Couponing for the Rest of Us

Pantry Cooking: Dinners on a Dime (Using this & last week’s cheap deals!)

We frugal foodies have unique challenges that normal shoppers don’t.  This little segment aims to help by offering:

  • Stockpile-cooking ideas
  • Clever Casseroles in which to hide your leftovers from the hubby & kids
  • Kitchen tips & tricks
  • Freezer-cooking recipes & planning
  • And really, everything but the kitchen sink!

Thanks to DealDetectiveKim - who writes our weekly segment of ideas!  Send her an email or leave a comment with any suggestions you’d like to see!

Last week, Jamie and I were chatting about using the “Best Buys of the Week” column as a basis for the “Pantry Cooking” column. I was GOING to do this for this past weekend, but things got a little out of hand (again!) and Jamie gracefully covered for me with a Homemade Bulk Taco Seasoning Recipe. (Thanks Jamie–you rock!) Please note that unless stated otherwise, the prices listed are from last week’s ads.

So this column is less about recipes and more about ideas for using those best buys to get something on the table fast and cheap.  

Let’s start with those Boca meatless entrees (.26 at Publix the week of 3/3).  There are quite a few things you can do with them:

  • The crumbles can be substituted for ground beef in pretty much anything. You could use them to make Hamburger Helper (.33 at Food Lion!), cutting your time nearly in half because you don’t have to brown them first!
  • The “Chicken” patties can be used to make a quick Chicken Parmesan–just combine them with jarred pasta sauce (Ragu–.45 at Food Lion this week) and cheese and you’re done! Do this with the fried-looking ones, and -
  • Use the grilled-looking ones to shred and use in a chicken casserole or to make chicken salad.

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Christmas Morning Casseroles (Come leave yours!)

Shared by Barbie of CouponingMadeSimple (Utah mother of 7 – all-around amazing person.)

I can’t believe I am about to type this, but Christmas is next week.  It’s Thursday and Christmas is NEXT WEEK…I’m so excited!  Usually for Christmas morning breakfast we have a huge breakfast with pancakes, bacon, eggs, all the good, heart attack on a plate stuff and all the mess.  This year I don’t have time for the prep and mess because we are having family and friends over for dinner and I really don’t want to spend my entire day in the kitchen.  I pulled out my recipe box today and put together this group of recipes for breakfast casseroles.  I will need at least two casseroles to feed our family with 7 kids, 3 of whom are teenagers.  I just can’t decide which to make because they are all so very yummy! Enjoy!

French Toast Casserole

1″ thick slices french bread, allowed to dry over night then place in a 9×13 dish

In a bowl:
8 eggs, whisk well
1 milk
2 c. heavy cream
a pinch of salt
2 Tbl. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla

Whisk these ingredients together, then pour over bread.  Cover with foil and refrigerate over night.

The next morning preheat oven to 350*

In a separate mixing bowl cream together:
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. butter, softened2 Tbl. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
then stir in:
1 c. chopped pecans

Bake for 35-45 minutes at 350*.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Preheat oven 375*
2 pkg buttermilk grande biscuts quartered
Mix together:
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, melted
Dip biscuits in the mixture and place in a 8×8 buttered dish.

1 1/2 c. blueberry’s tossed with
1/2 c. sugar

Sprinkle 1 c. oatmeal and blueberries over biscuits then drizzle with a little melted butter.

Bake for 20 minutes.

See more of Barbie’s Recipes HERE

Jamie’s Family Breakfast Casserole:

Jamie here!  I just had to add my family’s breakfast casserole.  It’s a super-easy one that I always take to mom groups or other events – and the ingredients are very inexpensive as well.  You can make this one the night before in a Pyrex dish – put the cover on and refrigerate.  Then go to bed.  In the morning, pop in the oven while the kids are opening presents and you’ll have a hot breakfast waiting for you!

You’ll need:
Crescent Rolls  ($.17 at Bi-Lo this week)
6- 12 Eggs (Depending on how many kids you’re feeding :)
1-2 Bags Shredded Cheese  ($1 at Bi-Lo this week)
Crumbled Sausage  ($1 a roll at Bi-Lo this week)

Nevermind – I just found a very good how-to HERE. So there’s no point in me writing one out!!

Pantry Cooking Saturday: “Cereal” Killers!

We frugal foodies have unique challenges that normal shoppers don’t.  This little segment aims to help by offering:

  • Stockpile-cooking ideas
  • Clever Casseroles in which to hide your leftovers from the hubby & kids
  • Kitchen tips & tricks
  • Freezer-cooking recipes & planning
  • And really, everything but the kitchen sink!

Our very own “Deal Detective Kim” has generously offered to take the lead on this one (aspiring food writer that she is) – but start thinking up a recipe YOU often turn to, because we’ll be asking for some contributions to keep this new weekly segment running! 
And now, I’ll turn it over to you Kim!

Jamie’s posted a lot of really good cereal deals lately, and I know we’re all looking at all these boxes of cereal asking ourselves “What am I going to do?  I can only eat so many bowls of cereal and milk!”  Fret not, dear readers, the Deal Detective has been on the case and it’s SOLVED!

Everybody knows how to make Rice Krispies treats, so I’m not going to waste your time or mine telling you how to do that…except to say that you can be creative by using paste food coloring (liquid will NOT work right–get the Wilton paste, it’s available at craft stores and Wal-Mart) in holiday colors to make festive treats like wreaths, trees, etc.  Just shape them with your hands or use a heavy-duty cookie cutter.  (Jamie here – we just made Cocoa Pebbles “Zombies” with our Gingerbread Men Cookie Cutters.  They have red hots eyes!  Okay, sorry Kim, back to you….)
While I’m an unabashed carnivore, I do have a lot of friends who are vegetarians, and one thing they swear by is Special K loaf.  I had my doubts, I’ll confess.  For those blissfully ignorant of this dish, it’s vegetarian “meat” loaf.  I’m an adventurous foodie, I’ll try anything once, and it turned out to be OK.  The recipes vary widely; I think that’s because some people make it vegan and some people don’t, because they eat eggs and cheese.  So I looked at a bunch of recipes and went with what looked to be the most common.

Special K Loaf:

2 pt. cottage cheese
1 reg. size box Special K cereal
1 stick melted butter or 1/2 c. oil
5 eggs
1 c. nuts, finely chopped or ground in nut grinder
1 med. onion, chopped

Mix all ingredients together and spread in oblong (shallow) baking pan. Mixture will be quite thick. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve with brown gravy.  (If you’re not vegetarian, you can add some chicken or beef broth granules to this for a little extra flavor.)

I also found this variation, which uses a can of salmon:
Combine all of ingredients in medium size mixing bowl. Spread evenly in greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  (I would probably add a little Old Bay seasoning to this, I use it in almost anything fishy.)

1 can (15 oz.) salmon, drained, flaked

2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. chopped onion
1 tbsp. green pepper
2 c. Kellogg’s Special K cereal

I talk all the time about the recipes from the manufacturers.  Several years ago, my aunt gave me this wonderful book for Christmas: Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans & Jars. If you’re looking for a place to spend some of those amazon.com gift cards you earned on Swagbucks, I highly recommend this book–it can be the couponer’s Bible for using up staples.  I found quite a few cereal recipes in it, including…

Tiger Cookies (from the folks at Kellogg’s):

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. softened butter or margarine
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
3 c. Frosted Flakes, crushed to measure 1 1/2 cups
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
Stir together flour, soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In large mixing bowl, beat margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat well.  Add flour mixture, mixing until well combined.  Stir in crushed Frosted Flakes.  Drizzle melted chocolate over dough.  With knife, swirl melted chocolate gewntly through dough to achieve marbled appearance.  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.  Bake in 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove immediately from baking sheets.  Cool on wire racks.  Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Coating for Chicken or Fish:

Remember the Italian Fried Chicken recipe I gave you a few weeks ago?You could easily substitute crushed corn flake crumbs for the bread crumbs, just add a little more Italian seasoning.  Makes it super-crispy!  You can do this with pretty much anything you’re going to bread and fry or oven-fry.

Chex Mix Tips:

So everyone also knows how to make Chex Mix, and if you don’t, the recipe’s on the box.  I have added some variations to my Chex Mix repertoire that I’d like to share.
First, from my friend Charlie I learned 2 things–
1. Save the Wheat Chex to add until the very end, because it’s super-dry and it sucks up all the buttery liquid goodness.  I drizzle about 3/4 of the mixture in, stirring as I go, then add the Wheat Chex and the last 1/4 of the buttery stuff.  It works better.
2. After you get to the end of the mixing, pull out your Oregano and sprinkle some of that on there and mix it in.  It adds another layer of flavor that’s really good.
And then my own variation, which is–I don’t really like the mixed nuts.  So I substitute 1 cup of pecans and 1 cup of cashews.  Also, I don’t always use pretzels and bagel chips.  Sometimes I use Goldfish crackers or Cheez-Its, whatever I have on hand that I need to use up.  I put this in festive plastic food tubs that I got on sale last year after Christmas and give it as gifts, or I put some in a treat bag or pretty sandwich bag and add it to a gift basket.  It’s always a hit!  One year, before Chex came out with “Chex Morning Mix”, I did something very similar to that.  I used sweetend cereals of the honey or cinnamon varieties, dried fruit, nuts, and then instead of Worstershire sauce and savory/salty seasonings, I used about a tablespoon of honey and a couple of tablespoons of frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed out, along with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc.  Mix it and bake it according to the Chex Mix directions.  It makes a great breakfast munch!

Substitutions:

Remember, lots of times you can substitute to use up what you have, instead of going to the store for MORE cereal when you already have plenty.  For example, say the recipe calls for Raisin Bran and you have Corn Flakes…or Frosted Flakes…or Fiber One Honey Clusters.  OK, so all that’s missing is raisins!  Throw in a couple handfuls (two scoops!) of raisins and voila…Raisin Bran!  Close enough, nobody will know if you don’t tell.  If you’re making cookies or muffins, it’s probably not even going to matter.
I’m planning an upcoming column on quick breads, and it will include some muffins that use cereal, so keep that in mind.  Quick breads make GREAT Christmas basket items–I love to do an inexpensive mug, some coffee and/or tea, and a couple of muffins or mini-loaves.  This is great for teachers who have to grab meals on the run, or seniors who have limited storage space and can’t/don’t bake any more.

Manic Mealplan Monday: Amazing Apple Cake!

When you need a cheap & easy family meal-idea in a hurry, we’ve got you covered! Each week we’ll be featuring one of the great recipes -based on Weekly Sales- from Laurie’s collection over at PassionatePennyPincher. Today’s Manic Monday Deal is Southern Living Apple Cake!

Photo courtesy of Southern Living Picture (doesn't that just look amazing?)

This is by far my favorite fall treat, and I could hardly wait until October to share it! It’s also so easy that anyone can make it . . . in fact when I first found the recipe nine years ago I was teaching preschool “cooking and science” and my preschool classes made the cake – our entire church smelled heavenly!

Southern Living Chunky Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted $0.50/1 Land O’ Lakes Spreadable Butter Products
  • 2 cups sugar $0.50/2 Domino Sugar Products 8/29/2010 RP Insert
  • 2 large eggs $0.35/1 Eggland’s Best Eggs 9/12/2010 SS Insert
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract $0.50/1 McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract or $1/1 McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract 10/3 RP
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour $1/1 Eagle Mills Flour I couldn’t find this brand at my Publix, but maybe yours carries it!
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda $0.50/2 Arm & Hammer Baking Soda Product
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced I think any tart apple will do – we used a bag of apples on sale at Publix in last week’s sale.
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional, but we’ve never used them)

Stir together first 4 ingredients in large bowl until blended. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in apple slices and 1 cup walnuts. (Batter will be very thick, almost like cookie dough.) Spread into a greased 13- x 9-inch pan. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Spread with Cream Cheese Frosting; sprinkle with walnuts, if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened$5/5 Kraft Cheese or Dairy Products , hopefully you have some in your stockpile!
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened $0.50/1 Land O’ Lakes Spreadable Butter Products
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar $0.50/2 Domino Sugar Products 8/29/2010 RP Insert (exp 11/30/2010)
To make the Cream Cheese Frosting . . .
Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar and salt, beating until blended. Stir in vanilla.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Southern Living. Looking for more bargain menu ideas? Check out Passionate Penny Pincher’s weekly meal deals, including Harvest Time Grilled Chicken Salad and Pork Chop & Feta Skillet!

Biscuits-N-Gravy Soup

Okay, I know I said I was done posting for tonight – but after telling you that my birthday boy asked for biscuits & gravy soup for his special dinner, I felt like maybe I should do a quick follow-up.  You know, inquiring minds want to know!

I invented this self-explanatory meal last winter, when I had many, many cans of free biscuits & Tennessee Pride Gravy from a sale at Bi-Lo.  The kids love “Breakfast Dinner”, but wanted a portable meal for when we had family movie nights.  Hence, biscuit & gravy soup.  Here’s my secret recipe:

Biscuits-N-Gravy Soup:

- Make LOTS of gravy ( I use a pack of Southeastern Mills that makes 3 1/2 cups)
- Make a can of biscuits (Just any old kind, they’ll be hunkered down in some thick gravy goodness)
- Cook & Crumble Sausage (Totally optional)

Cut/Tear up biscuits into lots of little hunks.  Divide into bowls.  Ladle a few big scoops of gravy into each bowl.  Stir in some crumbled up sausage (If you like).  Serve to hungry kiddos and menfolk!

Side Dish Ideas: Seriously?  I mean, you just served BISCUIT & GRAVY SOUP.  You have officially given up the pretense of a well-balanced meal here, unless “Flour” is really part of all 4 food groups (It’s not.)  Now just let the mom-guilt go and enjoy!