Wednesday Shopping & Weekly Menu Plan 10/27-11/2 2016

Hi all! It is Wednesday (although you will read this on Thursday) and I am getting ready to tackle my weekly Aldi trip. I am far more more optimistic this week. Last week’s list was 2 pages. This week’s is less than a page! We had a few Food Fairies ship us random things; meat, flour, canned coconut milk, taco shells….
I also have pantry items I will be using. I created this week’s menu around what we have. There are two “glitches” to our food budget this week. Today (Wednesday) Marco came home from work with Chicken Curry! This did NOT come from our food budget, but from a different part of our budget. This means tonight’s planned meal will be moved to tomorrow. I already have everything for that meal so that really helped my planning! Friday is Princess’s birthday. We will splurge and I will make pizza and cake!

Aldi had several insane deals. I bought 10 bags of baby carrots becasue they were 49¢ each! On Saturday I have 2 vegetables listed. My kids have never had acorn squash; but the sale price was 59¢. I decided now is the time to buy and try. I know that I like it, but we shall see what the rest think. We will also have peas just in case people aren’t thrilled with the new dish.

I opted to buy the coconut water for the November swim meet now instead of later. It is an Aldi Special Buy and $1 cheaper than the cheapest at any other store. We use coconut water instead of Gatorade or Powerade. Much healthier and, frankly, tastes better. Although not on the list this week, I saved us $4 in the long run.

I had 2 pantry items ont he list this week: oregano and brown sugar. I bought dates for my holiday baking (I make a paste with them). Birthday treats also made the list. These items aren’t weekly buys.

A few reminders:

Lunches are vegetables and fruit. I buy frozen vegetables unless I can snag better deals on fresh. I cook the frozen veggies in ways that bring out the best quality and taste possible. Fruit is always decided at the store. I look at prices and then decide between fresh, canned, or frozen. When I buy canned, I buy ones in their own juices.

I plan for 3 meals a day and 2 snacks. We do not do a morning snack, but instead eat an earlier lunch. My plans are for 7 people, except lunch and snacks. Lunch is for 6 people (Mark eats at work for free) and snacks for 5 (the kids). Every Friday Mark brings home rotisserie chicken from his work. He gets a great deal and it is so much better than the stuff they sell at the store. This is NOT part of our food budget.*This week he will not buy this*

On Tuesdays we have homeschool co-op. We have to have lunch to-go. This has upped our Tuesday food cost a little bit.

I try to keep cheese sticks and 100% fruit bars and dried fruit in the house for those days when you are just so hungry you need a bit more food. These are not everyday foods so when I buy them they do last longer than a week.

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Aldi Special Buy. Medley Potatoes! The purples are so beautiful! 

Breakfast
Yogurt & GF Squash Muffins
Homemade Coconut Yogurt for Elf
Egg for me instead of muffin

Lunch
Fruit everyday (grapes until they are gone and then apples)

(Thurs) Oven Roasted Green Beans
(Fri) Honey-Glazed Carrots
(Sat) Roasted Acron Squash w/ Cinnamon and/or Peas & Onions w/ salt & pepper
(Sun) Garlic Butter Carrots
(Mon) Curried California Blend
(Tues) Rice Cakes w/ Spreads
(Wed) Balsamic Roasted Carrots

Snack
Grape Tomatoes, Baby Carrots, or No Bake Cranberry Bites & Tea

Dinner
(Thurs) Naked Burritos
(Fri) Pizza
(Sat) Vegetable Fried Rice
(Sun) Loaded Baked Potato Soup
(Mon) Roast Turkey, Roasted Heirloom Poatotoes, Roasted Carrots
(Tues) Chili
(Wed) Tacos

Snack
(Thurs) Jell-O
(Fri) Homemade Popsicle
(Sat) Jell-O
(Sun) Homemade Popsicle
(Mon) Jell-O
(Tues) Homemade Popsicle
(Wed) Jell-O

I had numerous things in my house already. Here is my shopping list with prices

ALDI:

$2.99 x 4 Coconut Water (swim meet food)
$1.28 Applesauce Cups 6-pack (co-op food)
$1.29 Rice Cakes (co-op food)
$2.99 Apple Cider (special buy)
99¢ x 2 Red Potatoes 5 lbs (sale)
59¢ Acorn Squash (sale)
$2.99 x 2 Medley Potatoes (special buy)
49¢ x 10 Baby Carrots (sale)
15¢ x 2 Limes (sale)
$1.16 Bananas (44¢/lb)
99¢ x 3 Grape Tomatoes (sale)
$1.98 x 3 Green Grapes 2 lbs (sale)
$1.89 Dates 8 oz (seasonal)
39¢ x 48 Yogurt Cups
$3.49 Greek Yogurt 32 oz (instead of sour cream for burritos, soup, & tacos)
$1.39 x 2 Prince Edward Medley (frozen vegetable) *price drop!*
$1.39 x 2 Fozen Green Beans *price drop!*
95¢ x 4 Frozen Sweet Peas
$5.89 Shredded Mozzerella Cheese 2 lbs (for pizza)
$2.69 Sharp Shredded Cheese (for potato soup)
$2.69 Mexican Shredded Cheese (for burritos & tacos)
$3.89 Prunes 1 lb 2 oz
$1.19 Oregano
99¢ Confecioner’s Sugar (birthday)
99¢ Brown Sugar
$2.49 x 2 Breakfast Sausage (birthday)
$1.25 Fudge Mint Cookies (for Marco)

Total: $99.36

WALMART:
$1.94 Pepperoni (for pizzas)
$1.72 Pizza Sauce (there was cheaper, but the is the only allergy friendly one)
$2.18 x 2 So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Milk 1 quart (the kids have been begging me for milk to drink)
$5.98 x2 Bird’s Eye California Blend 60 oz bag (this large bag is far cheaper than even Aldi!)

Total: $19.98

Goal: $100 (but I wanted to try to stick to $88.17 to cover last week’s overage)
Paid: $119.34

Overage this month:$31.17

If I had paid better attention I could have bought 6 less yogurt and 2 less peas. I didn’t have to buy Mark cookies. He rolled his eyes at me for doing this. I also now realize I could have done without one of the California Blands as I had bought lots of carrots. I could have therefore saved myself $11.47.

Things on my list I didn’t buy: I bought everything!

What have I learned? I still have work to do on meeting my weekly goal. I learned the desire to impulse buy is strong (like those cookies). The journey is hard, but community (friends and family) make it easier. I have learned to better calculate our needs. I over bought this week, but this means I will already have some items for next week!  My goal is to keep the kids on a healthy diet. I despise the fact I cannot let them eat whenever they want, but I am reminded we do have far more food than most people. I am trying to focus on the fact that maybe this will help someone cut their food budget down and/or give them meal ideas.

~Andrea

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Millet Congee

Millet Congee is one of those recipes I randomly found years ago when I had an over abundance of millet. It is a fairly inexpensive meal, hearty, and full of your favorite fall flavors. This is almost a porridge. The sweet potatoes aren’t mushy, but nice and soft, and the apples are crisp and add that extra texture needed to make this a wonderful eating experience. My SPD kid has no trouble eating these textures.
The taste is sweet and savory rolled together. I add a pinch of cayenne pepper and I find it really brings this dish full circle.
This healthy comfort food is vegetarian (with a meat option for you carnivores) and free of all the top 8 food allergens, including corn. This is one of my kids’ favorite meals. I double the recipe for my family of 7. We do end up with leftovers. Leftovers are usually my lunch the next day or 2 so this is a good thing.  There are a few notes at the end, make sure you read them! When I add the honey at the end I just drizzle-pour it in so I do not have an accurate measurement. Always taste your food and add more salt, honey, etc as needed!

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Ingredients for my doubled recipe. I only used 2 apples.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup hulled millet
  • 1-2 sweet potato peeled & diced (about 1 C)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 cups broth, water, or a mixture of the 2
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt (I use Pink Himalayan)
  • 1-2 apples diced (about 1 C)
  • honey to taste ( about 1/4 C)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

What Next?

  1. Rinse and drain the millet.
  2. Combine millet, liquid, sweet potato, ginger, cinnamon, and brown sugar, & salt in a deep pot.
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stir often until the liquid is absorbed; about 1 hour.
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. Add apples & honey

Recipe Notes:

  1. If you choose you can add bacon crumbles tot he top. If you do this OMIT the salt! I add the salt to replace the bacon.
  2. My husband tossed a handful of raisins in bowl and really enjoyed it!
  3. If you would rather use your slow cooker, grease your cooker (trust me), reduce liquid by 1 cup, and cook on high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
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    Millet Congee. 

    ~Andrea

Wednesday Shopping & Weekly Menu Plan 10/20-10/26 2016

I shop on Wednesday evenings. It is my alone time while the boys are across the road at youth group. How convenient that our church is 2 minutes away from Aldi!

Because I shop on Wednesdays I meal plan Thursday-Wednesday. I know, I know. It is odd, but it works for us since Wednesday is the easiest and most convenient time for me to shop.

I am on a very, very tight budget. A bit suffocating, but I manage it. My budget just took another hit and while I am in transition I am frustrated. A dear friend told me she is very interested in my meal plans and shopping habits, especially considering our overly-tight budget. I manage to make meals happen for a food-restricted family without breaking the bank. I told her I will try really hard to post once a week about my menu and shopping from now on.

A few things you should know:
Lunches are vegetables and fruit. I buy frozen vegetables unless I can snag better deals on fresh. I cook the frozen veggies in ways that bring out the best quality and taste possible. Fruit is always decided at the store. I look at prices and then decide between fresh, canned, or frozen. When I buy canned, I buy ones in their own juices.
I plan for 3 meals a day and 2 snacks. We do not do a morning snack, but instead eat an earlier lunch. My plans are for 7 people, except lunch and snacks. Lunch is for 6 people (Mark eats at work for free) and snacks for 5 (the kids). Every Friday Mark brings home rotisserie chicken from his work. He gets a great deal and it is so much better than the stuff they sell at the store. This is NOT part of our food budget.
On Tuesdays we have homeschool co-op. We have to have lunch to-go. This has upped our Tuesday food cost a little bit.
I try to keep cheese sticks and 100% fruit bars and dried fruit in the house for those days when you are just so hungry you need a bit more food. These are not everyday foods so when I buy them they do last longer than a week.
This week’s plan is a bit off as the 3 oldest kids and I will be away at a swim meet all day on Sunday. This means extra snacks as the kids are far hungrier and need more energy on swim meet days. Sunday’s dinner is for Marco and the 2 little ones. I have yet to figure out what the swimmers and I will eat.

Breakfast
Yogurt GF Squash Muffins
Fruit for Elf instead of yogurt
Egg for me instead of muffin

Lunch
Fruit everyday

(Thurs) Oven Roasted Green Beans
(Fri) Curried California Mix
(Sat) Peas & Onions w/ salt & pepper
(Sun) GF Mac & Cheese**
Lettuce Roll-Up**
(Mon) Cheesy California Mix
(Tues) Rice Cakes w/ Spreads
(Wed) Honey-Glazed Carrots

Snack
No Bake Cranberry Bites & Tea

Dinner
(Thurs) Colcannon
(Fri) Chicken, Rice, Prince Edward Medley
(Sat) Refried Bean Burritos
(Sun) GF Pasta
(Mon) Millet Congee
(Tues) White Bean Stew
(Wed) Naked Burritos

Snack
(Thurs) Jell-O
(Fri) Homemade Popsicle
(Sat) Jell-O
(Sun) Homemade Popsicle
(Mon) Jell-O
(Tues) Homemade Popsicle
(Wed) Jell-O

I had numerous things in my house already. Here is my shopping list with prices

ALDI:

$1.99 Honey Roasted Peanuts (swim meet food)
95¢ x 2 Gummi Bears (swim meet food)
$2.99 Natural Ham Deli Meat (swim meet food)
$1.29 Iceberg Lettuce (swim meet food)
$1.99 x 2 Organic Chewy Bars (swim meet & co-op food)
$1.49 x 2 Applesauce Cups 6-pack (swim meet & co-op food)
$1.29 Rice Cakes (co-op food)
$1.49 x 4 Gala Apples 3 lbs each
$1.69 Sweet Potato 3 lbs
$1.79 Yellow Onions 3 lbs
$1.79 Green Peppers 3-pack
$2.99 Multi-Colored Peppers 3-pack
$1.21 Bananas (44¢/lb)
$1.29 Celery
99¢ Flat Leaf Spinach (bag)
99¢ Green Onions 5.5 oz bag
$2.99 Coconut Spread (Elf-safe butter)
$2.83 Whole Milk 1 gallon (for the 2 big boys for after swim, I add protein powder which is                NOT part of the food budget)
39¢ x 24 Yogurt Cups (yes, I pay for convenience, but the price is really good)
$2.99 Organic Yogurt 32 oz (for when we run out of the cups)
$2.99 Apple Wood Smoked Cheese
$1.59 x 2 Prince Edward Medley (frozen vegetable)
$1.99 Quick Oats (I am very risky & do not buy GF even though I know I should, but $ talks)
$1.89 Unsweet Applesauce (this is our egg replacer for the muffins
$1.79 x 2 Vegetable Broth (I am out of our homemade stuff)
$2.89 GF Pasta
$1.19 x 2 Gluten Free Mac & Cheese
$3.99 Coconut oil (I was out)
$1.49 Natural Creamy Peanut Butter (cheapest corn-free I have able to find)
$1.99 Pumpkin Butter (this is an Aldi Special Buy and I thought the change would be nice)
$1.99 Fruit Spread (this is the cheapest corn-free jelly I have able to find)
$1.69 Great Northern Beans (dried 32 oz)
$1.69 Popcorn Kernels (Aldi does not carry these year round so I buy them when I can)

Total: $85.03

WALMART:
2.32 x 2 Celestial Seasoning Tea (less $1/2 coupon)
$2.67 x 2 CheeseHeads Cheese Sticks 10-pack (less 2 $1/1 coupons)
$8.86 Cabot White Cheddar Cheese 2 lbs
$4.98 Log Cabin All Natural Table Syrup 22 fl oz (cheaper than pure maple syrup and only other corn-free alternative I have found
$5.98 Bird’s Eye California Blend 60 oz bag (this large bag is far cheaper than even Aldi!)

Total: $26.80

Goal: $100
Paid: $111.83

If I had cut out the “splurge” items (gummi bears, smoked cheese, and pumpkin butter) I would have saved myself $6.88. I still would have been $4.95 over my goal.

Things on my list I didn’t buy: 4 cans full fat coconut milk (to make Elf coconut yogurt), coconut milk beverage half-gallon, 1 sea salt peanuts, chicken stock (they were out), gluten-free flour, smoked paprika, gluten free tortillas, snacking peppers (they were out), 2 pomegranates, 2 mangoes, microwave popcorn (for after swim practice), sausage (Aldi has a good one with no nitrates and ingredients I can read).

So what have I learned? I have learned I still have work to do on meeting my goal and that it will be a really hard journey. My goal is to keep the kids on a healthy diet. I despise the fact I cannot let them eat whenever they want, but I am reminded we do have far more food than most people. I am trying to focus on the fact that maybe this will help someone cut their food budget down or give them meal ideas.

~Andrea

Loaded Potato Soup (Slow Cooker Recipe)

I have had several friends ask me for my Loaded Potato Soup recipe, so here it is! This is amazing! One of the best dishes I have ever made, maybe even the best! It is thick, creamy, hearty, and full of flavor. I hope y’all enjoy it as much as we do!

Prep: about 15 minutes
Cook time: varies; 4-8 hours (refer to step #3)

A few disclaimers:

*I stink at taking the time to do accurate measurements unless I am baking. My estimates are fairly spot-on, but they are not 100%. I will give you my best estimates of what I do, but you may need to adjust accordingly.

*This is NOT dairy-free (some of you expect this). Since my little Elf did her food challenge we can keep milk in the house with no issue. She still does not actually eat dairy though, so she gets Lentil Soup (which she loves).

*You do not have to use the same potatoes I did. Russets would work just as well. I have russets for a different dish this week though so I opted to use Yellow Yukon. The flavor was amazing!

*All of my ingredients (aside from the butter, starch, & salt) were bought at Aldi. This is not a disclaimer, but I thought you would like to know where to buy items 😀

*This is free of gluten, egg, soy, nuts (peanut & tree nut), seafood. Contains milk. This is vegetarian if you do not top with bacon.

*Excuse the picture quality. I was not originally intending on posting this recipe, but people went nuts for it!

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Loaded Potato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 3-pound bag of Yellow Yukon potatoes; peeled & cubed (about 1/2”)
  • 3 stalks of celery; diced
  • 1 onion; diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic; minced (I used my garlic press)
  • (about) 1 ½ containers of Vegetable Broth (I use Aldi Simply Nature 32 oz carton)
  • ¼ C of butter (I use Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread)
  • (about) 1 C of grated Parmesan Cheese
  • (about) 3/4 of a 12-oz bag of Sharp Shredded Cheese
  • about ½ tsp white ground pepper (you can use black, I just didn’t want black specks)
  • 1 tsp salt (I used Pink Himalayan)
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • (about) 3T tapioca starch (do not add right away!)

Toppings:

  • plain Greek yogurt (you can use sour cream, but I recommend the yogurt)
  • (about) 1 C scallions; chopped (I keep scallions in my freezer in a plastic container so I always have them on hand. Buy, chop, freeze!)
  • shredded cheese (the rest of the bag from above)
  • red pepper flakes
  • bacon (I splurged and bought a nitrate-free package of bacon at Aldi. I baked it and then chopped it**)
  • whatever else you may like on your loaded potato

What Next?

  1. Make sure potatoes, celery, onion, and garlic are peeled, chopped, diced, minced, etc. and put them in your slow cooker.
  2. Add broth, butter, Parmesan Cheese, shredded cheese, pepper, salt, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Stir.
  3. Set slow cooker to HIGH and cook for about 4 hours OR
    Set slow cooker to LOW for 8 hours OR
    Set slow cooker to HIGH for 1 hour and turn to LOW for 6 hours (this is what I did)
  4. About 20-30 minutes before serving, add the Tapioca Starch to thicken the broth. I used a tablespoon at a time and lightly sprinkled the starch over the broth. I stirred to combine after each tablespoon for a total of 3x.
  5. Let it sit and cook and thicken for a little while prepping the toppings.
    *baking, cool, & chop bacon
    *chop scallions or pull them from freezer and place in a bowl
    *etc.
  6. Take your immersion blender (seriously, y’all need this kitchen staple. If you do not have one then use a potato masher, but it will be more work) and blend soup. I opted to leave it a bit chunky. I blended and stirred and checked and blended some more until it was the consistency I wanted (small chunks). I didn’t want super smooth and I didn’t wanted big chunks.
  7. Serve! Add some scallions, grated cheese, bacon pieces, and a dollop of Greek yogurt to the top and you have a beautiful dish!

**Baking bacon:
Put foil on baking pan (makes clean up easier), lay bacon on it, bake at 350 until crispy (about 20-30 minutes), turn the pan 180 halfway through baking time. Voila!

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Bon appetit!
~Andrea