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!