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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Food Budget Plan Under Sixty-six Dollars

After the first ever post I did for a weekly meal plan that included a shopping list with approximate costs, I failed to add the recipe links. Anything you see underlined will link you to my recipes right here on this blog. It is my hope that it simplifies your life.

Print the recipes out and save in a booklet. You may want to print out this actual menu plan post along with the first three I did and save this as well. Then when I have posted enough of them, you will be able to revert back to them time and time again.

Basically I look at 6 days worth of dinners and shopping all over on the 7th day. This particular menu plan is based on feeding 2 adults and 2 children.
This meal plan is different from the first one in that it provides 7 complete dinner ideas to take you from Sunday to Saturday with full meals.

The pricing is based on my local grocery store. You may spend less or more depending on where you shop and I urge you to use your coupons where applicable and take advantage of the store's discounts for the week. Feel free to adapt this basic plan to suit your family. This post is really to give you a solid base for menu planning. I have made all of the dinners listed here and have provided my cost for each dinner. ***EXCEPTION***
***This week I have a guest blog recipe. "Corn Chowder" by Annemarie Flynn Rossi of Real Food. Real Deals.***
  • SUNDAY DINNER: Baked Ham (Butt or shank portion) with glaze, cauliflower gratin, baked potatoes $20.86
  • MONDAY DINNER: Toasted Cheese Raviolis with Italian Sausage $10.62 with salad $13.61
  • TUESDAY DINNER: Inside Outside Omelets with left over Ham (in place of the bacon) $5.65
  • WEDNESDAY DINNER: BLT salad - romaine lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and ranch dressing $6.49 or add croutons for $8.85 (Recipe = 8 slices cooked bacon - cut up, 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce, 1 cup diced tomato, home made croutons a bit of ranch dressing - toss together in a large bowl
  • THURSDAY DINNER:  Egg Salad Sandwiches (use up the Easter eggs),with pineapple slices $5.47
  • FRIDAY DINNER: Corn Chowder $5.54 by guest blogger Annemarie
  • SATURDAY DINNER: Home made pizzas with sauce, sausage and cheese $5.49 or Hawaiian Pizza with ham and pineapple $2.99
The highlights to this budget meal plan:
  1. Make a large enough batch of red sauce to be used in two dinners.
  2. Our store offered 2 for $5.00 on the pineapples. Use the pineapple with the ham, along side the egg salad sandwiches and on the Hawaiian Pizza.
  3. Buy the least expensive shank or butt ham on sale for Easter dinner, then use it in the Inside Outside Omelets or in a quiche or fritatta.
  4. The egg salad cost was based on using 8 eggs which you already have from your colored Easter eggs.
  5. The romaine lettuce hearts on sale for $2.99 for a package of three - used for the BLT salad and a side salad with the ravioli dinner if you like, or use on the egg salad sandwiches.
  6. At the end of a busy week you can get store bought pizza dough for about $1.49 for a bag and make sausage and cheese pizzas, or if there still is left over ham and fresh pineapple, make a Hawaiian Pizza.
  7. If you have left over bread from Easter - use that to make the croutons for the BLT salad if you want to add them to that dish.
  8. Buy one Mexican blend shredded cheese used in the cauliflower gratin and the Inside Outside Omelets.
  9. Any extra ham can be used for sandwiches, the ham bone can be used to make ham stock for a future soup - Lentil Soup with Ham, Ham and Cannelini Bean Soup, etcetera.
Now onto the major components needed in the dishes:
  • 10 - 10 1/2 lb. shank or butt portion ham
  • 1 1/2 lbs. Italian sausage
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 head cauliflower (I used orange - whatever color you wish)
  • 4 green bell peppers
  • 1 bag baking potatoes - or single russet potatoes
  • 2 lbs. red potatoes (for the chowder)
  • 1 package of Hearts of Romaine Lettuce (3 to a package)
  • 2-3 carrots (for the chowder)
  • 1-2 large onions
  • 3 ears of corn, if available - or buy frozen or canned corn (for the chowder)
  • 1 bag frozen raviolis
  • pizza dough
  • spaghetti sauce
  • mayonnaise
  • ranch dressing mix
  • panko bread crumbs
  • oil
  • butter
  • milk
  • 1 - 8 oz. bag Mexican cheese blend
  • 48 oz. box chicken stock
  • orange juice
  • pineapple juice
  • light brown sugar
You may have some of these ingredients on hand already. If I have left any major component out of this, please excuse me if I made an error. This budget is a good one. When I figured the total cost I took the higher cost when I offered a choice. Costing each dinner out this weeks plan worked out to: $65.47. I find that the plan is a good one in that it still leaves room for $34.53 for other grocery needs to keep it at or around $100.00 per week.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mini Cauliflower Gratins

What a wonderful discovery I made when I first purchased the orange variety of cauliflower. Maybe it's all in our heads, but my husband and I are convinced the flavor is better. Looking at this gratin it looks like macaroni and cheese. So I got to thinking that if you are trying to incorporate vegetables in a dish where your kids won't know it's in there, what a perfect vegetable to add in to a macaroni and cheese casserole! In fact you could duplicate this recipe and just cook up a little bit of pasta to toss in along with it - something like a cellentani or curly elbow would be great to use.
This recipe made 4 servings in 8 oz. ramekins. You can toss this all into a larger casserole dish to bake instead of using ramekins. And if you need to feed more than four, double the amount of every ingredient.
Deep, creamy and rich in flavor this was a delicious side dish that cost a whopping $3.23 to make! Serves four at 80¢ per serving.
One thing you have to remember is that the cauliflower is going in raw so when you rough chop be sure to break it down to small pieces. And as with all vegetables, they contain lots of natural water so when these bake the cauliflower is going to release some of that liquid into the dish which helps to keep it creamy.
  • 1/3 head orange cauliflower - approximately 2 1/2 cups (liquid measure) chopped small
  • 1 1/4 cups milk + extra to drizzle in over assembled gratins
  • 1 cup (dry measure) shredded Mexican blend cheese 
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp.white pepper
  • Shortening - to grease each ramekin or the casserole dish
  1. Take 1/3 of the cauliflower and remove all of the heavy stems - you want the florets. Give that a rough chop until you end up with small pieces and place them in a bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium sauce pot over medium low heat, melt the butter. While the butter is melting, if you have a microwave warm 1 cup milk for 40 seconds.
  3. To the melted butter add the flour in and keep whisking over medium low heat for 3-4 minutes until you work out the raw flour taste. You are making a roux.
  4. When the roux is ready, turn the heat up to medium and slowly add the 1 cup of warm milk whisking as you go and fully incorporating it. The mixture immediately starts to thicken so keep adding the milk and turn the heat back down to low and incorporate all the milk with the roux- whisking constantly.
  5. Pull the pot off the heat, add in the cheese, salt and pepper and whisk over low heat until it's melted, pull off the heat entirely and whisk in the 1/4 cup milk.
  6. Take about 1/2 cup of the cheese sauce and mix with the raw cauliflower you have in a bowl.
  7. Grease each ramekin (or the baking dish) generously with a shortening.
  8. Fill each ramekin, top with some more of the cheese sauce. To each ramekin add an extra 1-2 tablespoons of milk to keep the sauce creamy and not have the casserole get dried out, despite the fact that the cauliflower is going to release some water of it's own.
  9. Place the ramekins on a foil lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 325° oven or toaster oven, loosely tented with foil for about 50-60 minutes until the cauliflower is done and the dish is bubbling. Test the cauliflower with a sharp knife.

Last thoughts: I think this would make a fabulous side dish for Easter Dinner. What a colorful, scrumptious side dish to go along side a Baked Ham! The Mexican blend cheese was on sale last week at $2.00 per bag so I picked up two bags. You can use any kind of cheddar you want, but this blend was super in the recipe and lent color as it was white and orange cheese.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spicy Maple Glazed Chicken Wings

Every once in a while I just get a craving for chicken wings, my favorite part of the chicken actually. Despite the fact I had a $3.00 off coupon (which translates cook this product today), paying $11.56 for a package of 16 wings - when split, 32 portions still seems like too much. 72¢ for the whole wing or 36¢ per portion. But I have to have them. Have to. And today I am also that craving heat and sweet combination.
  • 1 package wings - separate the wing and drummette portions, save the wing tips for stock
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • granulated garlic to taste
  • onion powder to taste
  • olive oil - just enough to drizzle over the wings
  • cooking spray
  1. Line a large sheet pan (or two smaller ones) with aluminum foil. Generously spray the foil with a non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Wash the chicken wings under cold water. Dry with paper towels.
  3. Split the wings by removing the wing tip and freeze those in freezer bags or other containers and save for making chicken stock. Then separate the wing and drummette portions.
  4. Place all the wing sections in a large bowl and season quite liberally with salt and black pepper, onion powder and granulated garlic. Toss them to coat the wings and allow them marinate together for a while in the refrigerator while you make the basting sauce.
  5. While the wings are marinating, combine the maple syrup and cayenne pepper in a small sauce pot. Stir. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly and turn the heat down as necessary because it will bubble just like caramel does. DO NOT LEAVE THE STOVE OR THAT POT UNATTENDED. Reduce the sauce by half. Takes about 5 minutes. Allow the sauce to cool down and it will be syrupy and thick.
  6. Lay the wings and drummettes on the foiled lined baking sheet, skin side down first and drizzle with a little bit of the oil over the wings.
  7. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for about 15 minutes, flip over and bake for 5 more minutes. Total 20 minutes.
  8. When you take the wings out after twenty minutes you can flip them back over to skin side up and baste them, or put the wings into a large bowl, pour the sauce over and toss to coat.
  9. Place the wings back on the sheet pan and bake for another 10 minutes until the glaze had formed a nice crust on the wings. If they seem to be burning, turn the heat down to 375° or loosely cover with some foil over the top so they cook but don't burn.
You should end up with fully cooked, juicy, tender wings with that succulent flavor of a bit of sweet and feel a slight kick of heat from the cayenne pepper.
Serve these up with a fresh garden salad and it becomes a complete meal. Or have them for game time munchies.

My total cost for our dinner was $15.42 and enough for five (2 adults, 3 children) for $3.08 per person.