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Friday, March 11, 2016

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for early March


Rosemary-garlic pork roast
Brown rice
Frozen peas
Leftover blackberry-apple pie


Spinach-onion quiche (from the freezer)
Mashed potatoes (from the freezer), topped with sausage-chicken gravy (drippings from roasting chicken and sausage, reserved after cooking and kept in freezer, turned into gravy on Saturday evening)
Frozen peas
Rhubarb-blackberry cobbler (using frozen rhubarb and frozen blackberries from last year's garden)


Bean, cheese and avocado burritos, on homemade whole wheat tortillas
Roasted pumpkin
Canned corn with roasted red pepper strips
Homemade gingersnaps (from the freezer, from last month's baking)


Bean burger patties
Grilled onions
Oven-roasted pumpkin chunks
Brown rice topped with leftover gravy from Saturday's dinner (made extra brown rice to use in Wednesday's casserole)


French dip sandwiches (using this easy technique for turning ground beef into strips of beef), on homemade French rolls, with au jus (onions, sauteed in reserved beef fat, with water, soy sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, dried thyme, splash of herb vinegar, salt, black pepper and crushed celery seeds)
Veggie medley of frozen spinach, onions and canned tomato chunks (seasoned with garlic and herbs)
Banana slices


Easy rice and spinach bake (using leftover rice, eggs, milk, cheese and spinach, assembled in the AM, then baked just before serving)
Pear Mousse (gelatin salad with pureed frozen pears, cream cheese and lemon jello)
Fresh-baked bread and butter


Vegetable-beef soup (using leftover Au Jus and the drippings from the French dip baking sheet for the beef flavor, and barley, cooked garbanzo beans, canned tomatoes, frozen green beans, frozen peas and onions, garlic and herbs)
Kale frittata
Plum-blackberry pie (using frozen plums and blackberries from last summer)

My freezer is beginning to show signs of diminishing stock. I've tried to use something from the freezer's long term storage, everyday. Some days that only means reserved fat from cooking meat. Other days, I'm able to use some of the blackberries, rhubarb, pears, apples or plums that we picked last summer and froze.

I found a good deal on eggplant this past week, at 99 cents for pretty large eggplants. I'm a huge fan of ratatouille. It's long been one of my favorite vegetable combinations. I rarely have eggplant, here. And when I do, I'm torn between eggplant Parmesan and ratatouille. So, I bought 2 eggplant this week and will make both! 99 cents each, is about what I pay at the produce stand, so I believe that is a good price for my area.

You may also notice a few egg main entrees (quiche, frittata and the easy rice-spinach bake). I'm working on the supply of eggs I have stashed in the freezer, with hopes for finding some good egg sales just before Easter.

Again, not a lot of meat-based meals this week. One dinner with pork and one diner with beef. I know some families prefer much more meat than our family eats. But this is working for us, for the time being.

I have noticed something about my meal planning and prep. I tend to cook even more frugally, when I feel like other areas of our budget and income are being depleted quickly. Meals are the one area that I have confidence that I can control the spending. And yep, this is a comparatively "expensive" time for us. With the not so fun things like my husband needing costly dental work, our main car needing new tires all around, and the water heater on it's very last legs (to replace this summer, if it makes it that long), combined with some fun things, like a mini-trip to San Francisco and getting new French doors in our living room this spring, the stress of seeing the money go out so quickly makes me hold really tightly to the purse strings. When our furnace stopped coming on earlier this week, I about panicked, thinking we'd need another expensive repair or replacement on that, too. (Fortunately, it was just the thermostat needing new batteries. Phew!) Everything will be fine, financially. We've set aside money for all of the repairs, replacements, health stuff and the trip. So, nothing will set us back. It's just a feeling I get when I watch the money go out. And with the aging furnace (it's 20 years old), we've already begun a fund for it's replacement and are 2/3 the way there in it's funding. So, we're okay on that front, too, I think.

While all of this is going on, I am reminded of how unimportant all of this really is. A friend's father's health is failing. And all I can offer is prayer and an ear. It's such a painful, difficult time for my friend. Money matters always seem to work themselves out, and are not really that important in the grand scheme.


  1. I know what you mean. Even when I have the money, I get a little anxious when I spend a lot of it. I see that in my kids sometimes and it seems silly when I look at them. I'm trying to do better with that so I can model for my kids, that as long as you have your finances in order, it's okay to spend. There are many things like your friend's father's illness that pop up so there's always plenty of worry to be found without borrowing it.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      When I was writing out a couple more checks this morning (for unexpected-to-me items), I had that moment of unease, again. I really have to work at not being anxious with spending, in these cases. You have a VERY good point -- that we need to model healthy spending and saving for our kids. I will keep that in mind from now on. So thank you for saying that.

  2. Great posts this week, Lili. Interesting that you mentioned the little feeling of control/comfort you get from being more frugal with food. That's how I've been this year. We COULD spend more, but I feel much better being extra-frugal right now. Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      Many of us seem to have this "comfort zone" with our spending. Being so frugal gives us a safety net. I think, for me, when I'm extra frugal, I don't feel I need to think about what may lie ahead, quite so much. Like you, we could spend more, but I am finding security in spending less on groceries, for now.

      Have a great weekend!

  3. Just like meal planning, I have a difficult time planning and saving ahead of specific expenses. Instead, I look at past spending patterns (since I am very diligent about recordkeeping) to tell me what our expenses will be on average. That constitutes our budget. I try to juggle all spending within that top line figure. Lower income expectations has dropped that line further. Since contemplating retirement a couple years ago, that top line (total expenses for the calendar year) from 2014 to 2015 has dropped 7K. I am hoping for another big drop this year since now being retired. I know that daily we go the extra mile to make do or do without, with lots of substitutions. Compared to previous years, our spending journal is lighter, no sale binge buys thinking this is saving money. Instead we hardly go shopping as compared to a few years ago. As for one-off expenses, these will always be there, as my past expense journals have shown. Hopefully my top line figure has adequately covered it.

    Again, wonderful, creative meals...seems the tighter the budget the more creative!!


    1. I know being older, there will be lots of expenses not typical of past years...for those, that's what savings is for. I know dental and medical expenses will get much more expensive with age. Hopefully preventive maintenance will keep the bite away. But you've right money is not the most important, health really is a game changer that no amount of money can make right.


    2. Hi YHF,
      I think we all need to find our own method for saving and budgeting. In earlier years, my husband and I just tried to spend as little as possible, and kept one large catch-all savings account for emergencies, replacements, repairs. This worked okay for us, and actually we did quite well with the numbers. But my stress always peaked whenever we had to use any of that money. I found that planning for each individual emergency eased a good deal of that stress, for me (and in turn, the rest of the family wasn't subjected to my moments of duress when I had to write out a big check). So we save about the same amount of money, but I'm less stressed. Right now, with the water heater situation, I know that at any time I could call the company that will install a new one, and have it paid for, no problem. I don't just save randomly for all kinds of things. Most things that will need replacement or repairs come with an early warning, or predictable life spans. So I use that as a guide for what goes on my list of things we need to start saving for. You have to do what works best for you.

      I'm so glad that you're seeing so much improvement in your overall spending/saving. You and your husband are doing great! It gives me hope that retirement will be okay for us, too!

      Have a great weekend!

    3. Yup, writing big checks is very stressful...I found it stressful even writing our retirement savings contribution checks, monies going from our daily bill paying savings account in one institution to our retirement accounts held in another institution, even knowing a full year in advance this would happen at tax time. Seeing a full year's worth of savings and careful money management go out the door, even knowing it's going into another form of savings was stressful....maybe that is why we are compulsive savers. We like to see our saving balances go in one direction only and that is up. We make terrible spenders lol

      Yes...just wondering how low we can go is motivation enough for us, and glad my husband is convinced frugality is making a difference, in fact, he believes that is the reason we can retire. It's been two months since we've been diligently practicing frugality. Every day is another day to tighten the ship. Realistically, because we have been operating on an already small budget, I think the most I can expect is another 4K drop, plus another 2K more if we decide to drop our life insurances. However irrational, I fear the minute we do that....
      I have no doubt that you will be able to retire exactly the way you plan it!!

      Have a nice weekend too!!


  4. I also get stressed when I have to make several large expenditures, even though I have plenty in my rainy day fund. Right now it's a dental implant and a new dish washer (although for the time being I'm hand washing).My furnace is over 20 years old too so now you've given me something else to worry about.
    "All I can do is pray & lend an ear" Prayer support is no small thing. I'm sure its helping as your friend faces this difficult time.

    1. Thank you, frugal spinster, for what you said about the importance of prayer support.

      On the furnace, the last two years, the maintenance guy has told me that ours could last another 7 or 8 years, without issue. At least here in the PNW, winters aren't too unbearably harsh. The two times we've been without heat this month (separate issues), we've done okay with just one electric space heater, moving from room to room. It hasn't been toasty warm, but not freezing inside.

      Praying all goes well for your dental implant, and that you can have a new dishwasher soon.

  5. My thoughts on money are that people typically fall into two categories--those who see money as a form of security and those who see it as a way to acquire something they want (not necessarily a "thing"--many use money to gain status). Most of us who read your blog probably see money as security ... all of us who get anxious when there are a lot of expenditures would fall into that category. And yes, I'm one of them. I don't think there is anything wrong with being extra cautious ... but if the need to control every penny overtakes our trust in God to provide for us, that's where we need to re-evaluate why we are being so controlling with our money. Hope I'm making sense!

    One of the things I enjoy about you, Lili, is that buying two eggplants is cause for celebration. I'm not a huge fan of eggplant, but I do like it grilled. Enjoy yours!

    1. Hi Kris,
      that's a really good point. Trust that God will meet our needs is a gift to us, so that we don't have to worry incessantly. When I do get anxious, like this, not only is it a sign that I'm not trusting God as well as I could, but I'm turning down this gift of Him taking care of me.

      Yes, two eggplants make me very happy!! I'm a cheap date, what can I say. :-)

  6. Lil, I'm a long time follower. My son has recently moved to the Seattle area so I'm following even more keenly now. Your meals are very inspiring especially the picture of the spinach rice bake. I would love the recipe if you care to share it. Our spinach should be popping out in about six weeks and I will be serving it very requently! God bless, Chicago Gran

    1. Hi Bonnie,
      I hope your son is enjoying the Seattle area. Maybe you'll be able to come out and visit him, and see this area.
      I'll type up that rice bake recipe this week. It's a keeper -- very easy, can be assembled in the morning, then baked at supper time, and delicious.

      Have a great weekend, Bonnie!

    2. Thanks, Lili, my son loves the area. I'm sure that we will enjoy the rice bake especially since it can be made ahead. Your other readers will no doubt appreciate it as well. Blessings!

  7. I'm like that too, get kind of anxious when unexpected expenses come up. Honestly it did not bother me as much when I worked outside the house, but the last 5 since my job was eliminated & I decided to not go back I get more anxious about the money things. I think because when I was working too it was easier to get that money back into savings if it had to come out, now that it is just hubby's income & my ebay sales it is so hard to get that savings built back up when we need to use some of it.

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      I understand you. When you're primarily living off of one income, it feels more vulnerable, financially. I always feel a sense of relief when I pick up another small job, even if it's not earning a whole lot of money.


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