Weekly Menus

I started making up a weekly menu for our nightly meals about two months ago.  I noticed that I was going to the store, buying a lot of food and then coming home to find that I didn’t have enough stuff to actually make up one meal.  For example, I would buy ground turkey, which is pretty much a staple at our house, and then decide I wanted to make tacos.  I had the meat, but no tomatoes, taco shells or cheese.  So back to the store I would go and buy those 3 things.  I was spending at least $200 – $300 a week on groceries with all of the trips I was making.  I’m a generic or store brand buyer, I use my store discount card and I’ll use coupons when available, but I was going about the buying all wrong.

Once I started making a menu for the week, it was so much easier to go to the store and I was spending so much less money, it was shocking.  In addition to my menu making, we started charging all of our purchases on a credit card to get the cash back and then paying it off each month.  It’s also nice to see where all of the expenses are.  Last month, I spent a grand total of $442 at the grocery store!

I have run into a couple of problems in regards to my menu making.  For one, I don’t like making the same thing over and over again.  We have had something different almost every night since I started doing this.  The one exception is pizza.  Because of my neuroses in regards to repeat dinners, it’s hard to decide what to make.  Every Sunday I sit with my little notebook and laptop scouring through recipe blogs and websites to find something I think my family and I will enjoy.  My go to sites are always foodnetwork.com, allrecipes.com, realsimple.com and any blog that discusses the wonders of the crock pot.

Here is a sample menu with links to the recipes:
Monday – Chicken Cashew Lettuce Wraps – these are pretty good, but I had to adjust the honey to soy ratio quite a bit.  It was a bit too sweet for me.
Tuesday – Shrimp Leek and Spinach Pasta – this pasta is absolutely amazing.  Follow the recipe EXACTLY.  I tend to leave out the lemon zest because I usually don’t have one on hand, but this time I did and it added so much to the taste.  Also – use the heavy cream.  It’s not a lot – you won’t get fat.
Wednesday – Burritos – these are really good too and freeze wonderfully.  This recipe makes a ton of burritos.  You can easily get two or maybe three meals out of these.
Thursday – Pizza – I make my own dough because it’s so cheap.  The link is for the dough recipe.  For the record, I do not have a stand up mixer – I don’t even use a mixer when I make this.  Also, I make it around noon and let it sit for about 5 hours, not the 30 minutes they say.  One more thing, I add about a tablespoon of Italian seasoning to the dough.  It is sooooooo good.  I also split the dough in half to make 2 pizzas.
Friday – Crab Cakes – these were just okay.  If I wanted to spend $20/lb on lump crab to make them better, I would just go out to eat and order them somewhere.  However, if you ever find yourself with leftover crab, this could be pretty good.
Saturday – Baked potato bar and salad – I baked the potatoes in the crock pot!  I rubbed them with olive oil and salt, wrapped them in tin foil and threw them in the pot.  I set it on high for 5 hours and they were pretty much perfect.  Some of the skins that were touching the sides of the crock pot got a little hard and burnt, but those were my favorite parts – kind of like a potato skin.

Sunday – Gyros – I made this entire recipe (sauce included) and again, followed the recipe to the “t”.  The only thing I did differently was making the lamb loaf in my crock pot instead of the oven.  And, to make it even better, I actually made my own pita bread.  I stumbled upon this recipe when I was looking for the pizza dough.

I know this is much easier for me because I don’t have a job outside the home, but even so, I still try and save the more involved recipes for the weekend.  Like the gyros.  Also, anything I can do in advance, I do.  One thing I saw in regards to crock pots was plugging them into an automatic timer so you could program them on and off as you please.

I’m going to try and post my weekly menu each Monday.  If I promise to do it, it will keep me honest and I won’t get lazy about it.  This week is tough because we just got back from a trip to Iowa and I am a bit under the weather with a cold so I haven’t had a chance to go to the store yet, but next Monday it’s on like Donkey Kong!

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Prickly Pear Predicament

I like trying new foods.  There aren’t many things that I absolutely despise when it comes to food. In fact, there has actually only been one food that I found to be completely repulsive – and that was lutefisk.  My husband’s family is Swedish and it’s a holiday tradition to serve it.  I can’t say I was forced into eating it, but pressured?  Absolutely.  The smell is atrocious and it doesn’t look appetizing in the least.  I watched my husband’s uncle, Al, shovel it in like it was the best thing he ever tasted so I figured it couldn’t be that bad.  I had never been so wrong in my life.  It was horrendous.  I can’t remember if I actually swallowed the one bite I took, but that was the only morsel of lutefisk that passed my lips.  For two weeks following my taste, each time I thought of it, my mouth would salivate, but not in that good way it does when you smell bacon.  It was that pre-puke saliva.  The one you get after you realized you shouldn’t have had that last beer.  Or when you find the sippy cup of milk that rolled under the couch a week prior and is now a sippy cup full of solid milk (which somewhat resembles lutefisk in appearance).

OK, moving on.  So who’s hungry?  Over the weekend, I found some cute little prickly pears at the store.  I had never had one and they looked interesting so I decided to get a couple.

I sliced off the top and could see that the skin was really thick so I started cutting it off the sides.  Here is the inside:

All of those little brown things are seeds.  I thought maybe they were like kiwi seeds and you could just eat them, so I peeled the rest of the fruit and cut off a piece.  I didn’t try a nibble – I threw the whole piece in my mouth, seeds and all.  As it turns out, you can’t eat the seeds.  Well, I guess you could, but they are hard.  Like little rocks.

So I ended up with this:

That chunk on the top is what I spit out after realizing I couldn’t eat it.  The taste wasn’t that bad, but I have no idea how to eat this with all those damn seeds!  It tastes pear-like, but those seeds remind me of eating a pomegranate.

I have one prickly pear left (I don’t think this is what they are actually called) so I guess I should do a little research online to figure out how this is to be eaten.  If you know, feel free to pass on your knowledge.

I Can Be Annoying Too

Sometimes I do stuff to my kids just because I can.  I know that both of my little blessings know how to push my buttons so sometimes I like to return the favor.  Kamryn will ask me if it’s time to do something and I’ll respond with “Not yet.”  She will then excessively ask, “How ’bout now?”  with a sh*t-eating grin on her face until I tell her she’s going to go to her room if she asks again.  Then she laughs and runs away.  Rory was in a knock-knock joke phase which seems to have passed, but he still likes to ask, “Me?” whenever I say anything.  For example, I’ll say “I’m going to make lunch.”  He’ll say “Me?”  To which I’ll assure him, “Yes, you are eating lunch too.”  He knows he’s going to eat – he has never been denied lunch, but yet, he will continue saying “Me?” anyway.  This annoys Kamryn as well and she always breaks before me, but since she is at school right now, I decided to annoy Rory on my own.  He didn’t want his picture taken.

I’m surprised at how steady my hand was – I was laughing pretty hard.

My Art and Some Stories

I have about 5 different projects going on right now.  I get all of these ideas of things I want to do – mostly things I have seen other people do and then I want to try it.  My problem is that I start all of them at once and usually don’t have all the supplies to finish them or I have to wait for paint to dry or lately, the weather to cooperate.  It has been HOT and actually humid in San Diego the last couple of days – not ideal for painting something outside.

Yesterday I decided to set my sites on something that I could complete, but I didn’t know what it was yet.  I was at Wal-Mart to pick up some coffee filters.  I know what you’re thinking, You go all the way to Wal-Mart just for coffee filters?  On this occasion, I did.  I drop Kamryn off at school at 7:55 and there isn’t much that is open at that time.  I know Target is open, but I hadn’t been to Wal-Mart for awhile and thought I could get some other stuff as well.  As it turns out, Wal-Mart has an awesome craft aisle.  They also sell paint, which means they have paint chips. 

I had pinned some paint chip art a few weeks ago and since then have been chomping at the bit to get my hands on some of the paint chips.  I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I thought once I had them, I would figure it out.  And figure it out, I did!  I made these….

The best part?  They were 100% free.  The shadow box frames are from IKEA.  They used to be in Kamryn & Rory’s nurseries with Ocean Critters in them:

Lucky for me, the little critters just peeled right off.  There was a little glue residue on the mat with the turtle in it, but see those keys in the upper right corner?  The little discount membership cards that are on the ring make for an excellent, but gentle glue scraper.

After freeing up my frames, I punched the flowers out of the paint chips.  I got the punches from Target a long time ago and I think I paid $.50 for them.  I used regular old computer paper for the background.  I bet that makes true artists cringe, but that is an upgrade from what I used for the ocean critters.  For those, I just flipped over the piece of paper that came with the frame!  I then mapped out where all of the little flowers were going to go.

And glued them into place with the mother of all glues…Elmer’s.  I erased all the lines, but as you can see above, I put little circles where the flower was to go.  I don’t know about you, but I can guarantee that I would have put a drop of glue in a place where I shouldn’t and then I would have made a mess trying to get it off. 

And thus, my finished product. 

My brother and husband were 100% unimpressed with my art to which I told them to kindly “F*%^ right off.” Kamryn, on the other hand told me they were beautiful and that’s all that really matters because they are hanging in her room.

I do believe I also promised a story.  Lately I have had to entice my dear little boy to do things.  If I make it sound exciting, he gets excited and then we can move along on our merry way.  Today I wanted to get the mail without incident.  Here is what went down this morning:
Me:  “Rory, let’s go get the mail!  Maybe there is a surprise in there for you!”
Rory:  “Cheese?”
Me:  “Sure Buddy, maybe there’ll be some cheese in there for you.”
Rory:  “OK Mommy!  Let’s go!”
There was no cheese today and Rory was a little disappointed, but that was soon forgotten when he saw a guy with a mustache doing the landscaping.  He’s all about mustaches right now so Rory crouched down, even though the man was standing, and looked up at him – his head at a slight tilt and just stared and pointed at this guy’s face.  He muttered a low “mustache” – almost like he was in awe.  I just stood there because sometimes it’s more fun for me to watch instead of trying to explain what my 2 year old is doing or why.  I let it go on for a few awkward seconds and then told Rory we had to go.  Luckily the guy didn’t seem to mind a toddler admiring his lip warmer even if he didn’t realize that is what was going on.