Friday, February 26, 2016

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for the end of February (many freebies, plus using supplies from the freezer)


Friday (cost about $1.50)
Chunky tomato soup
Focaccia, topped with leftover grilled onions, leftover roasted tomatoes and black olives
Stewed frozen plums


Saturday (cost about $1.80)
Rosemary, turkey and potato soup
Croissants (gifted to us from event my girls and I helped at)
Cucumber, avocado and roasted red pepper salad, topped with slices of boiled egg (cucumber gifted to us, roasted red peppers from pantry)
Assortment of pie to choose from (leftovers from event)

Sunday (cost about $1.65)
Skillet-fried wontons (homemade from freezer)
Ham and egg fried rice
Cucumber salad
Choice of cake or pie

Monday (cost about $2.50)
Spinach and tofu lasagna
Choice of leftover chocolate cake or pie


Tuesday (cost about $1.70)
Vegetarian tostadas -- fried corn tortillas, topped with Spanish rice, frozen corn, refried beans, cheese, olives, lettuce from greenhouse, roasted red peppers, salsa and avocado
Choice of cookies, chocolate covered cherries or mini-cheesecakes (leftovers from volunteer work at a tea over the weekend)

Wednesday (cost about $3.60)
Meatloaf and gravy from freezer
Mashed potatoes from freezer
Frozen spinach
Pumpkin souffle

Thursday (cost about $2.50)
Leftover spinach and tofu lasagna
Chocolate cake from freezer

So you already know that it's been a hard week around here. Very tiring. For the first several nights of the week, I was cooking two completely different menus each day, one for the family and one for my daughter. Doing this from scratch is a lot of work. I did my best to minimize that work, whenever possible.

Things like baking my largest casserole dish of lasagna and making extra layers of noodles and filling, instead of my regular casserole and 3 layers which feeds the five of us for one dinner, and leaves leftovers for one or two people for lunch. This pan of lasagna fed all of us for two complete dinners.

And asking for help when I just couldn't do it all. I was so exhausted on Wednesday afternoon, after a very long and trying meeting with a consultant in the middle of the day, the phone constantly ringing in the afternoon, and going out to pick up one daughter in the late afternoon. The dishwasher needed emptying, which wouldn't be a big task at all, ordinarily. But I just could face doing that and putting dinner together, so I (rather tiredly, unfortunately, I came across as a bit edgy when asking) asked a daughter to do that for me, while I got dinner ready.

I also made use of whatever I could find in the freezer, meatloaf, wontons, cake and soup. And some nights there wasn't much variety in the meal, like the night we had the tostadas, just the tostadas on the plate, or the lasagna, same deal. usually I have a side dish to go with the main dish. That just wasn't happening this week. Even if it had been frozen veggies heated in the microwave, I still would have had to pour them into a casserole and heat, then serve them all. That doesn't sound like a lot of work. But the serving and portioning out of dinner does take time and effort, when doing so times 5. Even once everything is made, it still takes 10 minutes to dish it all up. There are many days when I wish I could just be the mom who drives through the fast food place, brings home a bag of burgers and fries and dumps it all out onto the center of the kitchen table -- fend for yourself. But knowing me, I would pull out plates and cutlery, make a couple of fruit or veggie side dishes, and probably make a homemade dessert to go with it all! I know, crazy, huh?

My favorite meal this week? I think it was the vegetarian lasagna. I don't care for really heavy, greasy, meat-filled and cheesey lasagnas. They never sit well in my stomach. I prefer a lighter version, no meat, with a full 10-oz container of frozen lasagna, a 19-oz container of tofu, lots of sauce, and about 3 or 4 cups of shredded cheese, some mixed in with the tofu, some as is, topping the whole casserole. I sometimes mix grated carrots in with the leafy greens -- also very good, and drops in another serving of vegetables. this is the lasagna that my family is accustomed to. I've been lactose intolerant since my son's very earliest days, and have since then used tofu for part of the filling. And while I like the ease of no-cook lasagna noodles, I prefer the texture of the noodles that you have to boil before assembling. All the more reason to make a double batch each time I make a pan of lasagna.

I find it helpful for me to "cost out" each meal for the week, from time to time. It serves as a great reminder that heavy-on-the-meat dinners tend to be quite a bit more expensive than vegetarian counterparts. And using even just a fe convenience items ups the cost quite a bit. As in the lasagna, the noodle were boxed, the tofu is a ready-made product, and the spinach was commercially chopped and frozen. And it helps that I volunteer once a month in a kitchen for a charity tea and am often given some of the leftovers.

What was the yummiest thing you ate in all of this week? Was it something you made, or something someone else made for you?

21 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear that you had a tough week. Your meals look very healthy and tasty.

    And if the extra help you needed was having someone else empty the dishwasher one time that's very minimal - and certainly understandable that you need others to pitch in a bit when you have a sick family member you're caring for.

    It sounds like you always plate all your meals before bringing them to the table? What about serving things family style? That would at least save the plating time.

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    1. Hi Kathryn,
      I do plate them at the stove. Doing so ensures that everyone gets the "right" amount (an issue with one daughter who struggles with an eating disorder). Many nights per week, we don't eat at the same time, anymore. But I am thinking about trying family-style at least once or twice a week, when we're all home at the same time. We've reached the point where it would be good for my daughter to do this herself, while I'm right there to guide her some. But, I was thinking about that just the other day, and how much time is used plating everything up.

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  2. We didn't have a lot this week either due to some upset tummies with the flu. We had our first home cooked meal last night which was baked chicken thighs and baked potates wedges with cabbage. It was delicious after having very little all week. Soups were on the agenda or leftovers and I can't remember what we ate but I know I didn't cook anything major. I got an email at work from my college son who said he is sick and wondered if I could bring some gatorade and other "easy" on the stomach foods. so I ran that up to him yesterday and hope he is feeling better soon.

    It will be a quiet weekend alone for me and hubby. Live-in daughter is going away for the weekend so we have an alone time. Unless the college kids come home for the weekend to recover...and that would be OK too.

    We had a very big winter storm Wed. into Thurs. and got a whopping 10.5 inches of heavy snow so all schools were cancelled on Thurs. I still had to go to work and so did hubby but the roads are cleared and we're having some sun to help melt the mess.

    Alice

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    1. Hi Alice,
      I hope everyone is on the mend, now in your house. At least for us, only one was sick with a stomach virus (another got sick with a cold this week). Stomach viruses are the worst, I think.

      A quiet weekend sounds like just the thing for you and your husband. Enjoy it!

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  3. We had lemon,rosemary chicken and potatoe salad. Veggie lasagna with homemade bread. Chicken fajitas rice and beans.
    Pasta fagioli. I can not remember the rest. I know I cooked
    just brain fog. I am glad you made it through the week. I hope you have some rest this weekend.
    I am in the process of switching labs for the needle biopsy. I have been oked for all most 2 weeks with my Insurance the scheduler just will not return my call. So yesterday I started switching to a different Xray lab.
    The doctor called it in. Hopefully I will get the green light today and be able to make an appointment. They have appt. about a week to week and half out. I feel much better about this place. I just did not have peace about the other place. So hopefully this is the ticket. Will continue to pray you stay well Lili. You had a very very busy week. Your meals sound wonderful. Glad you got some free things.
    Have a great weekend'
    Blessings,
    Patti

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    1. Hi Patti,
      I am so glad to hear that you may be able to switch labs for your needed procedure. Keep me posted how everything goes. I am keeping you in my prayers!

      Have a lovely weekend!

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  4. Under the exhausting circumstances this week, you did fabulous!! Amazing that you managed to stay on course despite the extra work of making your daughter's BRAT diet from scratch and all the extra cleaning involved. You definitely take your home work seriously and don't cut too much slack. For sure, your dedication and perseverance is going to get you where you want financially, we call it here "keeping our noses to the grindstone". This is the difference between a diehard or "died in the wool" frugalist, like yourself, and a wannabe, or one who saves every now and then when it is convenient. This is the bar that you set that tells me I've got a long way to go. I do notice that I've gotten better. I don't buy as many convenience foods, certainly I don't clip any coupons for those items or buy even when paired with a sale or rebate. The price has to be near pennies for me to trouble myself to buy it.

    Our meals this week was not very much. It started when we saw Korean "mandoo" wrappers on sale. Using the wrappers like wonton wrappers, he made a hot sour soup base and added the dumplings, Korean bean thread noodles, and veggies. We ate this for three days. The other meals were freezer foods: still eating leftover pizzas from when the grandkids were over. And lots of salads with the same homemade oriental salad dressing.

    Hope you have a restful and relaxing weekend,
    YHF

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    1. Hi YHF,
      I think maybe I am keenly aware of what being frugal can do for our family, and that really motivates me to go the extra distance in my frugality. I can see "rewards" both short and long-term. In the short-term, I'll be getting nice new French doors in the living room this year, and taking my daughters on a 21st birthday celebration trip in spring. In the long-term, we'll be able to continue living in our home, in retirement, if that's what we want (I love our gardens and would hate to give them up). We'll be able to afford whatever healthcare we need. And we will hopefully be able to help our kids get set-up for their financial futures, and give a head-start on college savings for any grandkids. I can visualize all of these rewards, and by doing so, it really does keep me motivated.

      I think all high schoolers should not only have to take budgeting classes, but also long-term financial planning. Our culture really doesn't look much beyond instant gratification. It's such a shame.

      I've never heard of Korean mandoo. I'll have to google that. the hot and sour soup sounds delicious. I still have some wonton wrappers to use, in the fridge. Maybe something like a hot and sour soup with veggies and wontons.

      Have a great weekend, YHF!

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    2. For me, retirement was the motivator to save, and now that we are retired, I have decided to keep saving for the future. I don't know what the economy will bring, as I am certain we are in for some rough times. I believe money is never to be squandered, if I don't need it someone else in our family, our son or daughter and their family, and so on. I think I like the challenge of saving money too.

      Actually the Chinese hot sour soup is a bit much for wontons. How this started, I have to thank you :), reading your post that you added vinegar to your wonton soup. I told husband about it, next thing, he's making the full on hot SOUR soup.

      YHF

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    3. Vinegar is my secret ingredient for a lot of soups. I add a dash of vinegar to minestrone and it really boosts the flavor, if the soup had been tasting flat. ha ha -- top secret vinegar!
      Maybe I'll make some filled wontons for deep-frying. Any other suggestions for the wonton wraps?

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    4. Deep frying won tons is a good choice, tastes incredibly different that way. Mandolin wrappers fry well too. Sometimes we prefer pot stickers (using the circular mandoo wrappers but square won tons are ok too), first browned in a little oil, then simmered in broth till the liquid is absorbed and evaporated. Other times, we use leftover unfilled wrappers as a salad topping or as chips to snack on. Just cut the square wrapper in strips and fry. Sometimes we make a few dessert won tons by wrapping up banana slices and a pinch of sugar.

      YHF

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    5. Not mandolin...mandoo. kindle fire loves to substitute words thinking it was a misspell.

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    6. Sorry for the many posts...but I have to say thank you for your vinegar tip. We add a dash of vinegar to mayonnaise based pasta salads, known to us locals as "macaroni salad", and it really boosts the flavor there. I have to try the dash trick next time I'm making soup. I love how you are able to make soups from a variety of different ingredients and spices, that's something I need to learn. We keep drinking the same old soup lol

      YHF

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  5. You did well. I think it would have been fine to pull out PB&J if you were feeling that wiped out--exhaustion will make you more susceptible to being sick.

    I made cheesy chicken chowder last night along with homemade bread. I bought hamburger on sale and broiled burgers one night. We had veggie lasagna that was gifted to us for an easy dinner one night and pork chops with mashed potatoes and salad as well. I have a little mozzarella and pepperoni and I plan on using your pizza crust recipe to make stromboli tonight (I'll throw in some ham left over from Christmas as well as peppers). A good week of eating! :)

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    1. Hi Kris,
      I would have put out PBJ on a couple of those days, but I was about out of bread. In all that was going on, I didn't have time to bake another batch until later in the week! Of all weeks to run out!

      I got ground beef on sale yesterday, at $1.99/lb. I am planning on making some patties for the freezer as well as meatballs and taco filling. Your broiled burgers are making me think of spring! It does sound like a lot of yummy things went on the table at your house this week!

      Have a great weekend, Kris!

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  6. I feel your exhaustion. When I get that tired, I usually have a big cry because I just can't do anything else. Hopefully, next week will be better for you.

    It must be all of the restaurant work, as well as, concerns for your daughter that has you plating meals. This may be one area that you can give up. It probably is a good idea to have your daughter take over more of her food practices while she has your watchful eye to help her.



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    1. Hi live and learn,
      I did feel that tired at points, where I just wanted to sit down and cry. I ate chocolate, instead!!! I was still tired this morning and I have no idea how my two daughters made it out the door for classes so early. I think I'm getting old. I'll catch up on sleep over the weekend.

      Yes, working in restaurants, plus my mom always plated meals at the stove, with exception to holiday meals. I don't know if that was her way of rationing everything out, or if her own mother always served meals that way. Sometimes, we just do what is familiar. And with my daughter, having her select her own foods, a few meals a week, while still at home, is actually part of the next step for her. I'll have to step back and be more of a coach and cheerleader for her, while she works this step out. But I am really considering family-style meals maybe on weekends, when everyone is home at the same time.

      Have a great weekend, live and learn!

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  7. Sorry to hear it was such a challenging week for you on your end, Lili -- but it sounds as though you successfully powered on through...! When one cooks mostly from scratch like this, it really is so handy to be able to keep at least a few easy meal options in the freezer for just these busy or stressful occasions...

    I'm an empty nester now, so it's so entirely different on my end. Not nearly the pressure! But I'm expecting one of my two kids home in a few weeks for spring break, and am already looking ahead to that in terms of meal planning....

    Here's what my menu looked like this past week, for my husband and me. I still haven't done any major grocery shopping since the holidays -- only picking up a few odds and ends here and there (like apples, onions and potatoes when they were on sale) and mostly still relying on all that garden stuff I put up last fall. It is finally starting to finally get a little lean though, with me needing to get "creative" at times, lol ;-) ..:

    Sunday:
    "Mexican Casserole" (homemade flour tortillas layered with pinto beans, leftover vegan cheese fondue from a few nights earlier, frozen grated garden zucchini and garden corn, with a homemade chili enchilada sauce. Fresh turnips sliced with a sprinkling of salt

    Monday:
    Had some gnocchi in the pantry from Aldi that I discovered was just past it's expiration (oops). Baked these in a casserole with a creamy sauce while mixing in chopped onion and frozen garden green beans, and topping with bread crumbs I've been keeping in the freezer from a loaf that had gone stale in the break room at my job, that nobody else wanted). Fresh apple slices on the side.

    Tuesday:
    Scrambled Tofu (with green pepper, onion, frozen grated garden zucchini, and the last of some bottled roasted red pepper I had in the fridge). With Sauteed Red Cabbage (still fresh in the fridge after having harvested it just before T-giving), and Biscuits.

    Wednesday:
    "Potatoes and Peas in Pocket" (Based on this recipe: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/eating/recipes/sandwiches/peas-potatoes-pocket.html), with homemade flour Tortillas (instead of the pita the recipe called for) and homemade Baked Beans.

    Thursday: Veggie Udon Noodles, which consisted of Tofu, onions, garden red cabbage (which I roasted separately then added when serving so it wouldn't turn everything purple), cubed garden butternut squash and garden turnips. Applesauce Cake for dessert (which turned out really delicious despite the many and wild substitutions I made to the recipe (flax for the eggs, mixed fruit/veggie puree leftover from my Kombucha home brewing, yogurt for the oil, throwing in the last of some homemade granola, etc etc)). Yum!

    Friday: I have officially deemed Fridays to be my "Legume and Grain" night. Last Friday it was Lentils and Wild Rice. Last night it was Black Beans and White Rice (with a side of frozen garden collard greens). Next Friday it is to be New Orlean's style Red Beans and Brown Rice (or possibly Cornbread. We'll see!).

    Tonight (Sat), I'm planning to alter last night's leftovers slightly (adding frozen garden corn, fresh onion, stewed tomatoes, etc) in order to make Rice and Black Bean Burritos (using homemade flour tortillas that I will make today).

    Tomorrow (Sun): Homemade Pizza :-)

    As always, thanks for letting us share, Lili...!






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    1. Hi Patience,
      What a delicious sounding week you had! I imagine you're having some fun planning meals for when your student is home for spring break!

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  8. We almost always plate meals at the stove unless it is a holiday or special dinner. It just makes life easier that way.

    Sounds like you had a rough week especially with the sickness this week. Did everyone else make it through without getting sick? I hope so. :)

    I have also found living a frugal lifestyle to be a lot of work at times, especially in the kitchen. I used to say the same thing on a frugal message board I used to frequent and people were like, "learn to multitask". Well easier said than done. If you are truly living a frugal lifestyle and cooking from scratch that requires time spent in the kitchen and 5 days a week can be so tiring. I hear you, Lili and I'm with you. :)

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    1. Hi Belinda,
      Well, we all managed to escape the stomach virus, but 2 of us came down with colds -- go figure! We're on the rebound, now, though. So that's a good thing. And I hope all your snow days are now behind you!

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