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Posts tagged with: making a meal stretch

A New Budget + Stretching Food Budget

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Hi all! Hope your Friday is off to a good start! We’ve been battling colds over here (again!!! I swear, this cold/flu season has been the worst!!!!!) but we’re all finally on the mend, the girls are back in preschool (after being home sick on Wednesday), and life is good! ; )

I’ve already mentioned that I overspent January’s budget (particularly in our grocery budget). I’ll give you all the details on Monday with my January budget update post, but today I wanted to tell you a little bit about how I’m making our food dollars stretch to try to spend a lot less on groceries this month.

First, I’ve been really trying to eat from our pantry and freezer. Second, I’ve been trying to repurpose meals by making leftovers into a second (or even third) meal so that every single bite of food is eaten and not wasted. I HATE wasting money and food waste is always one of the biggest culprits! Whenever I have to throw away old lettuce or meat or whatever, I see dollar signs being tossed in the trash. It’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine! So I’ve really tried to re-focus on making sure all food gets eaten before it goes bad. Here’s a list of the things we’ve eaten lately, and how I’ve tried to re-purpose leftovers so meal time doesn’t get stale:

  • Sausage wraps with broccoli & shells with cheese (sausage from freezer, broccoli was on hand, and shells & cheese and tortillas were in the pantry).
  • Ham and potato cheese soup (ham chunks from freezer leftover from last time we ate ham, potatoes from pantry, cheese from fridge, homemade rolls on the side). Also ate leftover soup throughout the week for lunches!
  • Cheeseburgers with home fries (meat from freezer, sliced and baked fries from potatoes we had in pantry, cheese on hand in the fridge, and leftover homemade rolls for the buns).
  • BBQ chicken, corn, and shells & cheese (chicken from freezer, canned corn from pantry, leftover shells & cheese from a previous dinner).
  • Spaghetti and meat sauce with garlic bread (crumbled leftover burgers for meat, used sauce and noodles from pantry, sliced up leftover rolls that I buttered and sprinkled with garlic before broiling for the garlic bread)
  • BBQ chicken “pizzas” and corn (leftover BBQ chicken that I shredded, cheese from fridge, made on top of tortillas instead of traditional pizza crust; leftover corn…doesn’t really go with pizza, but it worked).

It takes a little forethought to make sure I can reuse and/or repurpose leftovers, but I’ve already noticed such a huge difference in my grocery spending. Not only does it cost less money this way (i.e., re-using leftovers in future meals), but its actually easier, too! It’s the whole “cook once, eat twice” mentality (not sure where I’ve heard that, so can’t credit a source but I think it’s a pretty well known phrase). It’s so, so much easier when parts of the meal are already cooked (especially when the meat is already done, as with the spaghetti and meat sauce and the bbq chicken pizzas). When the main protein is already pre-cooked all I have to do is just assemble, heat, and serve! Score!

So I’m really making an effort to try to get my spending back on track and, so far, I think I’ve been doing pretty well. Toward this end, I’ve also made the decision to do a new budget. Not just a new budget, but a  new budget software, too! Remember back when I’d tried to do YNAB (you need a budget), but I’d bailed less than a week into the month? I wasn’t ready at the time. But I gave it another shot a few weeks ago and have fallen for it hard. Once you get a hang of it, it’s really so superior to my old Excel spreadsheet. If there’s any interest I’d be happy to write a full review at some point.

In the meantime, if anyone is interested in purchasing the YNAB software, usually $60, I’ve got a link I can share that will get you a 10% savings. Note that if you purchase through this link, you get $6 off the price and I get a $6 referral credit. A win-win (plus you can share your personal link with friends to earn credits, too). Just wanted to be transparent on that (you can also try a free month-long trial by going to their website, too).

What are your favorite rollover meals or cheap meal ideas? 


Thanksgiving Leftovers

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I know you’re probably getting sick of hearing about Thanksgiving by this point, but I wanted to write one last Thanksgiving-themed post to tell you about how far our Thanksgiving food stretched this year…

From a single meal we were able to serve:

  • 3 adults + 2 kids for lunch on 11/27
  • 5 adults + 3 kids for dinner on 11/27
  • 1 adult + 2 kids for lunch on 11/28
  • 1 adult + 2 kids for lunch on 11/29

And still going strong….

I finally had to eat something different for lunch yesterday (11/30), but I packed up and froze enough leftovers to feed our family (2 adults + 2 kids) a full Thanksgiving dinner for some future meal. And we still had an extra serving of sweet potato casserole for some future meal side-dish (now frozen) and extra turkey leftovers that I’m planning to make into turkey-noodle soup tonight (same recipe as chicken noodle soup, but using leftover turkey & turkey broth).

IMG_5088 IMG_5089

In my conversions, 2 kids = 1 adult (in terms of portion size), so our Thanksgiving dinner made 17.5 servings, not including the leftover sweet potatoes and turkey noodle soup planned for tonight.

Not too shabby to get nearly 20 meals out of a single dinner!

Also, I wanted to thank you guys for the tip on saving leftovers! I don’t mind eating leftovers but in years past I’ve never thought to freeze any uneaten Thanksgiving leftovers. I think I’ve eaten leftovers for a couple days, then the rest sits around in the fridge until it eventually goes bad and/or gets thrown out. I’m excited to get every bit of use out of the leftovers this year (saves money and cuts down on food waste!) I’m particularly proud of myself for saving all the turkey broth. This is something I never used to do, but since I’ve started blogging I’ve been saving chicken broth anytime I’ve cooked a full chicken (tip: although most breast meat is at least $2.50/lb.+, you can often find full chickens priced at as little 88 cents/lb.) I like to cook a full chicken in the crock pot and I’ve learned to save any chicken drippings and/or broth for future cooking. Flavorful AND frugal! : )

Hope you all were able to stretch your Thanksgiving into many meals, too!

Any other tips for saving food so leftovers don’t go to waste? I have a friend who posted a picture on Facebook of a “Thanksgiving leftovers” quiche with potatoes, stuffing, eggs, turkey, and cheese. Thought that was pretty creative, too!