Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cooking in stages

If I want to stretch my grocery budget then it's necessary to cook from scratch which means time spent in the kitchen. The closer I get to 60 years old the less I'm enjoying all day cooking marathons. As a result I'm finding it helpful to do the heavier workload in the mornings and to stretch out my cooking over the day or week. I like to keep the sit down jobs for the afternoon so I'll work in the office or on my sewing projects.

When my children were home I used to do Once a Month Cooking. I'd make up my monthly menu of dinner meals and then spend a day or two cooking and freezing meals. It was so nice to just pull a dinner out of the freezer and just add a salad and veggie. This way of cooking came in very handy when we were homeschooling and running a home business.

I've started cooking lunch/dinner for my children and their families once a month. We've wanted to do this for years but all we did was talk about it. So now it's on the calendar. I've chosen to do the cooking to give my girls a break.  So cooking as much ahead of time comes in very handy.

My camellias are in bloom!

Here was this month's menu. Mind you ... this is not how we normally eat but it makes my husband happy to splurge once a month.

Make ahead mashed potatoes
Smothered Green Beans
Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Mom's bean dish
Fresh baked bread (from bakery)
Chocolate chip cookies
German Chocolate Cake
Ice Cream (from store)

Our  beautiful fence that my son and his family built for us! A huge thank you to each of you!

I knew that I wouldn't be able to spend time cooking on Saturday since my son and his family were rebuilding our backyard fence. So I split up the cooking and baking over the week which made it possible to help with the fence work AND go to church on Sunday morning AND have dinner ready for the family after church (I took a nap on Monday! *SMILE*

Here is how I spread out the cooking over the week:

Monday: Baked the cake and then froze it. I'll frost it later in the week.
Tuesday: Mixed the ketchup and other wet ingredients for the bean dish and stored in fridge.
Wednesday: Made the chocolate chip dough, rolled in balls and froze them.
Friday:  Assembled the "Make Ahead Potatoes" which can stay in the fridge up to 3 days. Fried the pound of bacon (saved 1/2 for the green beans), hamburger and onion for the bean dish. Baked the pretzel crust for the jello salad.
Saturday: Finished assembling the jello salad. Baked the chocolate chip cookies. Cooked the frosting and frosted the cake and then wrapped it well in Seran wrap.
Sunday: Sauteed the green beans, added the rest of the ingredients including the bacon. Baked the ham. Heated up all the ingredients for the bean dish and put in the crock pot to keep warm. Pulled out the Make Ahead Potatoes an hour before they were going in the oven (so I wouldn't crack the glass) and then baked 30 minutes before the meal.

All the weekly preps made the dinner on Sunday so much easier.

Relaxing, full tummies & messiness! Priceless!

Here are a few highlights of the week:

1. I trim as many of my trees as I can to save money. This week I started trimming the Crepe Myrtles. I trim a little at a time over a period of a week so that I don't end up with bad neck pain. It works great! I also trimmed my rose bushes and cut back a few of the other flower plants. I need to research how to trim back the berry and grape bushes.

2. The collard greens and spinach seedlings were ready to plant. A friend gave us some big cement blocks that we used to  line one of our garden plots. I placed one of our 4 x 6 glass window frames on top of the blocks to make a mini green house over the collard greens and spinach.

3.  My husband doesn't care for the sugar free pancake syrups in the store. This morning I made a sugar free fruit syrup for our pancakes. He liked the fruit syrup even though he doesn't like my low carb pancakes. :-) . Tomorrow morning I'll try a new recipe that hopefully he will like. (update: He said they were better but still not the same as high carb pancakes.) I keep trying and sometimes I find a winner!

Sugar Free Fruit Pancake Syrup
1 cup water
1/2 c. Erythritol
1/4 tsp. Stevia
2 cups fruit (I used frozen blackberries, blueberry, raspberry)
1/2 tsp. glucomanni powder

Boil water and dissolve Erythritol. Mix in fruit and boil 10 minutes.
 Add glucomanni in a little water and whisk into mixture. Simmer
10 more minutes until thickened. 

4.  A friend saved her meat and veggie scraps for me. What a sweetie! I'm using them to make dog food. 

5.  The weather has been nice enough that I can hang clothes on the line. If I get them hung first thing in the morning then they are dry by dinner time. 

6.  I made a big pot of ham and veggie soup. I used bits of ham from Sunday's dinner and threw in cabbage, Swiss chard, celery, onions, garlic and carrots. I added chicken bouillon to taste and some pepper. It didn't need much else. I love soup!

7. Another friend gave me a box of canning jars! Thank you, thank you! Canning season is right around the corner. I have been picking up Sugar Free pectin on sale for jam. Next month I'll start buying a few boxes of canning lids each month. It's easier on the pocketbook to buy a few each paycheck rather than all at once.   

8.  I saved the fence boards we replaced on the backyard fence. There are so many things you can do with old fence boards from lining a wall to making furniture or bird houses for gifts. 

9. I purchased quite a few cloth hankies a few years back when our income started to drop. I also saved a Kleenex box to store a few cloth hankies in next to my bed. I carry a hankie in my purse and keep them in my bedroom drawer and in the office. Anytime I can use cloth and rewash instead of a disposable it saves me money. 

10.  I purchased a computer diagnostic tool for our particular vehicle. It cost around $39. We had a 'check engine' light go on and with this tool we were able to look up the code to see what was wrong. It was something that could be easily fixed at home and saved us an expensive trip to an auto mechanic. 

Thank you ladies for your advice on inexpensive moisturizers last week. Since I had coconut oil in the house I went ahead and started using it on my skin. So far I'm lovin' it! Thanks again!

Did you ladies enjoy your week? Did you do anything new and frugal? 

Blessed to be home!



  1. I learned a lot here and am determined to get that make-ahead cookbook. I have thought about this for years, but now is the time. Great idea too to help family with the meals.

  2. hi Georgene, I enjoyed your happy family photos and I like your menu too. I may just cook the same things next time we have a big family meal.
    After reading several blogs, yours and others with smaller grocery budgets, I decided our grocery budget was too high and I have spent lots less this month, maybe 60% but I need to check my figures and we are still eating just fine.
    And I increased our mortgage payment by 50% and hope to pay it off in less than 3 years.
    lots of little things do add up!

  3. Good ideas for control of time, money and nutrition. Sometimes I am too tired to cook. My favorite meal is the vegetable salad I made yesterday with cooked chicken strips warmed in the microwave. My husband likes it also.

  4. Hubby does all our car work too. We've generally been using old jeeps for quite a while so he's pretty familiar with them and we do have that diagnostic tool too. My daughter also drives an older jeep so he was able to diagnose her problems also.

    I am trying to figure out more ways to cook better for 'just me' since most of time that is all there is here. I recently thawed a small turkey breast to cook and then found that some roast beef was on sale for less than hamburger -by far. So I used my grocery $ to buy some. I've been upping my beef lately see if it will help me feel better. I cannot eat a whole roast though--but I plan to cut them up and freeze in smaller amounts.

    I agree it is much easier to do cooking in the morning. I now watch my young grand kids 2 mornings a week so I am making a schedule to work around that.

    Its quite a challenge to cook for less people after a big family. I'm still a little 'off' on learning this after several years.

    One thing I do is give myself a break when hubby is home by always having something that calls for grilling--he manages that part for me. I do use it sometimes when he is gone too.

    Currently he's in Germany so I've been alone a longer stretch than usual. After I get my turkey breast done today I will probably cool and freeze a good chunk of it.

    Saving money this week--well right now I am organizing the house better so working on that. But also re-potting a lot of plants. One pretty arrangement I have is a new terrarium. I got a dish similar to the one you have your camellias in at Good will for 49 cents. I filled it with some gravel, a little bit of charcoal, dry moss (from yard) then some potting mix and finally topped with a variety of mosses and a lichen I found on our property. I added a couple pretty chunks of quartz rock. it sits in my sunroom on coffee table. I think I'll take pix of it and put in on my blog maybe later today. Very pretty. If it works out ok I want to make some more as I love moss.

    So anyhow I have that little arrangement for 49 cents an a very small amount of gravel and soil mix. :) Frugal and pretty. :)

  5. Another $ saver. I have an HP notebook pc--which is my 2nd one. I think the first one was a lemon as it had so many issues. anyhow I did buy another as the sales person told me that none of the others were any better. I don't know--probably stupid of me. Anyhow the new one just passed the warrantee and is overheating--so I suspect it will need a new hard drive soon, also the battery is dead so it must be plugged in. I 'm using the 'new hard drive' from my old pc to back up this pc--so when this one's hard drive goes I'll have hubby put the other one in it. Intstead of paying to renew the warrantee I've decided to just go with fixing it ourselves and getting parts off craigs list or amazon. I'm done with spending all the money to keep a decent pc. I also used the old battery in this one when the one died on this one--but now that one is also dying. I'm planning to get the next one off ebay. They run about $30 less there. I found that there are plenty of people selling parts from pcs online. I may even sell what is left of my old one.

    So that's a new frugal thing--I've had a light bulb go off in my head--what is different about fixing a pc just like you would your own car? Why not?

  6. Georgene,

    Have you ever made Washboard Cookies? My great grandmother always made them as a treat because they are so inexpensive. Below is the recipe I use, they are so good and bring back wonderful memories!


    1/2 cup butter, softened
    1 cup packed dark brown sugar
    1 egg
    1 tablespoon water
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda

    1. In a small bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, water and vanilla. Combine flour and baking soda; add to the creamed mixture and mix well.
    2. Shape into 1-in. balls. Place on greased baking sheets; flatten with a fork that has been dipped in water. Sprinkle with sugar.
    3. Bake at 325° for 15-20 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool on wire racks. Yield: 3-1/2 dozen

    Also - most auto shops like Auto Zone or Pep Boys will plug their gizmo into your car at no charge if you have a light come on and don't know what's wrong. My dad taught me that trick. :)

    Glad you enjoyed such a nice dinner with your family. I can't wait to see how your little greenhouse turns out. That is quite genius!


  7. Have you tried Mrs. Butterworth's sugar free syrup? We use that because of hubby's diabetes and I started using it too, can't tell it's not regular syrup.

  8. It sounds like you all had a wonderful delicious lunch together. I love the idea of the family getting together on a regular basis.

  9. What a wonderful meal! I like that you prepared it in stages. I need to do that. I recently found your blog and I'm reading all your old posts. In one you talked about needing a new dog bed. Our quilt guild makes dog beds for a vet clinic. Depending upon the size of the dog we might use an old pillowcase or fabric we no longer like. We stuff them with the selvages and the small scraps from making our quilts or we cut up old clothing to worn to wear. The clinic can throw them in the washer or throw them away when they are no longer usable.

  10. The camellias are beautiful! one of my favorite flowers. So great that you had an amazing dinner with your family. It's hard for me to do, I have to do all the cooking and clean up.

    Rhonda, congrats on that extra going to the mortgage and getting you grocery bill down!

    We haven't been behaving too frugally. Saw a movie this weekend and took our grandkids to McDonalds for lunch. I don't make New Years resolutions, but I did want to start hanging out my laundry again. But our weather is either rain or extreme cold! More rain tomorrow and the next day, and cold on top of that, daytime highs in the 40's!

    I did cook all meals last week, husband took lunch every day. Read books from the library and watched movies on Netflix, streamed from laptop to t.v. We don't have cable. Stayed home as much as possible. Deposited $70.00 from my work at home job of filing insurance for physical therapy office into our vacation account. All I can think of right now. Hope you all have a fun and frugal week!

  11. Georgene-
    Thank you for renewing the idea for me of cooking in stages. I want to start making soup on Sunday. It will last most of the week for lunches for the kids and me (we homeschool). I LOVE soup on these cold weather days
    (-18 this AM). Your fence is gorgeous! What a great thing for your son to do for his parents. I love your cozy home, Georgene! Blessings, Jennifer in IA

  12. Your cooking in stages is exactly how I do a big meal. I wonder if we have the same bean recipe; we call ours calico beans. And my make ahead potatoes last two weeks in the frig so sometimes I just make a big batch and pull out what we need for a meal. I really do love cooking from scratch though it is a lot of work. And like you, mornings are when I have the energy.

  13. I've been wanting a German chocolate cake for the longest time now. I I think you mentioning your bargain chocolate started it, lol. I am going to make one next week for my birthday cake!

    I find cooking fun, but it seems to take up so much of my day. I've been 'cooking ahead' every Monday for several weeks now. I get as much prep work or cooking done as I can on that day (Sunday is baking day) and that frees up hours each week.


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