Sunday, June 3, 2012

Scratch Made

i'm always coming up with ideas for saving money, making our family healthier, being more organized. in general, i scoff at self-help authors, gurus, websites, books; but personally, i'm going to self-help myself to death! ha. my latest idea is to make more things from scratch at home. in looking at our grocery budget, the items we spend a lot of money on are mostly pre-packaged foods and/or going out to eat because we didn't have a meal planned ahead of time. while i'm not jumping into the deep end exactly, i think this past weekend's walmart receipts (as in two trips) will show that at the very least i jumped in where the 5ft. starts sloping down and you have to bob on your tip toes.

behold the various notes that are on a notebook that sits beside my chair:

Staples I buy a lot:
 - Marinara sauce
 - Black beans
 - Kidney beans
 - Chick peas
 - taco seasoning
 - chili seasoning
 - Oatmeal bars
(not sure what's up with the inconsistent capitalization)

Learn to freeze:
 - dried beans
 - marinara sauce

Learn to make:
 - granola bars

Figure out:
 - where to buy beans in bulk

This week
 - beans
 - cheese its
 - chocolate muffins

as i mentioned a few days ago, i am a meal planner. our budget lives and (more often than not) dies by the strength of my meal plan. this week, not only have i planned out our dinners (successfully this time, i hope), but also a few snacks to have around the house and something for breakfast. and, since beans show up so frequently in our weekly menus, i decided to work on cooking and freezing dried beans (they're so much cheaper than the canned variety plus they have much less sodium).

i found this blog, joy in my kitchen or something like that. she did a whole 31-day series on cooking from scratch. she covered topics from stocking your pantry to making your own version of Wheat Thins and Cheez Its, so for my snack i decided to give the cheese crackers a shot. also, i have an old standby recipe for chocolate chocolate chip muffins that make a wholesome, if not entirely healthy, breakfast, so i planned to make a batch of those, too. at walmart yesterday, i bought a 2 lb. bag of dried black beans and soaked two cups of them in water overnight.

today after church, olivia insisted on making the chocolate muffins even before we ate lunch. so we did. who am i to say no to licking a bowl of super chocolately batter??  after lunch, i threw together the cheese cracker recipe. it was remarkably simple, just whole wheat flour, a little oil and water, and shredded cheese. turned out it was also remarkably bland. next time, i'll add garlic, salt, cayenne pepper, and more cheese (extra sharp this time, too).

while i cooked dinner (homemade waffles, bacon, and eggs) and listened to grady brown at the beach (my sunday ritual), i diced up some onions, celery and carrots, and threw them into the leftover bacon grease to simmer. after dinner, i added them to the soaked and drained beans in a stock pot, poured in a little water, and put it all in the fridge for later this week. oh, and also, i made a batch of jello and divided it up into all these tiny, plastic condiment cups that i have (thanks to my grandma...i'm sure she got them at a garage sale. i don't know, but they're awfully useful), put the cups in a casserole dish, and slid the whole thing in my fridge. it looks like i made jello shooters for a party. the truth is dissapointingly more mundane: one box of jello is a heck of a lot cheaper than one 6-pack of jello cups.

so, at the end of the weekend, we have:
 - beans in a pot, waiting to be cooked
 - bacon in a bag, waiting to be added to a quiche
 - two spare waffles for breakfast
 - 14 chocolate muffins
 - 1 bowl of almost inedible (but very cute) cheese crackers
 - lots of nonalcoholic jello shots
 - about a half cup of homemade tomato basil soup left from last night that i'm probably going to have for lunch tomorrow.

i'm tired. wish i'd put my bottle of wine in the fridge!  it's only 10pm..i've got time to kill. later, y'all!

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