Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Bare Essentials Challenge: Weekly Recap

First, be prepared.  Meals this week were all over the place compared to the menu plan.  Or at least I think they were.  Honestly I forgot to write it down Monday on my dry eraser board and was so out of it, I didn't even really check it until tonight to compare everything *laugh*.

This week we officially, finally, ran out of cheese, but luckily I was able to get a 2 lb chunk of cheese, not our usual preferred brand but any port in a storm, for 5.00 yesterday as part of 5.00 Friday.  I'm down to my last four pounds of butter, so I'm wondering how long that'll stretch, but we'll see how it goes :).

Hey, actually looking at the menu plan I'm not doing half bad, really.  Sure the days were messed up for me and we're not having chicken pot pie until tomorrow, but still...I actually did halfway decent.  Excellent!

1.  Taco Soup Night

I used the leftover taco chicken, threw about 2/3 of a container of salsa from the fridge into it, through in leftover olives from taco night and some frozen corn and some chicken stock and 6 hours later on low and we had taco soup!

I served mine garnished with a little sour cream in the middle and some corn chips.  I then ended up eating a LOT of taco soup this week for lunches as it made a huge amount and no one in the family but me liked it all that well.  I used it up, though, so that's all that mattered.

2.  Roast Chicken Night

About the biggest thing we used up that night was an older chicken in the freezer that was just in the "needs to be used up" phase.  I found the container of cranberry relish that was in the freezer from Thanksgiving and so we used a part of that for the roast chicken night as well as the subsequent leftover eating meals.
Tonight I decided I needed to do something with the leftover relish, which equaled out to about a cup and a half or so and decided to turn it into jam/marmalade.  I added another 1 cup of sugar to the relish and boiled it till it sheeted from a spoon.  I then poured it into jelly jars and sealed up the lids.  I didn't put these through a water bath canner, mind you, as I just didn't feel like pulling out the canner for 2 jars to get properly canned, so I'll be waiting until they are fully cooled and then storing them in the freezer.  The jam came together REALLY well considering how much natural pectin cranberries have.  I'll be using the jam for things like puddings and as a filling in orange flavored cakes or something in the coming months.  It came out pretty tasty and no relish was wasted this way :).

3.  While digging through the standing freezer to pull out meat for the weekend and next week, I found a bonus I had nearly forgotten about.  Pumpkin Pasties!  These were left over from my Halloween adventures.  They aren't freezer burned yet, more is the miracle, so I'm defrosting them and will be packing them as a treat into the husband's lunches this next week as well as using them as dessert.  They need to be used up and are tasty, so we might as know...use them up!
4.  French Toast Night

Well I used up the rest of a loaf of home made bread that was going stale and for a change I made JUST enough french toast mixture to do the entire loaf.  I was proud of myself.

We not only ate the french toast with eggs one night (home made canned blueberries on top, obviously), but I also ate french toast as lunch the next day and this morning my husband ate the rest of it for breakfast, so it pretty much worked flawlessly for 3 meals the last couple of days.  Love it when that happens :).
5.  Pork steak and "use up" night.

While digging in the freezer I pulled out one of the last bags of home made applesauce from last year (February of last year to be exact) and a bag of apple pie filling to make into a pie later in the week.  The applesauce I served up with some pork steaks from the freezer.  I also used up the last little bit of our cheese, the rest of the left over black olives from taco night and the lettuce that was starting to go a little wilty and we had salad.  I also used up one of the potatoes that was kind of going wrinkly already and mashed it in with some mashed potatoes from a mix.  This really helps to improve the texture and taste of mashed potatoes that might not live up to your expectations on what they should taste like.  I then mixed in some garlic powder and some Parmesan cheese and we had some nice flavored mashed potatoes for dinner (that tasted a lot better than the original really really kind of "meh" mashed potato mix I had).
6.  Beef Bourguignon night.

I took the short ribs I'd gotten at Carrs cheap the other week and used a recipe from The Galloping Gourmet I had, but with a lot of deviations as I used pantry staples a lot to replace his ingredients.  I'll post up the recipe for this soon, but needless to say it was super delicious, is rich so a little goes a long way and we have leftovers we can eat for lunch tomorrow.

7.  Chicken Pot Pie Night

I took a couple of little bags with turkey from the freezer that definitely needed to be used up, picked every bit of chicken that was left off the carcass from early in the week, took some SOS mix and made up the consistency of 2 cans of cream of chicken soup and then added a bunch of frozen veg med and let it simmer in the crock pot for four hours.  I then let it cool and put it into a casserole and put it into the fridge.  Now the filling is ready for a pie crust on top and the oven or I can make up some biscuits and we can have chicken and biscuits for dinner is pretty much the limit on that one.  It's great having a dish I can just pop in the oven tomorrow, no prep and it'll take care of itself for a while till dinner time.  Woot!

So there you are folks.  My culinary fun for the week.  You use up anything fun this week?


  1. That food looks great! It looks like you were able to make a bunch of great meals from your freezer. It was great that you were able to make up some jelly from the cranberry sauce, as well.

    I was able to get butter at Freddies for $1.98/lb. this week. We ended up with 8. I don't know if they run the same sales there as they do here. They also had milk for 99c/1/2 gallon, and cheetos, and fritos for under $2/bag.

    1. I WISH we had those sales up here! I would have so gone over my grocery budget gratefully if we had sales like that *laugh*.

      I can get butter, or used to as it's been about six months since I bought it last, for about 2.00 a pound at our local bulk store. I'm HOPING it's close to what I paid six months ago when I got it last it should work out alright :).

  2. We were also out of cheese but I was able to get it for $1.50 for 2 cups shredded so I bought 3 different flavors, also butter on sale in a brand I never heard of before. Had homemade pizza and salad Friday evening when my son had a friend over. Both kids made their own pizza and had a great time. I enjoy reading about your meals as I am currently attempting to use up what is in our chest freezer.

    1. Well, in my experience butter usually tastes pretty good no matter the brand. The only brand I've had mixed results with was the store generic butter at Fred Meyer and Carrs. It's like the butter sits in the warehouse sometimes and just picks up funky flavors like nobody's business. Fred Meyer was particularly bad for years when my husband and I first got married, so I stopped buying generic butter all together. I bought some last year, though, and it tasted okay, which was nice, but I still don't trust it fully *laugh*.

      Nice deal on the cheese! Being able to get different flavors is nice as a way to mix things up a little bit on the cooking front. Wish my kids would eat more than just "medium cheddar", but I should feel lucky that they don't want to exist on Kraft cheese slices or something and that they like real cheese.

      Totally going off on a tangent here, but those cheese slices in the thin plastic...just brought back memories of childhood and how much of a PAIN getting that plastic off was. And I always had static electricity going with my super fine hair so the darn plastic would always fly up and try to stick to my hair.

      Ha! Amazing what memories sneak up on you at weird times *laugh*.

  3. I know you don't have an Aldi but I am praying that their price of butter is $2.00 lb. for Easter. I will go over budget for that. I made a soup using three Italian sausage links, carrots, onions, garlic, celery, and for the first time chopped kale. I added beans and chicken broth and my dh liked it a lot. With only two of us at home, we have soup two nights a week, and breakfast for dinner one night. I do a bigger meal on Sundays usually. Cheryl

    1. I love dark greens in soup! Chard is my favorite dark green as I love the slightly sweet flavor it gets in soup, but it tastes like a traditional dark green if you just blanch it. And it takes up less room in the garden then some greens AND it's hardy, which is a benefit :).

      I'm trying to really gravitate toward stews, really thick ones at that, to feed my husband since he HATES soup (wet food he calls it). So far it has actually been working out pretty well, although I've only tried him on a few different ones. I'm hoping he'll get on board with it as it's a great way to use up little odds and ends, is nutritious, and I love soup (so I'm biased ;).

  4. Looks delicious! Much better than any meals in my house, LOL. Again, seems like you're finding great treasure in the freezer, like the pasties, that might otherwise have remained hidden and gotten freezer burn...almost like free food!

    Is this your Amazon referral link?

    I got it by clicking through "Han Solo" via your post here:

    1. Yup, that's my referral link. You can tell a referral link (geek alert here) by checking through the URL code and if you see "blahblahblah-20" (the -20 is the radar raiser) you know it's someone's referral link. The "thealabarhun" thing is because my referral link is really long and is from back in the days when I ran a coupon blog called, "The Alaskan Bargain Hunter". So, yeah, a bit of useless information for today *laugh*.

    2. Really OLD, not long. Although the URL tends to be long on Amazon ;).

    3. Oh and one more thing (lack of caffeine make Erika post multiple times in a row), if you order anything through my affiliate links, thank you. I really do appreciate it :).

      I keep trying to get Amazon's code to be nice and work with me so I do something more permanent on the side of the blog, but when I try to get coding work done to do it all I see on Amazon's end is a blank screen/box. I need to e-mail them about that and try to figure out what is going on there.

    4. Thanks! And thanks for the explanation...I love knowing things like that.

      I did order 2 tiny things through it last week (that'll net you like 2 cents, probably, lol) but wanted to check before any more orders.

      Costs me nothing to click through, and it's nice Amazon has the referral program.

  5. Yum! Can we all come eat at your house? :)

    Great job Erika!

    We had to go back to our "original" $40/wk budget rather than $100/month - we simply couldn't do it with both kids in sports and our freezers being cleaned out. I'm super bummed but we do need to eat! :)

    You're doing a great job feeding your family - keep up the good work!

    1. Wow, that would be a hard one with two kids in sports. I admire you for trying! Bright side, once you have freezers restocked and things more on an even keel, even if you can do a reduced grocery budget a couple of times a month it makes a difference. Good luck with the sports too. I know that keeps people hopping!

  6. What a nice mix of meals you had this week. A little bit of everything! The french toast with blueberries looks so good!!! Awesome freezer find too...wish I would discover something yummy like pumpkin pastries in mine. Great idea making the cranberry relish into jam. One more thing you can use to make delicious PB&J sandwiches for lunches.

    As for the cheese and butter, if you can swing it, try putting a little bit of money aside right now. Very soon the Easter sales will be out and both those items are popular for Easter meals. If you have a bit extra put aside, you can buy more for your money while it's on sale to add to your stock. But I know, you probably already know that...we think so much alike it's scary sometimes.

    1. *Laugh* indeed we do. I've put aside 20.00 for seasonal sale items with hopes of getting cheap butter around Easter and getting cheap potatoes (red potatoes went on sale for like .69 lb the last few years) and cheap cabbage. I also have 20.00 put aside for hopefully maybe a cheap corned beef to put back into the freezer, but that's only if it goes really cheap this year (which, with the price of beef still high...I'm not sure that's going to happen). If I don't use the full 40.00 for those things I'll just put it back into the "overage cushion" on the grocery budget, so it'll work out one way or the other :).

    2. Oops. Cheap cabbage, cheap potatoes and cheap corned beef around St. Patrick's Day. I meant to add that part, but I'm obviously more tired than I thought *laugh*.

  7. I love the taco soup. We call it guesado-kind of a meat soup with liquid, and I always add a tomato sauce, then veggies that are limply surviving and perhaps a potato. Cranberry jelly/jam is great on pancakes!

    Even without a schedule we must feed those we care for and I think you did wonderful without even trying~ :) as we know after a while it does become second nature, don't you think?

    1. Yes, it really does become second nature. Very, very true :).