It is the end of the month and the countdown until grocery shopping day has begun. We have a a certain amount budgeted for groceries each month. This month, remarkably for our family of 9 (Haven is eating now, yeah!), we are under budget for groceries! How in the world did we do this? I am in awe! However, I am stubborn and have determined that I will not go shopping again until my next scheduled trip for next month's groceries.
So, at the end of the month, I tend to get really creative in my meals. Yes, I suppose I could go to the store to buy the few ingredients I need to make some meals, and make my life a little easier, but I actually enjoy the challenge. I like to see what I can make with what I have left.
Right now, I am out of almost everything: almost all meat, veggies except carrots and potatoes, dairy products, fresh fruit. It is the dregs at the bottom of the pot, folks! Almost every meal idea I come up with, I am missing at least one ingredient to make it work!
Last night, we had stromboli: I found a lb. of pork sausage in the freezer, as well as some frozen spinach and some ham that I bought earlier this month and never got around to using. I luckily found some pepperoni in the fridge. I made one spinach and sausage stromboli and one ham and pepperoni (same as spinach and sausage stromboli BUT: You make a yummy suace to spread on the dough before adding the meat. The sauce is: 2 egg yolks, maybe 1/4 c. of parmesan cheese, a couple T's of olive oil, some garlic and maybe 1 T. oregano. You mix this up in a thick paste and spread on the dough). I did have to run up to the Citgo/FoodMart (closest store for about another 8 miles) to buy some cheese, so I cheated, but I thought this was pretty good under the circumstances. I also made an ambrosia salad with a can of mandarin oranges, a can of pineapple, the remains of a bag of chopped walnuts, a peach yogurt, the remains of a bag of coconut and some marshmallows. I also cut up what was left of a cucumber and sprinkled some sea salt on it.
Today for lunch, I am throwing together a box of pasta, whatever tuna fish I have (3 lousy cans, it takes 6 for our large family just to have sandwiches!) some mayo, lemon juice, dill, sea salt, and the leftover cucumber from last night. I will serve this with the leftover stromboli.
Tonight, I am making lentils and sausage and substituting whatever ingredients I don't have for what I do have. So . . . I don't have a can of tomato sauce, but I do have cream of tomato soup. I also only have a small amount of smoked sauage link, I am talking very small amount--that will have to make do.
It is fun to be creative and use up what I have. I have often discovered new recipes by going to a recipe website and typing in the ingredients I have to try to find something that will work. Sometimes, the dishes I make don't even go together. That's okay.
For snacks: I am out of peanut butter and dry milk powder so I can't make oatmeal balls. I am also out of all fresh fruit! No blue corn chips, no graham crackers. Nothing. So, for snack today, my kids ate raisins and prunes. (deadly combo, I know, but healthy!). I also have ingredients to make oatmeal raisin cookies, with some flax seed or wheat germ thrown in--our afternoon snack! You can also make homemade soft pretzels--so good, even if they aren't exactly good for you! Everyone has flour on hand! (Hmmm . . . I will have to post that recipe!)
I try to let nothing go to waste. We compost our scraps for our garden and give our rabbits leftover veggie peels and such and then use their manure for our garden (Rabbit manure is excellent for a garden!). I freeze leftovers, even if it just one serving and when I am out of ideas for lunch, I defrost all of the mini-meals and we have a sampling of them each for lunch. Yesterday for lunch, we had 2 lasagna roll-ups I had frozen previously, 1 box of macaroni and cheese (lest you think we always eat healthy!) and leftover black bean and sweet potato filling for burritos, but without the tortillas!
To stay under budget, we eat a lot of beans and lentils. They are cheap and healthy. I told Cameron that I think this is one of the reasons I lost my baby weight so quick this time! It is difficult to eat unhealthy when you have a big family. By necessity, you eat healthier! We do eat meat, but it is never the main dish. We do LOTS of crockpot and one-dish meals with meat in them. Healthy eating takes more time and preparation but it is worth it--not only for the health benefits, but also just the feeling of satisfaction I get from making my own. However, that said, we DO eat the occasional hot dog, frozen pizza, and chicken nuggets. Life is just too unpredictable not to have those "emergency" junk food items in the freezer. I usually make those when we are short on time and I don't feel guilty at ALL!
I am determined to stay under budget this month for groceries! I know that I will have to be creative tomorrow as well! I am out of tortillas, but I can make my own . . . we can snack on carrots or even pickles!
What do you do to stay under budget? What are some of the creative meals you have come up with? Am I the only one who is stubborn enough to "make do" just to stay within my grocery budget and not "borrow" from another category?
In Christ, Laura