Monday – Lunch and Dinner

Filed under :Dinner Costs, Extreme Frugal Meter, LEFTOVERS!, Lunch Costs, Meal Costs

For lunch today, we took the easy way out and just had turkey and cheese sandwiches :-)   The cost for sandwiches made at home is very frugal LOL!    For us:

$0.48 — 4 slices of bread at 12 cents each

$1.12 — 1/4 lb of lunch meat (1/8 of a lb on each sandwich) at 56 cents per 1/8 lb

$0.26 — 2 slices of cheese at 13 cents per slice

$1.86 — Total for lunch for 2 adults

I didn’t cunt the cost of the mayo.

I had a question from a reader who asked what we drink with our meals.  We are drinking filtered tap water :-)   My husband and I both have a time drinking the recommended amount of water per day, so drinking water with our meals really helps.

For dinner tonight, it’s leftover black-eyed peas with ham :-)   And that cost is 70 cents each for a total of $1.40 for dinner for both of us.


Monday Morning Breakfast (Cyber Monday)

Filed under :Breakfast Costs, Extreme Frugal Meter, FRUGAL METER, Meal Costs, Meal Planning

Well this morning is a bit dreary and overcast.  Rain is in the forecast for tonight – finally!  We have been in a drought situation for about two months so rain will definitely help the situation and threat of woods fires.

As I continue to document and track food costs, it also gives me a chance to look more closely at how much money we are spending and where there are opportunities to reduce costs.  One of the immediate things I noticed was how incredibly expensive it is to eat out versus cooking at home!  In some cases, one meal for a person cooked at home is less than the cost of a soda when eating out.

So, this morning’s tally of breakfast costs for two adults:

  • $2.24 — 1/2 lb of Conecuh Sausage
  • $0.75 — 3 eggs
  • $0.40 — 2 biscuits
  • $3.39 — Total or about $1.70 per person

Analysis:  Today’s breakfast was a bit more expensive since we had the 1/2 package of Conecuh sausage.  But, I cooked more sausage because I only had 3 eggs (we usually eat 2 eggs each).  Plus my husband loves sausage :-)      Instead of just baking the two biscuits, I went ahead and baked an entire pan of biscuits (it takes just as much electricity for an entire pan as it does just 2).  So I will put these into ziplock bags and place in the refrigerator to go with other meals in the next couple of days.  For the price of the eggs, I always purchase the free range eggs so I pay a little bit more for those.

Back to the sausage — I will add Tennessee Pride Mild Sausage Patties (30 ct box) to my grocery list.  This would have been a better and more economical choice for breakfast this morning to go with the eggs and biscuits.  Each sausage patty cost is only about 26 cents each.

While $3.39 isn’t a bad cost for breakfast for two adults ($1.70 each), our breakfast costs could have been even lower:

  • $0.52 — 2 sausage patties
  • $1.00 – 4 eggs
  • $0.40 — 2 biscuits
  • $1.92 — Total or about $0.96 per person

I will be adding more eggs and the Tennessee Pride Sausage Patties to my grocery list :-)    How cool is it to get breakfast costs for an adult below $1!

 


Sunday Dinner – Making Use of Thanksgiving Leftovers (Ham)

Filed under :Extreme Frugal Meter, Meal Planning

Today we are making use of leftovers from Thanksgiving :-)

We have large family gatherings for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.  It’s always nice to be able to take the time to spend with our families at the holidays.  And, food is an important part of our celebrations.   To ensure we have enough food for everyone, we always cook much more than what we know we will need.

Part of the cleanup after Thanksgiving dinner was putting away the leftovers.   We always purchase spiral cut hams (bone-in) because they seem to have the best taste.

I package up ham leftovers in ziplock freezer bags with enough to make a pot of beans.  So this year I ended up with 6 packages of ham and 1 package that contained the ham bone with some meat.   I froze all of the packages of ham except for one that I saved in the refrigerator to make a pot of black-eyed peas for today.

So our Sunday dinner costs are as follows:

Pot of Beans:

$1.48 — Great Value Black-eyed Peas from WalMart 16 oz bag

$0.68 — Great Value Diced Tomatoes w/Green Chilies 10 oz can

$0.16 — Chicken Bouillon Cubes (from Sam’s Club) QTY 4 cubes

Dill Weed / Salt for additional seasoning

 

Rice — I purchase the ParExcellence Premium Rice from Sam’s Club (10 lb or 25 lb).  I found that this is the best rice to pre-cook and then dehydrate to make instant rice.  I re-hydrated 1 cup of rice to go with our black-eyed peas.  I would estimate that the cup of rice costs no more than $0.50.  Next time I purchase rice from Sam’s to make instant rice with, I will price out the exact costs per cup.

After eating dinner, we have enough food for another meal – which we’ll be having for lunch tomorrow :-)    So, the total cost per person per meal was approximately 70 cents :-)   I didn’t count the cost of the ham since it was just leftover from Thanksgiving.   I love costing out the price of our meals and then comparing it to the cost of going out to eat.  It’s amazing how much money you can save by cooking your meals and eating at home.


Don’t Throw Away That Pumpkin!

Filed under :Extreme Frugal Meter, Food Storage, Freezer

So, you’ve got a nice orange pumpkin on your hands – left over from Halloween and Thanksgiving.  You’ve used it to decorate with… now what?  Well, first of all you need to consider the pumpkin as FOOD!  Yes, don’t throw it away – imagine it as pumpkin pies and other great tasting items.  But, you ask, how do I take it from a PUMPKIN to a form that I can use it in for cooking?  Easy….

First, wash the pumpkin off with dishwashing liquid and a dish rag, then rinse it very well to remove all of the soap – you want the outside of the pumpkin to be nice and clean.  Make sure that your pumpkin doesn’t have any bad spots on it!   Now, use the largest knife you can find with a “sawing-type” blade (these are the knifes that you use to slice bread with).   Start cutting your pumpkin up into large pieces and remove the seeds from the middle (save them and I’ll show you what to do with them later).   After you’ve removed the seeds, cut the large pieces of pumpkin into smaller pieces that are about 4 to 6 inches square in size.  Take a paring knife and then remove the “strings” that are still attached to the meat of the pumpkin just by thinly cutting it off.   Remember, the inside part of the pumpkin that you are not going to eat can be fed to your chickens!  They will love it.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering, you do not have to peel the skin of the pumpkin off.

Now, place the chunks of pumpkin into a big pot of boiling water and bring the water back to a boil (make sure that you have enough water in the pot to cover the pumpkin).  DO NOT SALT THE WATER!  When the water comes back to a boil, set your timer for about 8 minutes and reduce the temperature to “Medium” and  place a lid on your pot.  The lid will allow you to use less energy to cook the pumpkin.  When your timer has gone off, check the pumpkin to make sure that you can pierce the flesh with a fork – the meat of the pumpkin should be soft.  Remove the pumpkin from the pot of water and let it drain and cool in  a strainer.

When your pumpkin has cooled down, then you can remove the skin very easily!  Place the pumpkin “meat” into a bowl and mash it up.  We’ll be placing 1 cup of mashed pumpkin into each Ziplock freezer bag and freezing the pumpkin for use later in several different recipes.  If  your recipe calls for 1 cup of mashed pumpkin, then we’ll use 1 bag of frozen pumpkin, etc.   Now wasn’t that easy?  And, you have 100% fresh-frozen pumpkin to use in your families meals.

Now, what to do with the seeds?  Place them into a large bowl of water and gently squish them around to separate the seeds from the strings.  Then, remove the seeds and place on a paper towel.  You can dry the seeds and save some of them to plant in your garden next year, or, you can salt them and roast them in your oven for a nice snack.

I consider this as “moderate” on the frugal meter – but, you could also collect unwanted pumpkins from your neighbors and family and process them as well!   Then you’re taking it to the level of “extreme” :-)    Or, visit your local grocery store or fruit stand right before or after Halloween – pumpkins have been marked down and are very cheap!  It’s a great time to stock up!

 


Leftovers…. A Great Way to Stretch Food & Save Money

Filed under :Extreme Frugal Meter, Food Items, LEFTOVERS!

There are so many jokes about leftovers…. You’ve probably heard them all.    But American families throw away so much uneaten, edible food.  Throwing away leftover food is like throwing away money.

Did you know that I sometimes “overcook” just so I will have leftovers?  Why, you ask?  I’m going to list a couple of reasons and then expand on each one:

  • Cooking a little extra ensures that I will have a nice meal for DH to take to work for lunch the next day.  This saves our family so much money!  If I account for the cost of the original meal, then the leftovers are FREE and his lunch is FREE.  This is so much better than him having to leave work (cost of gas) and drive to the local greasy spoon or fast food drive thru for a quick burger and fries (at least $5).   Also, it’s less stressful for him – he can heat his food at work, go into his office and shut the door, and enjoy his lunch break without having to fight traffic or get out on extreme weather days (high temps, low temps, or even rainy weather).   By DH taking his lunch to work everyday, I figure we save around $1,250 per year!  This doesn’t even take into account that he’s eating much better, homecooked, healthy meals!
  • Cooking a little extra one day saves me time & energy the next day :-)    Yes, sometimes it cost just as much in electricity to cook 1 cup of something as it does to cook 2 cups of the same item.   Let me give you an idea – RICE.  I cook my rice in a rice cooker.  I always cook probably DOUBLE what we need for a meal and plan to save 1/2 of it for a meal later.  Rice is excellent to freeze in Ziplock bags too.   So for tonights meal, I cook 6 cups of rice (instead of just the 2 cups we plan to eat) and then I freeze 2 cups in a Ziplock bag (for a meal in the future) and save the last 2 cups in a Ziplock bag in the refrig for a meal to eat within 2 days.  It’s just as easy for me to cook those 6 cups as it would be to cook 2 cups.  And, for 3 meals with rice I only have 1 clean up of the rice cooker :-)    Oh, and did you know that you can microwave the refrigerated rice (or the frozen rice) and it will turn out just like it came out of the rice cooker the first time?   Also, many dishes call for pre-cooked rice – like fried rice or rice pudding.  So, it’s nice to have some in the freezer ready to go in a just few minutes.
  • Cooking a little extra one day,  saving it in the refrigerator and then AMENDING it a little, gives me a completely different meal the next day.  How about an example?  If we have baked chicken today, I will make sure to bake enough so that either the next day or the day after that (always within 2 days!) that I will have a meal that will utilize the extra chicken I baked.  There are 3 of us in our home – so, if we have baked chicken tonight, I will bake 8 chicken breasts.  We will eat 3 of them tonight, I will make a lunch plate for DH for the next day, and I will save the last 4 for a future meal that uses cooked chicken.  Some example meals for the extra baked chicken breast are chicken soup, chicken & dumplings, chicken spaghetti, chicken pot pie, and chicken fried rice.  See how I can transform the baked chicken into something completely different for the next meal?  Oh, if you noticed, I also pre-planned the extra chicken for the future meal to include enough for DH’s lunch the next day.  Once again I’m going to bring this up — NOTICE that I cooked all of the chicken in 1 baking dish and only had to wash that baking dish once and not twice :-)   Can you tell I’m not a fan of washing dishes?  And, it would basically take the same amount of electricity using the oven to bake 4 chicken breasts as it would to bake 8 chicken breasts, so you’re saving money on electricity too!

So plan on cooking extra and plan on having leftovers when you make out your meal list for the week.

How do you ensure that you DO NOT end up with a refrigerator full of leftovers?  Easy – make sure that you package and date all leftovers from meals before putting them up in the refrigerator.  AND, every day, check the refrigerator and get creative on meals that will use your leftovers.  Make sure that you consume all leftovers within 2 days!  If you follow these simple rules, you will not end up with a refrigerator full of leftovers to throw away.


Coffee, Anyone??

Filed under :Coffee, Extreme Frugal Meter, Food Storage

How many times have you made a larger pot of coffee than what you needed?  I personally have wasted so much coffee in the past!  And coffee isn’t cheap!   And definitely NOT when you’re pouring it down the drain.  So, this tip is going to show you how you can save money on your coffee purchases as well as save a little $$$ on electricity.

We’re going to get EXTREME on the FRUGAL METER!  First – ALWAYS make a FULL POT of coffee… never only make a portion of a pot.  Why?  Well, think about it for a little while…. you’re going to all the trouble to make it, so why not make the entire pot for your efforts?  Second, it’s just as easy to make a full pot as it is to make a 1/2 pot, right?  Keep this in mind – what you do not consume after initially brewing the pot of coffee is not going to go to waste :-)

Now, 2nd step is to pour your cup of coffee into your cup and turn off the coffee maker.  The coffee in the pot will continue to stay warm enough for you to have at least 2 cups of your favorite beverage :-)    If you decide you want cup #3, well, it’s so easy to pop your cup into the microwave for 20 seconds and warm it back up.  And, you’re not consuming electricity by just leaving the coffee pot turned on.  You’re also not COOKING your coffee with the coffee maker which makes it taste bitter and strong.

Let’s say that you’ve had a couple of cups of coffee and you still have plenty left over that is cool in your coffee pot.  Wait for it to cool down to room temperature and then pour it into a glass quart canning jar.  Then put the lid on (you can re-use a “used” canning lid) and put the rim/band on.  Put this in your refrigerator!

Tomorrow morning when you’re half asleep and craving a cup of coffee to wake you up, pour you a cup from the refrigerator and microwave it (test your microwave to determine the proper amount of time – since all microwaves are a little different) to your desired temperature.  Imagine having a piping hot cup of coffee in about a minute instead of waiting on the coffee maker to brew.  I personally cannot taste a difference in the refrigerated cup of coffee after it’s been reheated in the microwave.

And not only have you saved yourself some time, but you’ve saved some electricity and you get a day off from washing the coffee pot :-)

We drink a good bit of coffee around my house so the longest that I’ve kept brewed coffee refrigerated is 2 days.

Give this tip a try and see what you think!  Post your comments below – I’d love to know your results and opinions!