Archive for the ‘Budget friendly’ Category

I’ve shared about my pinterest addiction before, so it will come as no surprise to you that I have been perusing recipes there.  I keep finding pumpkin recipes popping up.  I am not a fan of pumpkin.  No pumpkin pie for me, thank you very much!  Growing up the only pumpkin dish ever made in our house was pumpkin pie, and because I did not like it, I falsely assumed I did not like pumpkin.  Imagine my surprise to have recently tried a few pumpkin breads, muffins, etc and find it is not bad 🙂

One intriguing idea I kept coming across was pumpkin chili.  I have shared with you all my black bean and sweet potato chili recipe before and I was feeling like making that this week.  I mentioned it as my dinner plan and my children groaned!  Imagine the nerve!  I was undecided how to proceed with my dinner plan, should I go ahead with it anyway, or just make regular chili, what to do!  I needed a couple staple couldn’t live without items from the store (I find toilet paper is just something we cannot live without ;-)) after dropping M off at football practice, so we stopped at my “favorite” (NOT) store-Walmart 😦  Now it all begins in the parking lot for me. What is it about their parking lots that just seem so chaotic?  The way you have to park?  The fact that the rows are so long?  I don’t know but the negative experience always begins there, and it goes downhill quickly.  But I digress!

I picked up extra cans of beans so I could make a larger batch.  Always good to have some for the freezer as long as you are making it 😉  Then as we were walking toward the pet care aisle (there was a theme to our shopping-the hamsters needed new bedding too ;-)) I passed a holiday baking display.  And there right before my very eyes was a can of pure pureed pumpkin.  AAAHHHH!!!!!  It was like a light went off.  I grabbed a can and tossed it in my cart hoping my girls wouldn’t ask what I was going to use it for.   They were busy chatting with each other and didn’t ask!  Yes!

When we got home I busily started prepping the chili.  Fortunately for me, my girls had a report on John Quincy Adams to work on so they disappeared to finish that.  I quickly sauteed the onion and browned the ground beef, added some chopped green chilies, the beans (black, kidney and cannelini) and a large can of pureed tomatoes. I really needed two cans of tomatoes but my only other can in the pantry was chopped tomatoes, not a family favorite so I used half a can.  This actually worked out perfectly.  Then when I added the molasses and pumpkin it made the perfect consistency for our family.  We like our chili a little thicker, I never add water to it.  The pumpkin made it rich and creamy.  I added the spices, simmered it for a while and voila-pumpkin chili!

I hid the pumpkin can in the trash 😉  I declared it one of my best chili’s ever upon tasting it.  R asked to try it.  She really loves chili.  She agreed it was really good.  We ran to pick up M from football and to drop some chili off to hubby and G, who were serving at church and wouldn’t be home for dinner.  I again declared to G that I thought it was one of my best recipes yet 😉

We arrived home, cut our gf cornbread up and prepped our bowls of chili, adding what each person likes-cheese, sour cream.  S, who is not a huge fan of chili, said it was okay.  R declared it great, close to my best but she likes another version best 🙂  M said it was one of my best.  Now remember I am a lazy cook and don’t always measure spices and such so it is rare for a batch of chili to ever taste exactly the same in my house 🙂

Here’s my basic recipe for a very large pot:

2 lbs ground beef

1 large or 2 small onions chopped

1 extra small can chopped green chilies

1 large can pureed tomato

1 small can chopped tomato

2 large cans of red kidney beans

2 small or 1 large can of cannelini beans

1 large or 2 small cans of black beans

(And you can adjust for your preferences, my kids like the white beans and black beans in their chili along with kidney.  When they were smaller they didn’t like kidney beans as much so I used fewer of those.  Now they love them all!)

1 small can of pumpkin puree

1/4-1/2 c unsulfured black strap molasses (again to your preference, but it adds a great richness to the flavor, not to mention health benefits)

4 tbsp of chili powder

4 -8 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp of cumin

1 tsp italian seasonings

1 tbsp chipotle chili powder (this will make it spicy, adjust according to your families tastes)

1-2 tsp sea salt

Now the spices are approximate measurements. I add, taste, then add more depending on the flavor.  R thought it wasn’t spicy enough so I added more chipotle, I wouldn’t go higher than a tablespoon without tasting it though.  I love the smokiness the chipotle gives, but if you don’t skip it.  I love recipes that can be adapted to our flavor profile-chili is definitely one of those.

I did confess to the kids after dinner that there was pumpkin in it.  S immediately declared that the reason she didn’t like it.  Of course, she forgets she never likes chili night!  R and M said it was good, they couldn’t even taste the pumpkin.  When G arrived home later, she said it was great but she liked a phantom pot from the past that I have not been able to recreate since, the best!  Hubby was too absorbed in the debate to comment.  He is not a huge chili fan though, and basically, like S, just tolerates chili night.  The chili lovers give it two thumbs up though, so give it a try, even if you are not a fan of pumpkin.

And just so you know,  pumpkin is a nutritional powerhouse!  Beta-carotene, magnesium, zinc, potassium, Vit A, C, anti-inflammatory, helps kidney stones, etc.  Check out some nutritional info here.

Happy Autumn! 🙂


Read Full Post »

Great-Grammy turns 80 on Sunday!  🙂  Sadly we will not be there to celebrate with her, but we are very excited about the gift we are giving her!!!  I love when I find a gift that is just perfect for someone.  And let’s face it, grandparents are some of the hardest people to buy for.  On a normal birthday a gift card to her favorite restaurant or Home Depot for him, the local nursery for a fun new plant, a fun framed photo, those are all good; but for a big birthday, we like to give something special.

What do Grammy’s really like?  What brings them joy?  Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of course 🙂  We happen to have the oldest grandchild and great-grandchild in our household.  And a few of them would argue that they are Grammy’s favorite 😉

My friend, Linda, in CA makes beautiful jewelry.  I have ordered from her before.  When I ordered for Mother’s Day and a birthday earlier in the summer I saw just what I wanted to get Grammy.  Sometimes I see an idea and completely forget it by the time I need the gift, but not this time!  And because Grammy is not on FB, and doesn’t read my blog, I can share freely here.

This is her gift!!!  On it a crystal representing each of her children and grandchildren, on either side of two hearts representing her and Grampy! I’m so excited!  I know she will love it! 🙂

Then because we thought it would be a little crowded to add great-grands to the necklace, we have the great-grands bracelet.  This will probably have to be added to as that group is still expanding 😉  Not from the oldest grandchild though!!  (I don’t know why I can’t get the bracelet picture larger :-()

So if you have an amazing Grandmother who you would love to bless for a holiday or birthday, check out Linda’s work.  She gift wraps too:-)





Read Full Post »

Really that’s a bit misleading, but I am trying to shop for major items just once a month.  We are paid once a month and have been for years!  You’d think I would have started this long ago.  I know, I know I’m a little slow sometimes 🙂

I realized as the food prices keep soaring, I am spending a lot more money at the grocery store.  I’m sure you are all feeling it too.  You go in for a couple items and come out $80 lighter in your wallet, and have only 3-4 flimsy plastic bags to show for it!

Obviously, we are not buying everything just once a month, fruit, veggies just don’t last that long.  (I am trying a new filter for my refrigerator that is suppose to help your produce stay fresher longer.  I’ll let you know what I think of it in a couple weeks :-))  I am buying toilet paper,(let’s face it, with a family of 6 this is a precious commodity in our home!:-)  We all get cranky if we run out!)  paper towels, (now my mom was super frugal and she would dry her hands on the paper towel and then lay it out to dry so she could use it again.  I have not resorted to that but my children know not to waste them!  If only I could get my hubby to understand how expensive they are.  And on that note, I realized I am a paper towel snob!  Yes, it is true.  I am strictly a Bounty girl.  My mom always said they were the better paper towels and she was right.  As thrifty as she is she is a paper towel snob too! :-))  Also meat, any canned beans, pasta, sauces, snack items, apples, oranges, and cheeses.  These are all good bulk items to buy at a wholesale store.  We have a second refrigerator so I realized I could easily store the extra in that.  I am having a little more work on the front end, in having to divide the meat into meal sized portions but the bonus of that is I have dinners prepped in the freezer.  If I buy the huge pack of ground beef, I can easily portion it for chili, tacos, burritos, and pre-make meatballs and then just pull them out for the crockpot and dinner is easy.  Steak, the same thing, add a marinade to it and store it in a ziploc in the freezer for easy grilling.

I’ve recently cooked up double batches of virus killing chicken soup for those times when a cold sneaks up on us and we need it.  Often it is just as easy to cook double of an item and freeze part for a future meal.  And this football schedule means lots of late evenings when it would be dinner out if we didn’t have a meal in the crockpot already.  Yesterday we prepared mongolian chicken in the crockpot, cooked the rice before the game, and when we came home just poured some of the chicken over the rice and it was a fast and easy dinner.   A little steamed broccoli, or a green salad and dinner in the time it takes my son to shower 🙂  Given the game was delayed for weather, we were so happy to have that meal all ready for us when we arrived home!

My go to marinade for steak:

2-4 tbsp of olive oil

3-5 tbsp of balsamic vingear

1 tsp of fresh garlic, or garlic powder

1 tsp of italian seasonings

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Pour in a ziploc bag, add your steak, freeze for future use.  It marinates while it defrosts.  Delicious!

Tell me your favorite tips for keeping your grocery budget low.  Don’t you wish there were coupons for fresh produce? 🙂


Read Full Post »

One thing my kids miss out on by homeschooling is back to school shopping.  We do get school supplies but we don’t buy school clothes, get haircuts or prep majorly for school starting.  Mostly I think this is a benefit, at least for me! 🙂  But I fondly remember getting new sneakers, getting my hair cut, buying clothes all in preparation for that first day of school.

Okay, so the clothes were all too hot for the first day because inevitably it was not a cool autumn beginning to school but my mom, being the ultimate frugal mom, would buy us long sleeves and corduroys in preparation for the rapidly approaching winter.  And no one wanted to be seen in “old” clothes those first few days of school.  Save those for the second week 😉

But this year it just so happens that my middle two girls need haircuts.  It’s been almost 2 years since they have had a real cut.  I think they trimmed in there one time, but the goal was to grow it long.  It is now long!  And what do you do when you’ve achieved long? You cut it and donate it to Locks of Love 🙂

A couple weeks ago R checked the mail and came in with a flier promoting JCPenny’s free back to school haircuts!  She wanted to go, so we made appts and tomorrow they will get their first back to school haircuts at 11 and 9 years old!  🙂

So if you are like me and love a good deal, and think that just once in their homeschool years your children should experience a back-to-school traditional haircut, call your local JCPenny and your k-6th grader can get their haircut for free! 🙂  Or call this toll free number to schedule one near you 1-855-527-5437

Read Full Post »