separate ingredients ahead of time and then just browning it up when I get home. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday: Ham and potato casserole

Thursday: my birthday. I don't know what we're having yet, I just know I'm not cooking it! I'm hoping we'll go to the beach for the day.

Friday: My daughter and I are having dinner with my parents, so hubby's on his own.

Have a great week! And visit for lots of great menu planning ideas!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

January Budget Recap

I tracked our spending very closely last month. It was the first time in a very long time that I've done that and, as always, it was confirmed that if you want to get ahead financially, it's the only way to go.

We went over in several categories. I knew we would, I just wanted to see where we stood with my guesstimates. We overspent on water (oh how I wish our town had an equal pay plan, like we have for electric and gas!), groceries, eating out, miscellaneous, and donations. Still, in the end, I had a tidy sum to put into savings, which I divided among general savings, the car repair/replace fund (which has been practically empty since my car needed several repairs over the summer), and an extra bit toward the mortgage. That was the first extra money I've put into savings in over a year. It felt great!

I tweaked our budget a bit this month to reflect the overages, but I'll still need to watch it like a hawk. Case in point - I hadn't tracked anything, anything at all, for February until today, and I'd spent our entire month's grocery budget by the 10th. And that doesn't even include a few things my mom picked up for me at Costco last week that I still need to pay her for. So we'll be well over our budget by month's end.

I build an automatic cushion into our budget each month. I base our income off of no overtime for hubby (he goes to work a little bit early every day, so there's always some overtime in his checks), and a 40-hour pay period for me. I work 20 hours a week and get paid twice a month, so my checks can range from 40 - 48 hours, depending on the number of days in the pay period. And, our total budget is less than even our base pay. So even when we're over budget, unless we're GROSSLY over budget, we're never actually out of money.

But still, the more I spend the less I can put into savings. And I really like putting money into savings! Oh, if my Grandpa could see me now. Up until I graduated from high school, if I put money in my savings account (which had to stay there till college), he'd match it. I just had to show him my bank statement. I think he matched it twice. Just twice. When I was a kid, money slipped right through my fingers. There was always something I wanted - a toy, a cassette, candy, whatever. If it was expensive, I always tried to get my mom to buy it for me so I could pay her back in monthly installments. That worked up to a point, and then she'd cut me off, telling me that all my money would be tied up in installments forever and I'd never be able to buy anything again. A slight exaggeration, to be sure, but it was a lesson I learned well and I don't fall for those sales ploys today!

So that's where we ended up for January. On to finish February - and on to a better month in March!

Monday, February 15, 2010

sausage and pepper penne

Made this for dinner tonight. Unlike my last attempt at sausage and peppers, where I basically just threw some stuff together that sounded like it might work (it wasn't bad, just not great), this one was goooooooooooood. I got the recipe out of Parents magazine and tweaked it a bit...

1 T. canola oil
4 raw Italian sausage links
1 medium onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 cup water
1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
1 T. basil
1 t. oregano
1 t. garlic powder
few cranks of black pepper
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 lb. mini-penne pasta

Over medium high heat, brown sausages in oil. Add onions and peppers, continue to cook for five minutes or until onions are transluscent. Add water, tomatoes, and spices. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove sausages, slice them, and return them to the pan. Continue to cook over medium heat until the sauce is very, very thick, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the penne according to the package directions. Before draining, stir two ladles-full of pasta cooking water into the sauce. Drain the pasta, stir into sauce, and cook an additional five minutes.

Serve with parmesan cheese.

Menu Plan February 15 - 19

I didn't get my act together to post my menu last week, but we did pretty well in spite of ourselves. I think it was last week that we ended up with burgers one night because hubby forgot to put dinner in the oven (oops!), but overall we did ok. Now, let's see if I can remember what we ate, LOL!

I don't remember which nights, but we had:

tuna casserole
stuffed peppers
pineapple chicken

Plus the night I picked up Burger King.

Here's what's on the menu for this week:

Tonight we're having sausage and peppers with penne
Tuesday: baked ziti
Wednesday: tacos
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: creamed tuna on biscuits (I'll be home from work early so I can make something that doesn't involve being made ahead. Yay!)

And remember, visit every week for fabulous menu ideas!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A note about what we eat...

An anonymous poster commented the other day that my menus have a lot of fat and calories. This seems like a good time for me to first point out that I hate anonymous comments! I allow them because I know that not everyone who might read my blog has a blogger or google login, but I think it's common courtesy (or at least it should be) to sign your post, even if you're "logged in" anonymously. But I digress...

I feel like I should address this person, even though I have no idea who they are or if they will ever visit my blog again. Yes, it's true, our dinners are not the healthiest dinners on the planet. And, without seeing the ingredients I buy or the way I prepare my food, one might think that some of these dinners are spectacularly UNhealthy. And yes, some of them are, LOL! Mmmmm...deep fried shrimp...

A year or two ago, we ate fast food four or five times a week. Compared to that, our menus are downright health food! But seriously, I do my best in the parameters I have to work with. A lot of what we eat is dictated by the way I must prepare it. My husband works in the mornings. I work in the afternoons, and get home an hour and a half before he goes to bed. This way we don't have to have day care, which is important to us, but it also complicates menu planning quite a bit. He's willing to put things in the oven, but is not willing to prepare anything. Which is fine, I've always been the cook in this relationship. So, on the weeknights, I am basically limited to things that can be cooked either in a crock pot or a casserole dish. No grilling, no sauteeing, no steaming (except for vegetables, I cook those up when I get home).

I'm also married to a picky eater who is deathly afraid of new recipes (in his defense, I have made a couple of doozies). So I work within the confines of what I know he will eat, with the occasional venture into new territory, and try to "healthify" where I can. When we eat ground beef, it is either 90% or 96% lean (depending on what's on sale when I buy it). When we eat pork, it's almost always loin chops. Chicken is almost always tenderloins. He detests fatty meat and all but refuses to eat it, so I buy the leanest I can find.

I use a lot of olive oil in my cooking. I also don't use a lot of convenience foods, and I typically cook from scratch. Oh sure, there are canned soups in my cooking (I keep meaning to try the homemade "cream of whatever" soup mixes, but haven't done it yet), and on a weekend we'll have the occasional box of Helper. If I'm making meatloaf or meatballs or something like that, I'll make it with half lean ground turkey and half lean ground beef. If a recipe calls for shredded cheddar, I'll use sharp instead of medium, so I can get the same amount of flavor with a little less fat.

I also don't post side dishes in my menus, which may lead a person to believe that we don't eat vegetables. This is not the case, I just usually don't know what I'm going to do about sides until I actually get to that meal. We eat baked potatoes frequently, some rice (both white and brown, depending on our time schedule), and a lot of buttered noodles with parmesan (because that's my 14-month-old's favorite food in the whole world). We also eat a good helping of vegetables with every dinner. Sometimes it's a hot vegetable, sometimes it's a salad. Sometimes it's both. We eat a lot of fruit, too, and almost always get in our five servings for the day.

So yes, some of my menu choices may look like they have a lot of fat and calories. But, where I can, I minimize that by the ingredient choices I make and the sides that I serve with them. Hope that helps clear things up! :-)

Monday, February 01, 2010

Menu Plan February 1 - 5

Another week, another plan. I am feeling completely uninspired this week, and don't actually know what all I'm going to make, but here's what I have so far:

Today: leftover pizza
Tuesday: tuna casserole
Wednesday: teriyaki chicken

Thursday and Friday are still up in the air at this point. Like I said, uninspired. But I'll pull it together...