Monthly Menus: Feb 1st-Feb 15th

I’ve begun the momentous task of menu planning on a tight budget. February’s a good month to start because it has only 28 days!

Since I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom, I’m not quite hopping on the Once a Month cooking bandwagon, and since we are on a tight budget, meals will often be dependent on what is on sale. Here’s what I have to go with so far, including a Superbowl potluck on the 3rd, a party on the 9th, and Valentine’s Day.

Picking 30 meals all at once is overwhelming, so I divide meals into 7 categories, and I only plan for two weeks at a time so I can get fresh fruit and bread and milk more often. I’ve blogged about my seven categories here: Menu Planning and Recipes

We’re going for budget-friendly here, not Vegan or Super Duper Healthy. But everything is homemade, minus the frozen pizzas, and we avoid sour cream at all costs, so right there we are leagues above the normal American diet.* There are plenty of other blogs out there for menus of all kinds for every fancy. This isn’t a foodie blog, but I did think I’d share some ideas for meals, since I know I’m not the only person to wonder what to make for dinner!

*UPDATE: Sorry, this is worded in a confusing manner. Sour cream isn’t the real issue here, though indulging in fatty condiments like it (mayonnaise, ranch dressing, etc.) is pretty standard in a lot of American diets and recipes. The main difference is eating homemade meals. I’m pretty sure you could make a week’s worth of recipes, all including sour cream, and it would be better for your health than eating a diet comprised of processed or fast foods!

2013-Feb-1-15

February 1st – 15th

  1. Friday—Frozen Pizza
  2. Saturday—Leftovers
  3. Sunday—SUPERBOWL POTLUCK—Slow Cooker Tater Tot Hotdish
  4. Monday—TBD, Something meaty with whatever meat is on sale
  5. Tuesday—Tacos with homemade taco seasoning
  6. Wednesday—Greek Style Garlic Chicken
  7. Thursday—On-Sale Fish and Sauteed Orzo with Parmesan and Basil
  8. Friday—Frozen Pizza
  9. Saturday—SPEAKEASY PARTY—Crockpot Hot dogs (and much more; I’ll blog about it)
  10. Sunday—Shepherd’s Pie
  11. Monday—TBD, Something meaty with whatever meat is on sale
  12. Tuesday—Green Sauce Enchiladas
  13. Wednesday—Baked Penne with Italian Sausage
  14. Thursday—VALENTINE’S DAY—Alton Brown’s French Toast with Blueberry Compote
  15. Friday—Frozen Pizza

Shopping List

Produce

  • 4 potatoes
  • 5 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • lemon
  • garlic
  • Fresh basil

Meat

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 2 lb hamburger
  • 1 lb Italian Sausage
  • 7 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Whatever is on meat special (I’ll make meals on the 4th and 11th depending on the meat sale)
  • Whatever FISH is on special (tilapia or salmon, frozen, wild-caught)
  • Kosher or all-beef hot dogs

Dairy

  • milk
  • butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (sometimes with pasta and/or tomato sauce)
  • 1 lb cheddar cheese
  • 1 lb Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups Mozzarella Cheese

Frozen

  • 3 Frozen Pizzas
  • 16 ounce bag of tater tots
  • 1/2 pound frozen green beans (OR 1 can french style green beans, whichever is cheaper)
  • 2 cups frozen blueberries

Pantry

  • 8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf, brioche or challah bread
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can french style green beans (OR 1/2 pound frozen, whichever is cheaper)
  • 1 can fried onions (6 ounces)
  • 24, 6-in tortillas
  • 24 oz can of green enchilada sauce
  • 11 oz can sweet corn
  • 1 cup + 1 can chicken broth or 2.5 bouillon cubes
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with garlic
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 12 oz penne pasta
  • ketchup
  • flour
  • olive oil
  • vegetable oil
  • honey

Spices

  • chili powder
  • ground cumin
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • crushed red pepper
  • paprika
  • salt & pepper

This shopping list is for dinners only, and I already have quite a few of the ingredients in my pantry. (Thankfully I’ve been stocking up on Frozen Pizzas, so my Fridays for the month are covered.) I’ll post breakfast ideas and lunch ideas either on a weekly basis or all in one mega post. I’m leaning towards mega posts: Breakfast Ideas, Lunch Ideas, and Dinner Ideas divided by type of meat or lack thereof. Meat is usually the most expensive thing on the list, and it’s usually what we tend to get in a rut in with most, so dividing it that way makes sense to me. Within each of the dinner posts, I’ll divide it into those 7 categories.

Usually we have leftovers for lunch. I plan on starting to make a huge batch of soup each Sunday for lunches as well. Otherwise it’s sandwiches over here.

As for sides, I have a bunch of frozen veggies for steaming, or we have a salad, or we have pasta or rice. I’ll try to be a bit more inventive when I post the dinner ideas later.

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Variations on a PB&J

pbj

I love Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, lemme tell you.

But sometimes it’s fun to mix things up. I recently saw an article in the newspaper about a PBRB sandwich, inspired by Weelicious. It got me thinking about a bunch of variations for the PB&J, and I thought I’d share a bunch here, and get some more ideas from you fine people!

Variation #1: Very ImPRESSED

Weelicious gives the secret to The World’s Greatest Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich: A Waffle Iron!

The waffle iron works like a panini press and grills your sandwich. It’s also relatively safe for children to use (supervised, of course!). Just lightly butter the waffle iron, place the sandwich, and press for 2 minutes. Click the link above for a video How-To.

Variation #2: Breads

Try a different kind of bread than usual. How about a multi-grain, potato, nutty, sunflower seed, or cinnamon bread?

Variation #3: Peanut Butter

There’s smooth peanut butter and chunky peanut butter. Try almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower seed butter, hazelnut spread, or even Nutella.

Variation #4: Jelly

Jelly, Fruit Preserves, Jam. Apparently there is a difference to these. There’s marmalade, too. There are so many different flavors out there, try something new, like Strawberry Rhubarb or Cherry.

Try fresh fruit, like mashed banana, or berries or even applesauce. If the fruit is especially thin, or if you won’t be eating the sandwich straight away, then be sure to use peanut butter on both sides of the bread, and put the fruit in the middle. The PB works as a barrier to prevent soggy bread.

Or toss the fruit and add honey or Nutella. Peanut Butter & Nutella sandwiches are the Captain’s specialty. I am not a fan of Nutella, so when I make the sandwiches, Champ gets the same as whatever I’m making for myself.

The PBRB Sandwich

PBRB is peanut butter, mashed banana, and raspberries, placed between two slices of bread and “grilled” on the waffle iron.

Waffle Iron Review

So I tried this today on Champ’s lunch (see top photo) as well as my own. It was okay, but not amazing. The taste would be similar if I just toasted the bread and then proceeded to make the sandwich. But maybe the excitement of using a waffle iron is enough to get a child to eat the sandwich with a smile. The biggest “con” about the waffle iron, though, is clean up. My waffle iron’s got peanut butter and jelly all over it now. Unless you have incredibly dense bread, I would expect a similar outcome. I think I’d prefer to use the griddle and just grill them that way, like a grilled cheese.

Will I try it again? Maybe. While making the sandwiches, I spotted a bag of marshmallows on the counter. If I use the waffle iron again, I might try making a s’more sandwich with chocolate peanut butter (you could use Nutella, if that’s your thing) and giant marshmallows. Then again, I could always just buy the marshmallow spread itself.

What are your personal favorites?

Chocolate Revel Bars {Recipe}

revel bars

Quite a few years ago, I tasted these babies and immediately asked for the recipe. It may well have been the first time I ever asked for a recipe from anyone.

My kitchen has been a mess these past few weeks with all the holiday cooking and baking, so I don’t have lovely in-process photos for you, colloquially known as “food porn.”

But I will share the recipe here!

Don’t even attempt to use less than a pound of butter for this. If you are looking for low-fat recipes, try my Da Vinci Dip recipe. Also note: ♩♪♫♬ this is my blog and I’ll blog what I want to ♫♪♩.

Chocolate Revel Bars

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 1 bag (12 oz or 2 cups) chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp REAL BUTTER
  • 1 can CONDENSED Milk (not evaporated)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Crust:

  • 4 sticks (1 pound) REAL BUTTER, softened
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp maple flavor
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 1/2 cups old fashioned oats

Instructions:

  1. Warm  filling ingredients on the stove at low heat while making crust.
  2. Preheat oven to 375℉
  3. Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl.
  4. Add salt and maple flavor, stir.
  5. Slowly incorporate flour and then oats until thoroughly mixed.
  6. Press half of the crust mixture into the bottom of a Jelly Roll pan (about 15″ x 10″ x 1″)
  7. Pour filling over the bottom crust and spread out with a spatula.
  8. Crumble remaining crust on top of filling and gently press down into the filling.
  9. Bake at 375℉ for 30 minutes.

When cool, cut into SMALL squares and serve.

I had my first weird pregnancy craving while making this. I don’t think I’ve ever used sweetened condensed milk before, and it was all I could do not to lick the can while I was pouring it into the pot. Something about the color and creaminess. It was perfection. I’m going to stop thinking about it before I start drooling over my keyboard.

Happy New Year!