Thursday, January 12, 2012

Staying on Track

I know it has only been a few days, okay so it is Thursday of the first week of my new organized life, but this is actually the longest I have stayed on goal before.  Sad, I know, but true.

Tuesday meal was the chicken meatballs.  We bought these at Costco.  I fully admit that they do not fall under the rules of the "Real Food" challenge, nor did the teriyaki rice mix.  I pulled out the carrots left over from last week and served them as well.  It is extremely hard to get everything hot and served at the same time when it is all cooked in the microwave.  I will be so happy to get my oven back.  This is also not a cheap meal by any means (approx. $14 per box, two meals worth), but hubby bought them after getting a taste sample so I have to use them.

Last night we had pork tenderloin that I cooked in the crock pot.  It was supposed to cook for another hour, but I put a meat thermometer in it and it was done.  Ended up a little overcooked as it was really dry and falling apart.  My crock pot has been going south for a while, the digital timer was messed up so you couldn't tell by looking how much time you put on it.  Had to count it out when I entered the time.  It also cooked really hot on high, and not so hot on low.  I had learned to compensate for the problems for the most part, but last night I had enough.  We went and bought me a new one at Costco (the club membership was my gift from son and his wife) which was a little cheaper than the original one I purchased (several years ago) and came with a little mini crock pot as well.  I got it home, cleaned it and put it on the counter, then realized that it is about a quart and half larger than the old one (and here my family is shrinking) but I guess I can double up on some things for planned left overs.  At any rate, back to the meal, I made mashed potatoes and fried okra with it. Not the sides planned, but since it was unexpectedly just the two of us it was easy and I could control the amount better.  I froze the left over meat to make in to pulled pork sandwiches next month.  The whole meal was $3.30 for everything.

Tonight's recipe is a type of stir fry, so thankfully will be a quick cook and on the stove top.  It has potatoes in in that are cooked in the microwave first.  Tonight's meal will be 100% completely with in the rules of the "real food" challenge.  The unexpected advantage of cooking more from real foods, less processed items, and cooking from scratch is that the amount of trash we have is at least half of what it was last week.

Just another little bit of information.  Since we had fallen in to a rut lately, same old meals over and over, when I planned out my menu plans for the next few weeks I purposely planned all new dishes.  I am wanting something new, something fresh, and a bit more rounded meals for the family.  Not ground beef or chicken every night or around here, tacos and baked chicken at least once every week.  I know that these are family favorites (at least the tacos, burgers, hot dogs) but we really need a little change around here, not to mention that I am including more pork and fish (okay, seafood)

Now, I have to mention something here about a cookbook I bought recently. Well, last year sometime.
I thought this would  be a great resource book, which for the most part I guess it was.  I do however, have to challenge her price analysis of the meals.  There is absolutely NO WAY that I can purchase the ingredients of a dish for as cheap a price as she does.  I realize that she lives in the midwest, but that is just no excuse.  I even emailed her and called her out on it, she wrote back that she did calculate each recipe according to her best sale price.    Which are way lower than my best sale prices.  Here are some examples.

I just bought store brand unsalted butter on sale for 2.98 a package, there are 4 sticks, 8 tablespoons per stick, for 32 tablespoons for a package. That calculates out to .09 per tablespoon.  She calculates .05 per tablespoon.  If I use margarine it would be closer, but still not that low. The main ingredient I debate the price with though is ground beef.  She averages a pound of ground beef for $1.50. The price however is very inconsistent through out the book. One recipe has 1/2 pound ground beef for .75, one recipe has 3/4 pound for .76 and such.  You get the point.  Most of the beef dishes are just not priced accurately.  Now, I totally understand that she was shopping sales, one recipe may have been made with a better sale price than another.  I totally accept that beef prices in the mid west are most likely cheaper than here in California.  I even agree that since the recipes for the book were made and created in 2008 and 2009 that things may have been a bit cheaper.  However, my point is that it is just a bit misleading.  I mean, this is 2012 and groceries just last year pretty much nation wide took a 24% to 28% increase across the board.  But, I can get eggs, cheese, canned goods, milk, pretty close to her prices, even chicken, but I just don't believe that the beef prices are true. There fore I think that she should not keep claiming that the cost of her meals are $5 or less. She has a web/blog site and continually claims the low cost of her recipes.  The site has some great recipes though along with some really creative ideas from readers, as well as links to great coupon and highlights good sales.

That being said, she has some wonderful recipes in the book.  I will be purchasing her second book "$5 Dinner Mom Breakfast and Lunch Cookbook" but will not be anticipating actually making the meals for $5 or under. She does share some great shopping strategies that I can use to get cost as low as possible.

Have you seen "Pioneer Woman" on the Food Network?  Ree Drummond is the host.  She is wonderfully down to earth with her dishes and her stories.  She lives on a working ranch in Oklahoma.  Ree stormed the blog scene with her stories of meeting her husband (she calls him the Marlboro Man - enough said), going from being a big city girl to a country gal, her children, her children's books and her photography.  Read her blog by the same name to learn more about her.  I am so jealous of her kitchen, believe it or not, her husband converted a small house on the ranch into a large kitchen and dining space.  She has three work stations so every one can cook together, 3 stoves, 3 sinks, huge counter top work space.  She is awesome and for the most part uses normal ingredients and simple techniques to cook her meals.  Oh, and did I mention that she beat Bobby Flay in a throw down?

Well, little man is awake...again, so need to jump off of here and tend to him and then grab a bite to eat.  Thanks for stopping by, feel free to leave a comment, and come back soon.

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