Thursday, July 29, 2010

Portion size and fillers

Do you know what a portion size looks like? It's really not that much. One thing that will eat at your food budget is just how much a family member eats. I have found an interesting thing when it comes to how much of something my kids will eat. One morning I bake them muffins for breakfast. I used regular sized muffins, one batch made up 12 muffins. Each of my kids at TWO whole muffins. I was shocked.

A week later I made muffins again (yes they are a favorite for breakfast around our house, but yummy and homemade!) This time I thought it would be fun to make the mini-muffins which makes 24 little muffins. To my surprise my none of my kids had more than 3 muffins each. So that got me thinking, does it have to do with size? I was thinking 2 regular sized muffins is a bit much for kids to eat. I repeated my theory a few times since my first discovery and each time they ate less of the mini muffins than regular ones.

So what have I learned? By changing the size of the muffins my kids ate less (probably more to their correct portion size) and my muffins lasted twice at long! Which means added bacon in my pocket!

We've used this on other foods as well. One is ground burger. When I make meals that involve meatballs, like the tinfoil meal we had this past week, I make tiny meatballs. I use one pound of burger and get about 25 mini meatballs out of it. The kids eat only 3-4 each, again closer to their portion size, and I feed our family of 5 their protein on only 1 pound of burger for our meal, another budget saver! If you are wondering what a portion of meat is, it's about the size of the palm of your hand- or your kids hand.

Fillers are another way to make your food budget go further. Along with our pound of burger in our tinfoil meal above, I cut up potatos and carrots to have with it. These are both fairly cheap and makes an easy meal. Another filler I use to make our meals stretch further is noodles. We stock up on them when they are cheap or on our trips to SAM's club. By adding a few extra noodles to our meals we can make sure everyone get's plenty to eat and we have leftovers to lunch the next day.

I'll include the recipes I've mentioned above for you to try them out. Great recipes for a healthy budget!

Apple pie muffins:


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cups packed brown sugar
3/4 cups sugar
2 cups diced apples
I like to use more than one kind of apples if I have them, 
one kind is still yummy though 
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 2-12 cup muffin tin pans or 2-24 cup mini muffin tin pans or line with paper muffin cups.
    2. In a large bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, 1/2 cup melted butter, vanilla, sugar and brown sugar until sugar has dissolved. Pour into the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sprinkle the diced apple into the bowl as well. Stir just until everything is blended (make sure not to over mix this, it's ok to have lumps). Spoon into the prepared muffin tin, filling the cups to the top.
    3. In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour and cinnamon. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of melted butter while tossing with a fork until well blended. Sprinkle this over the tops of the muffins.
    4. Bake for 25-30 minutes for regular muffins or 12-16 min for mini- muffins in the preheated oven, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed.


    1 lb ground burger
    1 tsp onion powder
    2 tsp chili powder - divided
    2 cans (29oz) tomato sauce
    3 cups (uncooked) elbow noodles

    Boil noodles in water until cooked.
    In large skillet, Brown burger with onion powder and 1 tsp chili powder. Once browned, add in remaining tsp chili powder and 2 cans tomato sauce. Let simmer 5 min. Add in cooked noodles to burger and mix. Let simmer, stirring occasionally for another 10 min until all is heated though. Serve.

    We like to serve this with toast. It's a great meal, especially on winter nights. This usually gives us enough leftovers for lunch for everyone the next day. If you have a smaller family or prefer less noodles, you can decrease this to 2 cups noodles.


    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Summer treat on a budget

    SNOW CONES!! My kids love them on hot days. We used to just smash up some ice in a baggie and pour syrup over it. Worked awesome. This year I found for $5 on clearance a snow cone machine. It works really well too. So we've been enjoying snow cones quite often. But we don't pay super high prices for those yummy syrups to top them, we make our own.

    This recipe came straight from the snoopy snow cone maker directions (anyone remember those?! We had one as kids and I loved it, but I have to say an electric one saves a lot of time making them).

    Snow cone syrup:

    1 cup sugar
    1/2 cup water
    1 packet unsweetened fruit-flavored soft drink mix (ie: something like kool-aid)

    Mix together in bow until disolved. Store in bottle in fridge.

    We use one of those ketchup bottles you can buy at the store to put ours in. It makes it handy to pour out onto the shaved ice. This is another great activity the kids can help out with making and get a yummy treat out of it!

    Homemade frozen pizza

    Whew... I survived 2 birthdays in one week! it was a bit busy and heavy on the budget, but you only get one birthday a year right! And the best part was Bacon Jr and Little boy bacon both enjoyed their birthdays and I didn't break my budget even with eating out twice in one week (all from good planning!)

    For little boy bacon's trip out to eat we decided to make it a lunch adventure instead of dinner. The place he wanted to go was a bit more expensive so going for lunch let us use the lunch menu at cheaper prices. Also a bonus for Mr & Ma Bacon, it wasn't so busy there.

    For dinner we decided to make homemade pizza on the grill! Mr. Bacon got a pizza stone for fathers day and we thought it would be a great day to finally try it out. Who doesn't like homemade pizza!?!

    Every time I mention to someone we're making homemade pizza I get the same response " I LOVE homemade pizza, but it takes so long to make. I end up making a frozen one instead." I used to say the same thing. I would make my pizza crust dough in the bread maker and it would take 1.5hrs to just make dough! By the time I decided on making pizza for dinner it was too late to start it all up. I did some digging and found a great dough crust recipe that only takes 10 minutes to make, add toppings and put in the oven and 20min later you have fresh homemade pizza! This recipe can also be made into freezer pizzas!

    FAST QUICK PIZZA CRUST (ready in 15min!)

    1/2-3/4 c. warm water 110-115deg.

    1pkg (1 TBSP) dry yeast

    1 tsp sugar

    2 cups flour

    1 TBSP oil

    1/2 tsp salt

    Mix 1/4 c of the water with yeast and sugar in small bowl- let sit for 5min or until bubbly. Put flour, salt and oil in food processor (or mixer, I use my kitchenaid mixer for it with the dough hook)- mix for 5 sec. pour in yeast/water/sugar mix. mix for 10 sec. Turn on processor and slowly drizzle in remaining water just until the dough pulls away from sides of processor and turns around about 25 times. The dough should not be too sticky. Place dough ball on greased pizza pan- cover with bowl for 10 min. Press into pizza pan and add your favorite toppings. Bake 425 for 15-20min until golden brown and cheese is melted and bubbly.
    You can also make 2- 15" thin crust pizzas from this instead of one thick crust. I do this when I make the pizzas to put in the freezer.

    For homemade Frozen pizza:
    Mix crust as above. Add sauce (I make my own homemade pizza sauce from the tomatos I grow in the garden and can it each year, it's delicious!) and meat/veggie toppings. Do NOT add cheese yet. Bake at 400* for 10 min. Allow to cool on pan. Once pizza is cooled, add shreaded cheese. Wrap in tin foil and put in freezer. To bake- take out frozen pizza and place on pizza sheet or directly on rack still frozen. Bake 400* for 12-15 min our until crust browns and cheese is melted.

    These are very cheap alternative to the frozen pizza's you buy in the store and always made with the toppings you want! I've had them last in the freezer for up to 6mths though they usually don't last that long.
    When we make our shopping trips to SAM's club we usually stock up on bulk pizza supplies to make these. The kids favorite is still just pepperoni and sausage. But I do make up some with more toppings for Mr. Bacon and myself. They don't take much time to make up either. The kids love helping put the toppings on so we usually take a day on the weekend and make up a bunch.

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    The Pantry challenge

    A few weeks ago some great friends of mine challenged me to a 'no spending' week long challenge. It was just what I needed to rethink what we had on hand. During this challenge we were to use up what we had on hand in the house, find activities to do that didn't cost anything and find ways to curb those impulse buys. Really it wasn't too hard since we don't go out to a lot of places during the week anyway. But the meals were a bigger challenge for me. we were at the end of our 2 weeks and just before grocery shopping time and there wasn't much food left in the house (even the kids were complaining!), so I had to get creative. I was stumped one night for planning dinner so I started to REALLY dig though the pantry and freezer. Here is what I found:

    2 frozen chicken breasts
    1 small can sliced mushrooms
    1 can italian diced tomatoes
    and a heck of a lot of penne pasta!

    OH what to do?

    I got the penne cooking in boiling water- about 2 cups worth.

    In a skillet I put about a 1 TBSP olive oil. I chopped the thawed chicken into small pieces (this appears to look like there's more in there!), added some seasoning from the cabinet (we have lots to chose from, this time I grabbed mrs. dash garlic & herb) and I threw a tsp of chopped garlic in the pan as well. We keep a jar of prechopped garlic on hand in the fridge too. When the chicken was about 1/2 way cooked in the skillet I added in the can of undrained tomatoes and the mushrooms and let it all simmer together until the chicken was done, about another 15 min.

    Drain the penne pasta and placed it in a serving dish (9x13 pan worked great for this) and then poured the chicken mix over the top. Added some fresh grated Parmesan cheese to the top and VOLIA! dinner.

    This turned out amazing! Pick any kind of pasta for it. If you don't have/like mushrooms, change it up with some fresh zucchini or peppers from the garden for shredded carrots (this hides them easier from the kids eyes!) or what ever else you have on hand. This one went right to the recipe book for us. The next time we make this I'll toast up some french bread or bread sticks to go with it!

    So here's a challenge for you- what can you come up with for dinner that you already have on hand? I'm sure you have a lot in the pantry and freezer. Leave me a comment, I'd love to hear what you made. Some of our best recipes come from experiments.

    Make your own mixes and save $$

    What's for Breakfast mom? Ever heard that before?! My kids get bored with the same old cereal and toast every day and I like to treat them to a yummy warm breakfast, even on busy days. Some days it just gets crazy though. I found a great mix that you can make ahead and have on hand for pancakes and waffles and it stores in the pantry for up to 6mths (if it lasts that long!) It's super easy to make them and the best part is you can make up a bunch and freeze them too for those busy mornings.

    Pancake & waffle mix:
    * this recipe mixes best when you use a pastry blender (found at places like target or walmart for a good price, or better yet goodwill or a garage sale!) to mix it all together.

    8 C white flour
    2 C. Whole wheat flour (can use white flour if don't have whole wheat)
    1/2 C. baking Powder
    1/4 c sugar
    2 tsp salt
    2 C. shortening
    3 C. old fashioned quick oat oatmeal

    With a pastry cutter, Mix all ingredients together. Use a big bowl because there is a lot to mix up. Store in air tight container such as an ice cream pail for up to 6mths. (this makes a lot, at least 1 ice cream pail full! This recipe can also be cut in half for smaller batches)

    EDITED: Since posting this I have found that this recipe is very easy to modify!  I have substituted up to 1/2 the flour with whole wheat, I have used up some of my baby food oatmeal in this recipe too! (Hey Bacon Bit wouldn't eat it, someone has to!!)  I have substituted up to 2 cups of flour with 2 cups of baby food oatmeal and have not had any problems.  Right now when I mix up a batch I use 6 cups white flour, 2 cups wheat flour, 2 cups baby food oatmeal and Mr. Bacon and the kids haven't noticed at all!   Also if you do not like shortening or are trying to find something a bit heathier you can use coconut oil instead.  I've been doing a lot more research on the health benifits of coconut oil and I like what I'm finding!  It also tastes super delicious melted over popcorn! Hope these updated tips can help out some of my wonderful readers!

    For Pancakes:
    2 Cups mix
    1 c. Milk
    2 eggs
    Mix and drop onto prepared skillet. These freeze well! To reheat- place a few pancakes in microwave for about 30 sec. check to see if they are warm, if not turn over and micro for 30 more sec.

    For Waffles:
    2 C. mix
    1 1/3 cups milk
    1 egg
    2 TBSP oil

    Mix and place in prepared waffle iron until done, these freeze well! To reheat, take waffle from freezer and place directly into toaster. You may have to adjust toasting times since it is frozen.

    You can also use this mix to make biscuits!!

    2 1/4 cups mix
    2/3 cup milk

    Mix and drop on greased cookie sheet. bake 450 degrees for 10-12min

    Buttermilk biscuits:

    2 C. mix
    3/4 cup buttermilk

    Mix and drop on greased pan. Bake 450 for 10-12min or until tops are golden brown.

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Weekend shopping trip

    This past weekend was payday which means time to grocery shop. We planned out our menu and what else we needed around the house and made our list. This week was a challenge since we have birthdays for both our boys this week- 4 days apart! But we headed out to the store with our list in hand and managed to keep to budget. We spent $82.73 of our $80 budget so not too bad.

    Here is our meal list for the next 2 weeks.
    *Griled chicken, wild rice, veggies, biscuits
    *Tacos & fresh fruit
    *Ham and hashbrown bake, Veggie
    *Chicken wraps & fruit
    *Homemade pizza
    *BBQ's, Fruit salad, mac & cheese
    *Tinfoil dinner (potatos, carrots, onions, and mini meatballs- wrapped in tinfoil and cooked on the grill- super easy to do!)
    *bowtie chicken (pasta, chicken, zucchini, red peppers)
    *Turkey, mashed taters, veggie
    *Mini burgers on the grill, twice baked potatoes, veggie
    *Spaghetti and french bread
    *Steaks, grilled potatoes, salad, shrimp
    *out to eat for Bacon Jr's bday
    *Out to eat for little boy bacon's bday

    (now before you panic for seeing us going out to eat twice in one week, (heck I'm panicing!) we let the kids pick where they would like to go out to eat (or what special meal they'd like) for their birthdays each year. This is a special treat for them. We just happen to have 2 birthdays in the same week. We do budget for this and it comes out of the money we set aside each month for gifts)

    For our meals, we had quite a bit of it on hand. We usually buy all our meats in bulk at sams club. It seems be be a better deal than the sales they have at the stores near us. I'll try to get a copy of my receipt to post on here if you're wondering just what the heck can you buy for $80?!

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    Grocery shopping on a budget

    When Mr Bacon brings it home twice a month, that means it's time to grocery shop (along with paying bills). How do we go about it and keep within our budget? First I should say we feed a family of 5 (with one bacon bit on the way) for about $200 a month! This takes a lot of planning and a few years for us to figure out exactly how to cut our grocery bills this low. We use to spend over $500 a month when it was just 3 of us at home! Right now we allow ourselves to spend $80 every 2 weeks at the grocery store, the other $40 a month goes into an envelope to spend at SAM'S club. Here we shop about every 3 mths and stock up on things like meat and frozen veggies.

    The first step- Menu planning. We rarely eat out so it's making our own meals each night. Really if you eat out a lot, think back to how much you spent on that dinner. Do you even remember? Or did you just pull out the plastic and hope for the best? When we do go out to eat it costs about $40- this is about a weeks worth of groceries for us! Way cheaper to eat at home, and I know what's going into my meals for my family.

    Every two weeks we make up a menu for the next two weeks at a family. Yes you read that right, all 5 of us sit down and talk about what we want for dinners. The kids like that they get to help pick out the meals.

    Once we get our meal plan down, I hunt though the pantry and freezer and see what we have for each meal. What's not on hand, we add to our shopping list and head off to get groceries, yup again as a family! Yes people think I'm insane for it, I take 3 kids 7 and under AND a husband to the grocery store! But really it works for us. Our kids get a good lesson in how to buy good vs. bad foods, and they get a nice math lesson in whats a better deal. Mr. Bacon and I keep each other in check to make sure no impulse buys go into the cart without both of us agreeing to it. So crazy, maybe, but sticking to a budget we do!

    So you're thinking you want to try this, start small. If you're used to eating out a lot, challenge yourself to see if you can cut it back each week. Try to plan even a few meals a week will help. Baby steps are what get you to your goals.

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    so where to start?

    Really this didn't happen overnight. We had an idea to get better grip of our finances but the 'how?' took some adjusting. Ok a LOT of adjusting! :)

    The first step we took was just talking. Finances for a couple don't work if only one person is on board. Sure you can help some by adjusting your views of money, but the biggest impact is if both of you are on board.

    Our first step was just saving every. single. receipt for a whole month. When we got home from shopping we would go back over them and highlight all the non- necessary things we bought and the impulse buys. Then we stuck them in a baggie. At the end of the month we were shocked when we looked over them. Over 50% of each receipt had impulse buys on them or stuff we didn't need! Things from what we 'wanted' or groceries we already had on hand, but couldn't find due to a poor organized pantry. We were shocked.

    We moved on from that step. We researched the envelope system which uses only cash and decided it was for us. Then we started meal planning, because the biggest bulk of our receipts was food. Food is usually the one area that you can make the most adjustments to help out your budget. We meal planned our menu each week. We wrote out a grocery list and stuck to it. It was amazing to see how much we saved just with these few steps. It all helped to inspire us to keep going on it and the keep our goals for living debt free in sight!

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Just the beginning...

    Often I get people rolling their eyes at my frugality, but I also get lots of people asking "how do you do it?" or asking what my secrets are. So I've decided to write down a few of the simple thing we do around our house to help us keep that hard earned cash Mr. Bacon brings home to us last just a bit longer. He's bringing home the bacon, and we're all trying hard keep it in our pockets.

    I have to say we weren't always this good with our money. It took the birth of our 2nd child 'little miss bacon' to get us to look at our spending. I was staying at home with the kids leaving us a one income family. It wasn't easy looking at the hard facts about our money spending. But it sure was an eye opener! Thankfully we are on the right road now,and with soon to be a family of 6 we need it. And hopefully I can share some ideas to help you keep your bacon in your pocket too! Thanks for stopping by.

    Ma Bacon