9 posts categorized "Food Budget" Feed

Make Your Own Microwave Popcorn

Micro popcorn 2

I was at my uber foodie friend's house and somehow we got taking about popcorn (we always talk about food). I said I make my own microwave popcorn. She had not heard of it. Well I figured if she had not, maybe some of you have not. It is sooo easy and cheap !!!

Micro popcorn7

Here is what you need.

1/2 cup popcorn

1 paper bag

olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt

a stapler

Microwave pop

In a paper-bag put the popcorn, a drizzle of oil and salt. Give the bag a shake to coat the popcorn. Fold over the top of the bag 1/2 inch and staple one staple in the center. About the staple, your microwave can handle one staple. At lest that is what I have read and I have never had a problem. BUT do learn from me, lay you bag on the side. If it touches the top, it can burn it.

Now timing takes a bit of playing with. It runs between 3 1/2 minutes- 4 minutes. Do not leave your popcorn it can burn. Listen to the popping and when it goes from constant popping to 3 second or so pause between popping, that is the time to pull it. It take a few times but then you will learn how you microwave works.

Be careful the popcorn is hot, tear open the bag and you might have to give the bag a squish to break up the popcorn. I like to drizzle a little butter with curry powder and dried granulated garlic. Then to gild the lily, I sprinkle sharp cheddar cheese over the top and set it under the broiler. Enjoy xoxoxo 

Preserving, Smartly

Plum jam2

    It is the season of bounty and in trying to make the most our money, I want to preserve it. Oh I have dreams of shelves filled with glistening jars in jewel colors, a full freezer and my pantry stuffed to the seams. I have been dreaming since spring all I want to do but then reality has hit. My garden is not putting out the bounty I was hoping. We have had no guests all summer but the next two months will be busy. Plus, quite frankly I just can not do it all. So I realize I need to be smart about all of this and how I use my time.

    I decided to make a list of all I wanted to do. Then went back over it and crossed off either what we will not really eat or what I can already buy cheap. For example I can get inexpensive frozen green beans and corn, also fresh carrots, organic at Costco. Also I have found in the past my family did not eat canned fruit and veggies. So I have let this go. Even jam, we eat it but not large quantities. We are not big peanut butter and jelly fans. So I am making a few small batches, like my favorite red-wine plum jam. I decided to freeze most of my fruit and if I need more jam, I can take that frozen fruit and make more in the winter.

    One food we eat a lot of is red sauce, so I canned that. I have also dried a lot of fruit and veggies for future cakes, muffins, dried soup mixes, etc. I plan on making Roasted Pear Sauce and pumpkin pie filling for the freezer.

    So what I am trying to say with this long post, is think about what your family likes? What you use, what is easily available to you and what is not? That way you can plan wisely how to fill your pantry. Also I encourage you to try at least one new thing. For me drying certain veggies this year is new for me. I may decide it is not worth it but I will not know unless I try. It is just as important to know what does not work, as what does!.




10 Frugal Tips


1: When making my 60 second chocolate mouse, if you do not have heavy cream you can use milk. Just add an extra egg yoke.

2: Going through old clothes, I have been using them for fabric. Dresses are especially good. Those full skirts have lots of fabric.

3: I having been using powdered milk in baking. It is working fine for things like cookies, muffins, bread, cakes, etc. It is not good for things with custards, like bread puddings.

4: For lunches, we have made individual mac and cheeses in little foil containers and stuffed baked potatoes. They bake off frozen just fine. We also want to make egg rolls, soup and refried beans. We plan to make large amount and put in the freezer for lunches to.

5: Right now I am making tags and fabric bags for Christmas.

6: I took old beat up tee shirts and cut them into squares for throw away rags. They are perfect for cleaning really greasy jobs.

7: I have been making fruit crisps for breakfast. When you think about it, they are pretty healthy. They are also a way for me to get my picky girl who hates oatmeal to eat her oats.

8: This is not really a tip, because I have not tried it yet. But was wondering if anyone else has and if you were happy with it.

Dishwasher Detergent; 

1 TBL. borax

1 TBL. baking soda

(you can add tea tree or lavender oil for disfentant)

Also using vinager as a rinsing agent.

9: Pork fat rules in our house, my family is addicted to bacon. So I allow bacon once a week, two piece per-person. I buy the big pack at Costco, and put 8 slices in a little sandwich baggie. Then I put all those baggies in a big freezer baggie. By the way bacon de-frost fasts. My favorite way to use bacon, is to roast a bunch of veggies, toss that with pasta and then crumble the bacon over that. It helps to get those veggies down ;-)

10: I am sooo excited Frugal Luxuries by Tracey McBride has started a blog. I really enjoy her books and look forward to her posts. She also has a second blog Frugal Luxuries by The Seasons.Go say hello  xoxoxox 


Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 6



     Even though I said I did not like writing these posts, I really had fun too and actually I have a lot more to say :-) But I will take a break and in a couple of weeks I will write some more. It is funny when it come to food, I can talk for days!

    I did want to say that all these ideas I have written about do work for our family and I have really been able to make our money stretch so much farther then 7 years ago but I do not want to look like I never struggle. Believe me I do! I have days were I do not want to cook. I have days were I succumb to some expensive cheese temptation. There are weeks where I am really careful and still run out of money. Then have to go to hubby and ask for another $20 to hold me over until payday. As a matter of fact, as I was writing these post somehow unbeknownst to me, I ran out of a bunch of bulk items. I had $50.00 but was saving it for a Trader Joes run. So I had to dip into my household budget. Just remember to do the best you can that day. Luckily everyday is a fresh start.


Powdered Coconut Milk

This is the coconut powder, I was talking about. I guess you are suppose to use it like powdered milk. Add water and make coconut milk but I never use it that way. I just use the powder straight from the packet. I add it to chocolate mousse, stirfrys, puddings, soups, ect. I get mine in the Asian section of my market. I pay I think 60 cents for a 60 gram packet. It is Angie who turned me on to this, thank you!!

Olive Oil

Well this is somewhat of a minefield question because olive oil production is somewhat becoming like wine making. There are soooo many, (too many for me to keep up with) olive oil producers. The truth is I can barely afford the olive oil I buy, which I buy the better olive oil from Costco. I cook everything including baking with olive oil and go through so much, this is the best I can do at this point. I will tell you if looking for olive oil, look for something that had a deep green color. An idea I have had is to check out stores like TJ Maxx food section for good olive oil. But to be honest, except for drizzling a little bottle of oil is just completely impractical for us. So I am sorry I can not be of better help. (5 years later, I am finding some amazing olive oil deals at amazon).

Here are posts were I talk about freezing muffins, scones, ect.



Soda Bread

You can read more of my 6 part series here!


Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 5



    Now that I have said so much about how I save money, how do I splurge ? Actually I do not like writing these posts because I do not like to talk about what I do not do, what I can not buy, I do not like to dwell in the negative but rather embrace all that I do have. I want my girls to know how to spend their money wisely but also how to wisely splurge! We all need treats! It is like a diet, you can not be on one forever, you will go crazy one day. Plus even though there is a lot of food we can not afford, I want my daughters to try them. I do not want them growing up and never having had fresh fennel or not know what really Parmigiano-Reggiano taste like. I want them to have an educated palate and strive for the best food they can. I suppose I sound a bit over the top about food (this is were my foodie youth comes in). I can still taste dinners I had in France when I was 18. I want that for my girls and I think it is important. Life is too short to eat bad food!

    So how do I buy treats ? Simple with any leftover money at the end of my two weeks. I now get $100 a week and yes I do have leftover money. Some weeks $3.00 (I can at lest buy them some soda or chips with $3.00) and some weeks $100 (I love those weeks).

    You see by knowing at the end of two weeks we can splurge, have what our heart desire, (well at lest one thing our hearts desire) it makes it soo much easier to be good and not buy extras. Everytime I give in and buy a box of awful cookies, just because I was stupid enough to shop when I was hungry, I am now cheating myself at the end of the two weeks. I could have had some rosemary ham and dried, cured black olives instead. 

    When I first started this budget, I did not have extra money but after about 6 months of bulk buying and making everything from scratch, I had a house full of food. I tell you if I had no money right now, I could feed us for a month. That was my plan. I make sure my cupboards are full of the basics and those yummy (but cheap) do-dads to give my menus some flair. I always have my grains, a block of cheddar cheese, a log of goat cheese (or feta or blue. I can buy big wedges of these and get a lot of bang for my buck). I aways have lemons or oranges. I always make sure my balsamic is not running low. Get the idea. I put my money into those tried and true items I have found over time work for us. Then at the end of the two weeks it is spurge time. Now if I have a hundred dollars I do not use it all on chips and soda. I take advantage and maybe buy a special expensive item to cook with or more meat or extra olive oil. But I try to have cook yummy we do not have very often.

     I only have one more post to write. I hope I am not at the point of boring all of you, I did not want to make the posts to long. I will answer your questions next. So if you have any, there is still time xox

You can read more of my 6 part series here!

Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 4



    Another way I save money is to make the most of my bulk section. I am lucky that my gourmet grocery store has a huge and varied bulk section. Now, do not assume you do not have a store with a bulk section in your area, more and more grocery stores are carrying them. I know both Fred Meyer and Safeway have one, also check any heath-food stores in the area.

    One of the ways I save large amounts of money is doing all our baking. I have talked about this before. I make large batch of muffins, scones, etc. Freeze them unbaked and bake them off frozen. This way I always have something to feed my family and I can control how much they eat, or should I say I eat :-) Plus by making it yourself is not only it is cheap but much healthier. I use lots of different gains, make some GF, use much less sugar, etc.

    There is also the issue of breakfast and lunch. For breakfast we eat a lot of muffins, oatmeal, granola, eggs. I do buy some cereal. I get cheap organic oh's from trader joes and then a few boxes of yummier cereal. We mix mostly oh's with a small amount of the good stuff but I only buy so much. So if everyone chows down on the cereal and we run out, then they have to eat something else. Lunch is often leftover from dinner. I never buy juice or soda except treats (which I will talk about in my last post).

   Back to the bulk, I keep a large array of grains, beans, flours, spices and more. I think it is important to rotate what we eat, not always eat the same thing. We might have sushi rice, pearl barley, whole wheat cous cous and risotto all in one week. Bulk section allows me to do this and not spend a lot of money. Nor do I have to go to the grocery store as much. So please take advantage of your bulk section. And just think, you can decorate all those pretty jars that hold all you stuff!!

You can read more of my 6 part series here!


Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 3


    Meat, oh the woe of my life. For me a day is just not worth living if it does not have chocolate in it. Well that is my hubby except it is meat, especially big slabs on steaks that hang over the side of his plate with a nice ale on the side! Here I am struggling to feed my family and hubby is begging for meat ;-) How can I afford that? It was tough that first 6 months in our new home and we had 3 nights a week with no meat or something like one pork chop cut up in little pieces served with a lot of pasta (actully I still do that). So soon as my hubby got his next raise, we started having a separate meat budget. About once every 3 months I go to the little ugly, dinky store down the road that sells big 10# packs of meat and fill up my freezer. Ohh doesn't that sound yummy :-o No seriously, I do buy most of my meat (except for really great sales) in bulk. I get some from Costco but most from the little grocery store. I call it my meat run. Since meat freezes beautifully it is easy to buy large amounts and freeze it. The lovely thing is you always have something for dinner.

    So my grocery budget does not include meat, except for a rare sale. It also does not include household items, another separate budget. I also have made a line in the sand about what I am willing spend on meat per-pound. I have had to raise this line but not too much, so far. This cuts out a lot of meat and different cuts. I will tell you when things go on sale, I go for it. Like once a year when my grocery store has it lamb steaks sale, boy do I load up but you can not freeze meat for a whole year. I find 3 months a good time for meat and then it starts to get yucky. I find it is much easier to say once every 3 months I will spend $60.00 on meat. I try to let my hubby know about 3 weeks before I think I will need to go, that it is getting near the time to get meat.

Thank you for the questions and I will do a separate post at the end and answer them. So if you have a question or two just ask aways xox

PS. I wrote this post 5 years ago and a lot has changed in how we buy meat. Now we only eat grass feed beef and organic chicken. We buy a half a cow and freeze it but I wanted to keep the post as it was to reflect my thoughts five years ago. 

You can read more of my 6 part series here!



Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 2


    Once I started to get an idea of what was good price, I still need to be able to feed my family of four on $50.00. With my beer budget and champagne taste, something had to go! I started off by stripping out all extras, basically pre-made stuff and treats. Ohh and good cheeses, produce out of season, my favorite expensive chocolate, etc ... etc. It was hard but somehow I knew it would only be for a season, not forever and that helped me.

    Not only was I going to have to totally cook from scratch but I had to or should I say wanted to, make food that was healthy and interesting without all the expensive dod-dads. I started looking over what I used and eliminated what was expensive. Then I focused on what was cheap, like herbs from my garden or homemade flavored vinegars. I also looked for things that would give a lot of bang for my buck. For example I make mac and cheese from scratch but I use mostly inexpensive cheddar. Then I get a small wedge of really strong tasting cheese to give some flavor.

    Now there were some things I did not compromise on like olive oil. I can not afford to get amazing olive oil, but I did not buy the totally cheap, no-flavored olive oil. Also balsamic vinegar it must be some what sweet and have some character. I find that Costco, TJ and Grocery Outlet has some interesting gourmet items. Now we have Trader Joes it totally has opened up all kinds of fun, gourmet items to spice up my dishes without breaking the bank.

    I also focus on how to cook cheap cuts of meat simply and add drama with usual, inexpensive ingredients. I looked at ingredient's and what I could do myself. I have dried my own fruit, made my own jams, bread, mustard's, vinegars, etc. Some I thought was worth the time, some I did not. I do not want to say a lot about this because I think it is a very personal thing what is worth your time.

Here is a list of inexpensive ways to add flavor:

herbs, spices, coffee, coco powder, powdered coconut (it comes in these little packets and it like powdered sugar. It is also dirt cheap and amazing, I throw it into everything)

lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, ginger

strong tasting cheeses, in small amounts

roasted veggie and garlic (roasting intensifies the flavor)

capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes (these can be really expensive, you have to look for deals and use lightly)

homemade broth made with bone's that have been roasted in the oven, it intensifies the flavors. If then boil down the broth intensifies more.

mustard, horseradish, vinegars, alcohol

You can read more of my 6 part series here!

Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 1


     I have had several letters asking me if I could share how I save money on my groceries. I am going to talk about what I do over this next week but I want to share a bit of my background first. Mostly I want to share because if anyone is struggling to feed their family healthy, interesting food and feel discouraged, I am hoping I can encourage you. Because believe me if I can do it, anyone can!

    I was lucky to be raised in northern California, which I call the Disneyland of food. In my youth I was blessed with going out to eat at amazing restaurant (almost every weekend), hand-crafted food (before it was hip), wonderful wineries all around me, two trips to Europe and really no budget. Even when I was first married I would spend my mornings planning wonderful three course meals for my new hubby, go to the gourmet grocery store and spend the afternoon cooking for him (He is soo pampered !!!). Then Auberne` was born and the first 7 months of her life was a blur of doctors, surgery and hospitals. After her open-heart surgery we needed a fresh start. My mother sadly was newly divorced and also needed a fresh start, so we all moved to Washington. For six months we live in this amazing 100 years home on the waterfront of a small, charming island. Oh I wish you could see it. Then my mother bought an old farm-house with the idea we would all live together. David and I paid very little rent, so again I really did not have a strict budget until 7 years ago when we bought our Storybook Woods.

    We went from a small rent to a large morgage. It was scary and I guess you could say I had to grow up. I had $50.00 a week for four people and remember we homeschool, so we are home all the time. I live in a fairly food expensive area, so it was stretch for me. It took me a good year to make it work and I am still learning to make my money go farther.

    The first thing I did was start a book of prices. I realized I had no idea if something was a good price. As silly as I looked (and I had people staring at me) I took a notebook with me and wrote down the prices of everything and what store it was. It took me months to really get a good picture of what was a good price and what was not. First because I have a bad memory and could not remember what I saw last week! I found there is not one perfect store but over time I could see that store A has the best over-all deal on produce, store B best deal on meats, store C best bulk section and so on. So the first thing I did was to learn what was a good a price, where to go and I only used cash. For me, I do best when I actually have the cash in my hand and can see how much I have. I do not know why, but when I have cash I can make it go amazingly far.

    What I do will not work for everyone and some of it will be stuff your probably have already heard but I hope you will come away with a tip or two!

You can read the other 5 parts of this series here!

ps. the angel above is Auberne`