Friday, June 27, 2008

Sausage/Green Beans/Potatoes

This is a comfort food to me. Getting off the bus from school I could smell it cooking from down the drive way. This is a super easy dish and very satisfying as well. We always eat ours with corn bread and applesauce. The combination just works somehow.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: at least 2 hours
Serves: 8-10
Cost: approx. $7.00

1 package of smoked sausage sliced ($2.00- we like turkey sausage)
2 large cans of green beans ($4.00)
6 potatoes washed and sliced ($1.00)

Brown the smoked sausage in a skillet. In a crock pot layer the potatoes, then the sausage and top with the green beans. Cover and cook on high for at least 2 hours or until the potatoes are soft. I prefer to cook all day on low in order to combine all of the flavors.

**Oftentimes in the summer smoked sausage is on sale at Meijer Buy 1 get 2 free. I stock up then and just freeze the meat until ready to use, thus making this meal even less expensive.**

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Birthday Cakes

My friend, Amy, once got suckered into buying a Hello Kitty Cake for her niece's birthday to the tune of... well let's just say that for some of us it is our weekly grocery budget. I decided long ago that I would be the birthday cake maker at our house and the sky is the limit.

Originally, I took a Wilton Cake decorating course just to get down the basics. Being that I get to create seven unique cakes a year, I've found myself falling away from some of the more traditional cake making techniques. It's fun to look at magazines for ideas (I especially like Family Fun) or to just ask one of the kids for an idea or theme of what they would like and doing my best from there. Sometimes the cakes are shaped and other times they are decorated with toys. They are not Martha Stewart perfect by any means, but made with lots of love.

This year, since we have a beach time birthday, Elizabeth had her very own sand castle cake complete with shells and a school of fish.

We've had these cakes: horses, princess, Angelina Ballerina, Jay Jay The Jet Plane, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bitty Baby, Elmo, PBS kids, Nemo..... someday I'll have to dig up the pictures.

And then there is Miriam who just wants a cherry pie with a "M" on top every year. Cake isn't for everyone:)

What fun and creative cakes have you made? I'm always looking for inspiration.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pudding Cake

I can take no credit for this recipe. I watched my friend, Cindy, whip it up for the kids when I was over for a visit. This is the easiest and moistest cake I've ever made. It's a great fix when the cupboards are bare and you want a treat:)

Prep time: less than 5 minutes
Cook time: 25-30 minutes
Serves: up to 16
Cost: approx. $2.00

1 Box of Cake mix ($1.00)
1 large box of instant pudding ($1.00)
2 cups milk

Mix the pudding and milk. Add cake mix and beat well with electric mixer. Bake at 350 in greased 9x13 pan for 25-30 minutes. Can be baked until knife comes out clean or it is just as good to keep the middle a little gooey.

Mix up your cake and pudding combos or add some chocolate chips. Sometimes I add whipped cream and some chocolate sauce to make it extra special.

We've tried:


Still yet to try:
carrot/cheese cake

What combos for cake and pudding can you think of?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Eating out

I enjoy eating out quite a bit. Growing up this was a once-a-month event for us. Therefore, it was a very big deal. Sean ate out a lot in his growing up years. He likes it, but prefers to eat a home most of the time.

For a family of nine, eating out can be a ridiculous expense. Once each person gets their own drink, meal and we pay the gratuity for a "large" group, we can easily spend close to $100 at a sit down chain restaurant. Ugh! That is one week's worth of groceries!! So, eating out is usually a scheduled event depending on activities and special events.

I have found that eating out is something that I need to do on a fairly regular basis. I need a break from the kitchen and the clean up. It is "down time" for me and something that I look forward today. And sometimes at the end of a busy day it is a better choice just to meet at a restaurant and eat there. But to keep it real, my goal is to spend no more than $30. Hey, and if it's free, that's even better!

Through the years we've found great ways to cut back and still enjoy eating out several times a month. This is how we do it:

1. Water, water, water-except for mom and dad or if it is a birthday child. I'd gladly take a side salad with a glass of great ice tea just to enjoy the drink.

2. Coupons are a must. Many of our town's restaurants have regular coupons that come in local fliers as well as the big chain coupons. Arby's, Steak and Shake and Fazoli's are some of our favorites. Local restaurant coupons are often printed on the back of register receipts.

I also know that for those that support their local public radio/tv they are given a 2 for 1 restaurant card that is limitless for up to a year.

3. Sign the kids up. So many restaurants have birthday clubs which provide a free meal to celebrate. Saving these up makes for a great frugal date with mom and dad. Also, our summer reading program has amazing rewards for kids- free shakes, Chic-fil-a meals, Dairy Queen, Bob Evans kid meals. Pizza Hut also has a book-it program which provides each child with a personal pan pizza per month from September to March if they meet reading goals. (Deadline for 08-09 is June 13th-sign up online.)

4. Take advantage of Kid's night. $.99 and a drink is the deal at our Fazoli's on Tuesdays. Combined with a 5 off $20 coupon and we can all eat for about $15.

5. Enjoy restaurant promotions. We loved our Chic-fil-a free Wednesday morning breakfasts for about 8 weeks this winter. We also have enjoyed being participants on Panera's "practice" night. They gave each person who walked through the door $15 in play cash to spend. Yes, that was $15 with the children included. We had a NICE meal and lots of goodies to take home! It was fun for the children to try different soups and salads. It seems as though frequently restaurants are giving out free items. Today it's Krispy Kream Donuts.

6. Share. Truly, restaurant portions are out of control and so much is wasted. There is enough food for 2 people to share one entree. We oftentimes split a meal and then order more as needed. When we leave a restaurant there is not a scrap of food left on the table. We are not a big fan of ordering off the kid's meal. Normally it is more frugal to get an adult entree and split it between the children. Besides, they get better food and more choices this way.

Perhaps the easiest restaurant to share at is Mexican. We order a large fajita, sides of beans, rice, cheese and lettuce. Each child gets as many flour tortillas as they like. Then it's make your own taco time!

7. Eat out at lunch. At a nicer restaurant a late lunch can be upwards of $25 less expensive than at dinner. On vacations we'll often eat with the old people around 3 pm at a leisurely pace and then just have popcorn later before bed.

Do share: How do you save money while eating out? What are your favorite blogs or websites for finding restaurant deals?