Posts Tagged ‘budget’

Have you ever felt that terrible guilty feeling when you throw out perfectly good food that went bad when it didn’t fit into your recipes for the week? I used to be someone who habitually had a garbage full of food that could have been used, but went bad first. When the guilt finally consumed me, I decided to find a way to do something about it.

What’s Left?

The day or two before you go grocery shopping again, check your cupboard for anything that you bought the week before that isn’t already rotting away. It’s impossible for me to predict what you might have, but take it all out of your fridge and put it in front of you. It really could be anything. Maybe you have a chunk of cream cheese, a stalk of celery, half an onion, and some stale chips. I can’t tell you what to do with the stale chips, but I bet you can make a hearty dinner out of the rest of your leftover food.

What to Keep Stocked

There are a few things you’ll need to keep on hand each week for this last meal, but they are things that can stay a while without going bad. Keep a roll or two of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls in your fridge, keep your condiment shelf full, and have some veggies in the freezer. I love the steam-in-a-bag kind–so simple.

Filling for the Braid

With the dough, condiments, frozen veggies, and the leftovers out on your counter–get creative! The possibilities are endless. What you want to do is think of which ingredients would go together nicely as a casserole or a dip. You will turn those ingredients into a filling for a dough braid. If you’re really stumped, do an ingredient search on Allrecipes to find out if there are any casserole or dip recipes using the ingredients you have. Pillsbury has some recipes for dips too, all of which could be put into a braid.

Let’s say you had some leftover cheddar cheese, half an onion, a little bit of cooked chicken, and a slice of red pepper. Doesn’t seem like much, but mix it up with some mayo, broccoli steamed from your freezer, salt, dill, and garlic. Now you have the perfect filling for a dough braid!

How to Make the Braid

Spread your dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Place the filling down the middle of the braid horizontally. Cut one inch strips on either side of the chunk of filling. Fold the ends over the filling, sealing them together on top. Seal the ends. Brush with a beaten egg-white. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and brown.

You will be amazed at how almost any combination of ingredients tastes good when put into a braid. Follow these steps and you will feel a lot less guilty on refrigerator clean out day.

More Filling Ideas

Buffalo Chicken Braid

Cheese, cream cheese, cooked chicken, hot sauce, chopped celery, chopped onion, shredded cheddar cheese, blue cheese

Greek Braid

Black or Kalamata olives, feta cheese, chopped cucumber, chopped salami, cream cheese

Reuben Braid

Deli turkey or corned beef, sauerkraut, chopped onion, Thousand Island dressing

Spinach and Artichoke Braid

Sour cream, artichoke hearts, frozen (steamed) spinach, shredded cheddar cheese, garlic, parmesan cheese

Recipes That Could be Made Into Braids

Hot Crab Dip

Nacho Dip

Broccoli Casserole

Corn Casserole



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I always had the same Sunday morning routine: Check the cupboard for what food is left from last week, look up recipes for this week, and write a grocery list including these ingredients plus the items I buy on a regular basis.

This process took up most of my valuable Sunday time, so I went looking for a way to revamp it. I tried online grocery lists, handwritten grocery lists, and even grocery list apps for my cell phone. None of these worked for me, they still took up (at the very least) a half an hour of my morning.

A few weeks ago, a friend shared her brilliant idea with me. The idea is so simple, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself.

Take some time to type up a list of what you usually buy weekly or keep on hand. Organize it by the section it is in at your local grocery store. Stick the typed list to the refrigerator or the inside of your cupboard. As you run out of something, highlight or circle it on your list. Then, on Sunday morning, all you have to do is add the ingredients from any new recipes you’re going to use that week. After you grocery shop, print out a fresh copy of the list and put it on your fridge. Or, I guess, if you’re really crafty–you could laminate it and use wet erase markers to write on it.

So, I went to work making my weekly grocery list. I left space to add additional items in each section. Enjoy!

Grocery List (You can print this one, but cannot make changes. The plus-side is that the font and spacing will be perfect.)

Grocery List (You can edit this one, but the font and spacing may need to be fixed.)


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I hate to waste food. It sabotages the food budget that I try so hard to stick to each week, there are tons of hungry people in the world, and… well,  it’s just plain wasteful.  Since we eat a lot of cereal in my house (bought on sale, mainly in generic form, and sometimes with coupons), I have an easy way to use all the bottom-of-the-bag leftovers that no one wants to eat. 

Use all these leftovers, supplement with crispy rice cereal, and whip up a batch of Peanut Butter Mystery Marshmallow Treats!  You can’t go wrong with this crowd pleaser.  Just about any cereal works, and the standard recipe (or your own) is perfect.  You could keep a plastic container to collect all the cereal in until you have enough to make a batch of treats.

You know the drill…here are the ingredients:

A package of marshmallows, half stick of butter or margarine, and a generous scoop of peanut butter for flavor and protein.  I also add ground flaxseed for a nutrition bonus, and no one will ever know it’s there.

Melt butter in a large pot, then add peanut butter to your taste; I generally use about 1/2 cup.  Add marshmallows and stir.

Turn off the heat and stir in about 6-7 cups of cereal.  Corn flakes, Special K, Chex, Corn Pops, Cheerios; just about anything works well in this.  This is also the point where you stir in the ground flaxseed, if using.

At this point you’ll dump the mixture into a greased 13 x 9 inch pan.

Now, onto flattening this sticky mess….simply run your hands under cold tap water, shake, and press the cereal mixture down.  Don’t oil your hands (yuck!), this water trick works like a charm.  Using cold water also buffers your hands against the hot mixture. 

Let it cool, flip pan over onto a cutting board, and cut into squares.

No two batches will ever be exactly alike, but they will all be yummy! Perfect snack; one the kids will love it in their lunchbox.  Easy, inexpensive, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ haven’t let any cereal go to waste!


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I love to garden, but it can get expensive really fast! Here are some tips on how to garden frugally.

Use seeds from the things you eat at the grocery store. Many times this method works well, but sometimes it does not. You just have to experiment with it a bit to see what will sprout and what will produce. If you buy a pepper at the store, cut it up and put the seeds on a plate on top of your fridge for a few days until they dry out. Package them up and save them until spring when you are ready to plant.

Save seeds in the fall from veggies from your garden. Scroll down to the bottom of the page on this link for instructions on exactly how to save seeds from common vegetables.

Don’t buy expensive seed starter packages. If you want to start seeds early, you can use your own dirt in recycled containers or paper egg cartons in front of a sunny window. You can sow many seeds outdoors directly into the garden when it is warm enough and avoid seed starting altogether.

Plant your own annual flowers from seed for planters, hanging baskets, and window boxes instead of buying packs of flowers or preplanted containers.

If you buy plants, buy small instead of spending more for larger plants. Your small plants will grow and fill in just beautifully in time.

Use groundcover plants under trees and shrubs and around objects instead of paying for mulch. Check this out.

Get free plants from cuttings, divisions, shoots, etc. If you are interested in a certain plant, there are many resources online available to show you how the plant reproduces.

Share and trade your plants and seeds. You can do this with friends and family or on many online gardening websites or Freecycle.com.

Perennial plants are plants that come up every year. Annuals die off in winter and you have to buy new ones. Plant more perennials.

To develop easy and inexpensive new beds, check out lasagna gardening.

If you don’t have much space for your garden, check out square foot gardening.

You don’t need expensive tools or equipment most of the time. What you need: A shovel, a hand trowel, a rake, and pruners. You may also need twine and stakes (sticks) for certain plants that require support. If you need an expensive tool, borrow one or rent one and split the rental fee with a neighbor.

You may need to amend your soil. Take the time to get a soil sample test done so you know exactly what to add and how much. This will save you time and money in the long run.

Make a hidden area on your property into a compost pile for grass clippings, leaves, kitchen waste, etc.  If you have rabbits, their droppings can go directly into the garden. If you have chickens, goats, etc., then you have to compost their droppings first or they will be too strong and burn your plants.

Look for sales on plants, seeds, and bulbs at the end of season. Seeds and bulbs can typically last more than one year so you can save them until you are ready to use them.

Conserve water. You can gather rainwater in barrels or containers from your downspouts to use in the garden. A soaker hose will also conserve water as opposed to spraying. It is best to water first thing in the morning.

Learn about each plant you put in so that you can care for it correctly. There are lots of resources online. My favorite forum is GardenWeb.com. There are many experts there who can help you with any questions or problems you might have.


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