Oven "Fried" Potatoes

Oven "Fried" Potatoes

2 Tbsp. bacon grease (or butter)
2 pounds potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3-1/2 c. flour
2-3 tsp. salt (I have learned that I tragically undersalt potatoes.  They really do need salt.  But adjust for what you like.)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place bacon grease or butter in a large, shallow pan (I used my roasting pan) and pop it in the oven to melt for a few minutes.

Combine flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a large zip-top bag (or bowl with lid) and add potatoes.  Shake until potatoes are evenly coated.

Remove the large pan from the oven once the grease has melted.  Pour potatoes and excess flour mixture into the pan, and stir around a little bit so the potatoes get a little coating of grease.

Bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes, stirring the potatoes after about 15 minutes.  Potatoes are done when a fork pierces them easily (and when they are no longer crunchy, if you prefer the taste-test method), with a light-golden crust.

I served this as a side last night, along with a crock-pot roast and a spinach salad.  It was a delicious meal ... and one of those that seemed like more work than it actually was.  I like those kinds of meals, honestly ... makes me feel like I could handle a formal "Sunday dinner" if the need ever arose.


10 Days of Meal Plans

So, I'm pretty excited about planning meals these days.  Dorky?  Yes.  But whatever.  I thought I'd share the menu plan I came up with for these next 10 days ... I made it based on my recent New Way To Plan Food System.  I went grocery shopping yesterday and spent just under 1/3 of my monthly food budget (by just under, I mean ... $2 under!  Thank you, Calculator).

Now, the meals (I know it's kinda cheesy, but most of the links are to recipes I've posted before ... once I really get the hang of this new system of planning meals, I'll start branching out to recipes other people post!):

9/21 - quiche, salad, bread (a la bread machine)
9/22 - bratwurst on the grill, coleslaw, french fries
9/23 - fruit and cheese with crackers (we get off a little easy on Sundays, because we meet for evening church fellowship, and snacks are typically involved)
9/24 - nachos
9/25 - pork roast with oven-fried potatoes, green beans, and salad
9/26 - cheese tortellini, salad, toast
9/27 - rice/chicken/broccoli casserole, toast
9/28 - homemade pepperoni pizza, french fries
9/29 - chicken on the grill, rosemary potatoes on the grill
9/30 - Mexican dip with chips (Sunday snacks)

A few notes:
- Lunches will be leftovers from the night(s) before
- Because we now have this Sunday night group going on, there are a few meal options I didn't use in this 10-day block.  So I have some variety to mix in the next set of meal plans ... breakfast for dinner, soup, and a vegetarian dinner.
- Since I'm in "Countdown To Baby" mode (approximately 8 weeks to go!), I'm also trying to make extra food when possible so I can freeze it.  In this block I'm probably looking at making a 9"x13" dish's worth of casserole,  but splitting it into two smaller dishes so I can freeze one.  Also, I will most likely throw what I can into the crock pot at some point for a big batch of soup to freeze.


My New Way to Plan Food (Part 3)

10 Days of Meals,
"How I'm Revising my Food Budget by Planning Meals" (see previous two posts if you want some background information)

- Come up with ten generic main-dish ideas that you like, know how to make (or have go-to recipes for), and have the time to make with regularity.  Here are my ten:
1. Casserole
2. Mexican
3. Soup
4. Pasta
5. Pizza
6. Something on the grill
7. Vegetarian
8. Roast/Chicken
9. Picnic foods
10. Breakfast foods

- Think of generic side-dish ideas that follow the same rules, and pair them with the main-dish ideas.  Again, here's my list:

1. Casserole with vegetable
2. Mexican with rice/beans
3. Soup with bread
4. Pasta with salad
5. Pizza with french fries or salad
6. Something on the grill with vegetable
7. Vegetarian with egg
8. Roast/Chicken with potato
9. Picnic foods with chips
10. Breakfast foods with breakfasty side (I did say generic!)

-Now, within each generic main/side dish combo, think of just three things that would fit in that category.  It's OK if they're similar ... just try to think of things you'd normally cook up.  I'll give you a couple of examples based on my list, but obviously it's not comprehensive.
1. Casserole with vegetable - 
I could do a broccoli/chicken/rice casserole, a chicken pot pie, or a quiche ("casserole" is a loose term, obviously).  For a vegetable side, there's green beans, squash, or roasted vegetables.
2. Mexican with rice/beans - 
Quesadillas, burritos, or enchiladas.  Seasoned rice or plain rice, rice and beans together, or just refried beans with some cheese.
3. Soup with bread -
Chili, vegetable soup, or "look what leftovers I threw in the crockpot" soup (this last one is particularly good towards the end of the 10 days, when the leftovers don't necessarily go together well).  Bread can be grilled cheese, crackers, or cornbread.

You get the idea.  
Finish the list, and all of a sudden you've got an entire month's worth of meals.
And, it informs the 10-day shopping list.  If you make your list while looking at the meals AND looking at the grocery store sale circular, it's possible to coordinate the two so that you're planning to eat what's on sale ...
On top of that, it's easier to estimate what you'll be needing for those 10 days ... like two loaves of bread, three pounds of meat, one bag of chips, etc.  

But what about breakfast and lunch, you ask?  Because, we all know that I would be the last one to cut out a meal for any reason.

Breakfasts around here are typically oatmeal with fruit, yogurt with fruit, bread and jam, or cereal.  

Lunches tend to be leftovers from dinner the night before.  So really, the only real cooking is dinner.

This may not work for everyone, but so far it's worked for us.  It helps to just have an idea of what to expect for the next 10 days when going to the store.  And I've been able to keep food in the fridge, pantry, and even sock some away in the freezer for later with the plan so far.  

I'll try to post an update in the coming months about whether or not this seems to be working long term.  Until then, I'd LOVE to know what grocery-budget trimming tips you have!


My New Way to Plan Food (Part 2)

Thanks for coming back.  I thought maybe I had bored you with my "duh" conclusions from the last post, but I'm glad to know that I haven't permanently scared you off.

I am trying something new to plan meals, whittle away at the food budget, and try to stash away a little bit here and there for family fun.

I'll call it "10 Days Of Meals."  It comes with a set of rules (and exceptions), but I'm pretty excited about it because it works for us, it's flexible, and so far we haven't gone hungry.

It goes like this: I read somewhere that one way to work within a food budget is to limit the number of times you go to the grocery store.  I've historically gone every week, or when we need something.  But now, I only allow myself to go on the 10th, 20th, and 30th of the month.  That's my first rule: no in-between trips.  If we run out of tomatoes, well shoot, we're out of tomatoes.  Substitute the canned stuff, or find something tomato-less to make.  (The first rule comes with the first exception: Get milk whenever it's needed.  But that's it.  Just milk.)

The second rule says to bring a calculator (and look like a nerd).  Yes, I'm that mom with the calculator.  I know exactly what the cashier is going to ring me up for.  I know whether or not I can get the store brand of chips or the pretty brand.  The difference between $90 and $100 is significant if that extra $10 means a fun family activity or not.

The third rule requires strict adherence to the list which means ... make a list.  And stick to it.  Always.  (Second exception: don't stick to the list if you come in under budget and you see fresh baked goods.)

And the final rule, which actually precludes all the other rules, is to plan 10 days' worth of meals before making a list.

I'll tell you tomorrow how I came up with 10 days' worth of meals that is (in my opinion) flexible, versatile (I'm not one to want to eat spaghetti and meatballs every Tuesday), and frugal.  Check back ...


My New Way to Plan Food (Part 1)

I have come to some recent conclusions that have led me to make some budgetary/food/planning changes.  Some of them are "duh" conclusions (you'll see why) and others are more legitimate "oh, right!" conclusions.  Ready?

Conclusion #1: I am a mom.

Duh.  Of course I am a mom.  I've been a mom for 20 months.  But ... I think I've come to realize that I'm not just a girl with a kid anymore ... I'm really a mom.  You know?  Like, the kind that has a 2-month calendar on the fridge she writes dates on, who schedules things around nap routines, and who regularly uses words like "potty" in everyday conversations.  I'm really a mom.  And moms have to do things like care about the family budget, plan meals, and shop for groceries at specific times (last minute trips to the store require the super-human effort that I prefer to save for getting out of bed in the morning).  So, yes.  I am a mom.

Conclusion #2: Toddlers do not pay well.

I cannot tell you enough how much I love the privilege of staying at home with one very awesome 20 month old girl.  It's not always peaches and cream, but there's grace for that.  She's sometimes cranky, and I'm sometimes cranky ... but I digress.  Though she's a pretty demanding boss, the benefits package is just phenomenal.  Unfortunately, the actual salary she pays into our account is pretty lousy, so we're on tight budgets with kid activities.  And by tight budgets, I mean ... it must be free.  Or under $10 ... for the whole month.  Those kinds of activities can be a little tough to come by when you're not familiar with an area ... so, most of our activities involve friends, home, parks, or food.  Or, all of them.  If there's leftover money from the food budget, we get to do something cool.  So ... work on the food budget.

Conclusion #3: "Whipping Up Something Last-Minute" doesn't work anymore.

The kid is learning patience when it comes to food - like, waiting until everyone is at the table to eat, and waiting until the prayer is over to stuff something in.  But "patience" for a toddler means a grace period of about 74 seconds, not a late dinner at 8:30 because it's been a busy day.  I'm having to actually plan meals days in advance, and most days I start dinner as soon as I clean up the breakfast dishes.

Conclusion #4: The internet has some really great tips for budgeting for food and planning meals.

Duh.  It's the internet.  It has everything.  But, while it has great ideas that have worked for other people, I have yet to find the link for the "Personally Organized Shopping List and Food Budget, With Meal Plans Catered to My Specific Tastes and Time Allowances" website - that specifically targets the high food prices of New England Suburbia.  I find great ideas for cutting food budgets that involve buying what's on sale and skipping the ready-made meals in favor of foods requiring a little bit of prep ... but I already do that.  So, how can a girl whittle away at a grocery store receipt when she's already only buying the most basic of ingredients, and only buying on sale items?

Conclusion #5: There is no easy answer.

Duh.  And ouch.

So, all that is to say, I'm trying something new to plan meals, work with a budget, and even have some left over for fun things.  It's worked for the past month.  I'll be curious to see if it continues to work.

Check back tomorrow!


Things I'm Loving These Days

Of course, I'm way into this chick.  Look how precious!  And those curls ...

I am having a blast checking out all the second-hand stores around.  Thanks in large part to some new friends here, I'm recognizing that being on the lookout for kid-toys is always a good idea ... so I snagged some on a recent trip to Savers (the most amazing thrift store I've ever been to) ...

classic wood blocks, anyone?  An entire bucketfull for $5, anyone?
OK, this isn't for the kiddo.  This is my toy.
I've always wanted a globe!  This one is from the late 70's,
as best as we can tell.
E LOVES this magnetic "book", and played for a full TWENTY
minutes with it the other day.  That's right, I timed it.
Plus, it helps with hand-eye coordination and vocabulary too, right?
It's not just about me having 20 uninterrupted minutes ...
Big bag of animal toys (pre-sanitizing) ... can you tell what E is into these days?
I think that the new baby will be bringing this to its big sister when it's born.
Either that, or she gets it for Christmas.  Yay, blocks!
Craigslist has really come through for me (and the new baby) with this steal:

Do you know about Freecycle?  I've been a member for 3+ years now, and I'm crazy about it.  It helps when other folks around are really into it.  I posted that I was looking for some leftover paint to re-do the changing table, and got some good responses.  Plus, there's enough leftover for some other projects I have in mind!

 Time with family is always a blessing ...

30 weeks ... wow, it goes by fast!