It’s been a rough few days in our house. I’ve somehow managed to ruin three meals in 4 days. Various reasons from burning green beans to over salting our meat. It’s just not been fun. There is nothing worse than throwing food away and wasting all that money. So I had to figure out a way to save our dinner where it could be saved. There are actually quite a few tips out there for you if you happen to run into one of these situations. Make sure you bookmark this page so you can refer back to it.
1. Overcooked veggies. You may not like your veggies mushy. That’s ok though, you can still use them. Store your veggies in the freezer and add it to a soup or stew. You don’t have to throw them away and they still taste pretty good in a soup.
2. Burned bottom of soup. The VERY SECOND you know you’ve burned the bottom of a soup, pour it into another pan, but DON’T SCRAPE THE BOTTOM!!! Then taste the soup. Sometimes if you haven’t stirred the bottom, the burned taste will stay on the bottom. Sometimes this works and sometimes not.
3. Too much salt? This was our problem tonight. It was in a gravy and it was bad. So I added a little more milk to my gravy and much better. If you’ve done this with soups try put in chunks of potatoes and let them soak up the salt. It can’t be a HUGE amount of salt, but this works.
4. Cake that falls apart. I tried to make a cake the other day and it was a DISASTER. Seriously the whole thing fell apart. There was no way it was going to be a cake, so I did second best, I made cake balls!
I’ve been away from meal planning and my wallet is proving that. We’ve spent over $100 more than normal last month because of 2 weeks off from meal planning. It’s amazing what a little planning can do for your monthly grocery bill. We’ve been super crazy busy and had some personal things come up that has made meal planning harder, but now I know how much it is worth it. I will be gone all next week, so my goal this week is to make enough to also store enough in the freezer for my family to eat. I am basically making a lot of crock pot meals and other stuff that freezes easily.
Here’s the plan…
My Famous Chili – Sorry guys, I cannot give out the recipe, but HERE is a good one I used when I needed something more simple. I would double it so you can freeze it. My family won’t just eat chili next week, they will have chili cheese dogs so it’s different. We are BIG fans of chili cheese dogs!
Crockpot Potato Soup – It’s cold where we live, so THIS is the perfect thing to warm us up. We also have some potatoes we got on sale. This is a great thing to do when you are planning your meals, ALWAYS check with what you already have in your house. The less you buy, the better.
Bulgogi – I am an ethnic food junky, but it can also be expensive, so I’ve learn to make a lot at home. THIS is my favorite Korean dish and it’s TO DIE FOR with this recipe. It’s one of the all family pleasers in the house. I do suggest using a ribeye meat though instead of sirloin. I liked it better that way, but sirloin is cheaper.
Chicken Chili – Yep another chili, but it’s way different than the other chili, so it’s ok. It also freezes so wonderfully! My kids weren’t huge fans, but I loved it. They can’t always get what they want right? I serve mine over rice.
Strogganoff – By far the biggest crowd pleaser among my friends. It’s also WONDERFUL for taking to friends who’ve just had babies. It freezes awesome which is why I always tripple the recipe. THIS recipe makes a small amount. I figure if I am going to do it, I might as well do it big. I also use a medium size of sour cream instead of cream cheese. I would make it both ways to see which you prefer.
You’ve probably read a lot about meal planning here at Thrifty Divas. We are big fans. Honestly I think it’s the best thing you can do to save money. Before we started meal planning we were eating out at least 4-5 times a week for lunch or dinner. I can’t even believe how much we were spending. Meal planning has really changed our monthly budget for the better! So I have decided to share my weekly menu on Mondays. I will miss some Mondays though because I often recycle my menus every few weeks. Where I can, I will link recipes that I use as well. Some you are on your own though because I am a secret cook 🙂 I have super secret recipes, but that’s where allrecipes.com comes in huh?
Here’s this week’s meal plan with some recipes. Oh and a warning. I am not the healthiest cook, but I try to be balanced.
- Meatloaf-This maybe the best meatloaf you’ve ever eaten…seriously. Click HERE for the awesome recipe.
- Mashed potatoes
- Green beans
- Stir Fry. Mine is pretty simple. I just use onions, bell pepper and squash with chicken. I cook my chicken, then my veggies with it and pour on a pre-made sauce. You can often get awesome deals on the sauce with coupons. I serve over rice.
- Chili Cheese Dogs. You are on your own with the chili. Sorry guys, but it’s a secret!
- Cucumbers. My kids are obsessed.
- Spaghetti Casserole. I have never made this one. I try to incorporate a new recipe every few weeks. I think THIS recipe looks so yummy! I can’t wait to try it!
- Roasted Broccoli. THIS too is the last broccoli you’ll ever make. Thank me later.
- Ribs. I may have to switch my days around because I want THESE now. A-MAZ-ING.
- Corn Casserole. I just keep getting hungrier! THIS recipe is a big fav in my house!
- BLT Pasta Salad. Again, you are welcome for THIS.
- Shrimp Thing. Sometimes I don’t even have technical names for recipes. If I know what I am talking about on my list, that’s all that matters. This one is super easy “melt a stick of butter in the pan. Slice one lemon and layer it on top of the butter. Put down fresh shrimp, then sprinkle one pack of dried Italian seasoning. Put in the oven and bake at 350 for 15 min.”
- Baked potatoes
- Green beans
My favorite cut of meat is by far filet mignon, but it’s also a very expensive cut of meat. Being the Thrifty 000-219 Diva I am, I have learned to cook with less expensive cuts of meat, but have had to learn how to make them tender and just as good as expensive cuts.
In my opinion it’s very hard to mess up filet mignon because it’s a high quality meat, but what about cuts like flank steak? The nice thing about tougher cuts of meat is that they tend to be more beefy in taste and if you learn to cook them right, you won’t only save money, but have an awesome meal.
Here are a few tips for cooking tougher cuts of meat.
1. Slow cook it. I haven’t found a cheap piece of meat that didn’t get tender in the crock pot. I even cook fajita meat like flank steak in the crock pot and it gets super super tender. The crock pot can turn any piece of tough meat into butter.
(On a personal note: If this post can get 100 likes on Facebook, I’ll share my super secret roast recipe that I have NEVER shared in public. Tell your friends.)
2. Marinade it. If you still want to try to grill a steak, but want to buy chuck eye steak instead of ribeye, marinading is a great way to tenderize and flavor meat. My favorite is using Italian dressing and Worcestershire sauce. I always have tender steaks after marinating for several hours.
3. Boil it. I know a lot of cooks are anti boiling meats, but I think this is the perfect way to tenderize tough meat. It works best with chicken parts like legs and thighs which are generally less expensive. Load 000-451 up the water with your favorite seasonings and then finish them on the grill or in the oven. It works great! I love getting the huge bags of split breasts for large groups. They are very cheap, but don’t taste cheap at all.
What are some ways you get meat tender?
Thanksgiving is quite arguably the largest eating day of the year. For beginners it’s definitely a daunting task to cook that many dishes for sometimes a pretty large crowd. I remember my first Thanksgiving, and although everything tasted great, it definitely wasn’t all done at the same time and people were waiting. Thank God it was Thanksgiving otherwise I think people would have been chanting, “dinner, dinner, dinner.”
Here are some tips to help you avoid an overly hungry crowd.
1. First and foremost, pick what time you want your dinner or lunch to be ready. This will determine your start time and ensure everything gets ready at a reasonable hour. For example, if your turkey is going to take 6 hours and you want to eat at 1pm, you need that bird in the oven by 6am and no later. Once you pick the time for lunch or dinner, write out everything you are making and what time it needs to go in.
2. Thaw your turkey! This is probably the number one reason that Thanksgiving dinner is late. I think most beginners think they can buy a turkey the night before and it will thaw before cooking it the next day. Butterball has an awesome website on How to Thaw Your Turkey. Unfortunately, if you do it the way they recommend, you have to let your turkey sit in the refrigerator for 1 day for every 4 pounds. But don’t fret if you haven’t bought your turkey, there are some other suggestions for safe thawing.
3. Make a menu. This is probably pretty self explanatory, but it’s so important. You aren’t making a three item meal usually, so it’s easy to forget even the bread. My first Thanksgiving, everything was ready and we were about to enjoy the fruits of my labor when I notice the cranberry sauce isn’t on the table. How could I forget the cranberry sauce? It’s a Thanksgiving staple! I forgot it because I didn’t make a menu and check it off as I got it all ready.
4. Make what you can ahead of time. There are some Thanksgiving items that don’t need to be cooked ahead of time. For example pumpkin pie. Here is a treat that can easily be made the day/night before and it tastes just as good as before. Other sweets and treats are perfect for making ahead of time too. Do you make homemade stuffing, dry your bread out the day before.
5. Help, I don’t have enough room in my oven. This is a HUGE problem in my house. We like most people only have one oven. The turkey is definitely the largest item that takes up basically the whole oven. We remedied that by getting a roaster. I think we paid $20 from Wal-Mart for a roaster. We use it all year long too! It’s perfect for even roasting chicken. It cooks just like the oven does and it’s way easier for basting as well. But what about all the other food? We usually make the green bean casserole first and then let it sit in the microwave while the other items cook. It holds it’s heat well and reheats nicely right before we need to eat.
How are you saving time on your Thanksgiving Day meal?
Here’s my menu…What’s on your’s?
Cornbread dressing and bread dressing
Green bean casserole
Sweet potato casserole
Mashed potatoes and gravy