A Twofer! Works For Me Wednesday and Christmas Club
Wednesday, November 15, 2006

An Advent tradition, in many Christian homes, is to give extra to charities at Christmastime. An especially meaningful custom is to give to places that help pregnant mothers - in remembrance of Mary, her search for a safe place to give birth, and in honor of Jesus, who chose to become the humblest of men, a helpless newborn baby.

Where is this money to come from? Many of our budgets are stretched thin, caring for our own little ones. Well, since Advent is also a season of penance, of preparing for the coming of the Lord, it is fitting to cut back in order to give more.

For one week, go on a strict budget. Make small sacrifices that will add up to big amount of extra money. Give it away, or use it to supplement your own Christmas celebration. One of the easiest ways to save money is the grocery budget. Hillbilly Housewife has a $45 or $70/week menu.

My son (age 8) is on a diet - no artificial food dyes, no MSG (no ramen noodles or canned soup for us!), no BHA/BHT/TBHQ (if you knew about these, you wouldn't eat them either). Also, I am diabetic when pregnant. So here is my version. You'll see a lot of veggies, a lot of ground turkey instead of ground beef, tweak it to suit your family's tastes. It doesn't do any good to make a frugal meal if you end up scraping it into the garbage disposal!

I am including some convenience foods - canned beans instead of dried, for example. You can save even more by doing everything from scratch. Prices are from my local WalMart - the tiny grocery stores around here cost double for canned goods, and I buy generic, store brand usually (unless noted). The veggies will be your choice. My family will eat 1 16 oz. bag of frozen, or 2 15 oz. cans. The cost is about the same, around $1.00 (buy store brands on sale!) The recipes are also easy 'no brainers' - 6 kids, Christmas time, pregnant... I don't have the time, energy, or motivation for fancy dinners.

I buy meat and stock up when it's on sale - and rarely, if ever, pay more than $2.00/lb. for meat. Watch the loss leaders! It's not uncommon to find pork chops for $1.49 or $1.99; boneless chicken breast and chuck steak for $1.99/lb/; whole chickens for $.49/lb., and our Walmart even offers 10 lbs. chicken quarters for $2.95. I would buy one 8 oz. package of shredded cheese for $1.25 - $1.50, and use it as a condiment for 3-4 meals.

Note that the quantities are for 2 adults (1 construction worker, 1 pregnant mama), 4 medium sized children aged 4-8, and 2 toddlers. Adjust quantities accordingly!

Menu: (on the 7th day, Mama rests and we have leftovers or beanie weanies)
Taco Salad: $5.75
1 lb. gd. turkey (I buy the frozen rolls, $1.37)
Add 1 drained 15 oz. can each of: Black beans, corn, diced tomatoes (.44 each, tomatoes,
.56 = 1.44) The canned tomatoes are much cheaper than fresh, easier, and you won't
have to wash the cutting board. I save the tomatoe juice when draining and freeze it to
add to spaghetti, Spanish rice, or when a dish needs a little something extra. Waste
not, want not!
Add garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and/or crushed red pepper to
taste. Cumin is the magical spice that makes these taste like tacos.
Wash, dry, and tear into bite size pieces one head of lettuce (Get the good kind - red
leaf, romaine, green leaf... skip the nutritionally void iceberg. Approx. $1.50)
Mix half and half ranch dressing and salsa in a small bowl (I use my pyrex measuring cup, it has a pour spout), . (estimated cost- $.75) This is the taco salad, and here's the
Toppings 4 oz. shredded cheese (flavor of choice) $ .65
Crunch up some tortilla chips for a topping. Good use for those little bits in the bottom of
the bag that are too small for dipping. I save these in a baggie - if they are stale, bake for a couple of minutes in the oven and they'll be nice and crisp again).
Spoon the meat/bean mix on top of a plate of salad, and top with cheese, dressing,
salsa, and chips. This is much healthier and less fat than those fried tortilla bowls! Add
another can of beans if you need to stretch the meat.

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry (or chicken. Use what's on sale) $ 4.00
Make steamed rice. 2 cups dry, $.35 ? I'm not sure, I buy big bags of brown rice and 2
cups is hard to estimate.
Cut up 1 lb. boneless round steak or chuck into bite size strips (about the size of a domino,
maybe a little skinnier). $1.99 (stock up when on sale) Or use boneless chicken thighs,
Heat sesame oil in pan, and cook the beef. If you don't have sesame oil, make some by
toasting sesame seeds (buy these in the Mexican aisle bagged spices, NOT on the spice aisle.) Lightly crush, then put in cold oil. Heat the oil - and it will sesame flavored. I just buy a can at the Asian store - $3.50 for 56 oz. I use approx. 2 oz (if that) = .15
Dissolve some corn starch in soy sauce, add onion powder and garlic (or cook fresh onion
and garlic to the beef when cooking) and add to meat. Cook until thickened. Or, use
Oyster Sauce, available at any Asian store or in the Chinese section of the
supermarket. It's pretty strong, a little goes a long way!
Add one and a half bags of (thawed) frozen broccoli. $1.50
Cook until heated through. Adjust seasonings to your taste - add hot sauce or red chili
sauce if you like. Serve over steamed rice.

Sausage and Cabbage $4.50
up one head cabbage (approx. 3 lbs.) $1.50. Put in a big pot with enough water to
cover. You can also use apple juice, or half and half cider vinegar and water for a more
sauerkraut flavor. Season water with caraway or coriander, if desired.
Add a cut up apple (golden delicious or granny smith work well) and some cut up potatoes
if you're feeling sassy. Simmer veggies, covered, until tender. $1.00
Cut 1.5 lbs Polish Sausage links into coins. I buy a 3 lb. package of Bar S brand for $3.50,
and it freezes perfectly for any quick meal. $1.75
Cut up half an onion - yellow's fine. ($.25) Cook sausage and onion in frying pan until
onion is translucent and sausage is browned slightly.
Add meat to veggies and serve. Especially good with sourdough bread or just plain bread
and butter.

Hamburger Helper (a healthy, easy, homemade version) $4.90
***Kids love it!***
Brown 1 lb. of gd. turkey in pan. $1.37
Add 2 jars of premade spaghetti sauce (generic, $2.00), or 2 cans 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
and appropriate spaghetti spices . You know what your family likes!
Bring to boil, add 12 oz. broken lasagna noodles or egg noodles. $1.00
Simmer until noodles are tender, adding water if needed and stirring occasionally.
(10-15 minutes)
Serve with sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, or dollop of ricotta/cottage cheese. (.50)

Garlic Lime Chicken (the famous FlyLady recipe), Roasted Potatoes, veggie. $6.00
Cut up potatoes (3-4 lbs?) and a pound of carrots. Throw in an onion too. Put in
of crockpot. $1.50
Put 5 lbs. chicken legs, quarters, thighs or even whole chicken, rinsed, on top. ($3.50)
Sprinkle with chopped garlic or garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Squirt lime juice over the chicken.
Carefully add water in the side (not over the chicken, you'll wash the garlic off!) to
almost cover the veggies.
Cook on LOW 8-10 hours or HIGH 4-6 hours (crockpots will vary, you know if yours
runs hot or cool)
Serve with one bag of green veggies (broccoli mix) or 2 cans green beans $1.00
Save the broth in a freezer bag to make soup or flavor other dishes if you are unable to eat
canned broth or use cubes, like we are. Or put them in an ice cube tray for extra

Ropa Vieja (Cuban Pork Chops)***CROCKPOT*** $6.50
Add 2 lbs. boneless pork chops, pork roast, or ribs to crockpot. Season with lots of garlic,
onion powder, and cumin. $3.00
Dump in 1 can drained black beans, corn, and 1 can undrained tomatoes. $1.44 Dump
some salsa in if you like, too, or add red pepper to taste if you're not cooking for
toddlers. I like to add chopped green chiles. $.75
Cook on LOW 8-10 hours, HIGH 4-6 hours.
Make some rice. $.35 Serve pork mix over rice, and top with sour cream or plain
yogurt, or salsa.
Serve a side salad or Fiesta Mix frozen veggies. $1.00

Okay, so you've spent a grand total of $26.00 for a week's worth of dinners. Plan your snacks and lunches (keep it simple! Sandwiches, etc. Remember, you are eating light and healthy to prepare for the holiday foods of Christmas!)

The other key to staying in budget is to make a snack menu - Ex: Monday, grapes, Tuesday, apples, etc. Cold cereal or whole wheat toast with peanut butter makes an excellent, long lasting snack. Breakfast should be cheap and simple as well. I like to make oatmeal (don't buy packets, buy a huge tub of Quick Cooking Oats; microwave 1/2 c. oats and 1 c. water. I add in half a carton of yogurt instead of sugar (pregnant and diabetic, remember?) or a mushed banana and handful of walnuts.

Now, actually take the money you've saved and remove it from the bank. Place in an envelope, and use for Christmas giving!

Tags: Catholic, Prolife, Less is More Christmas Club, Works for Me Wednesday, Nutrition, Special Needs, Crafts and Cookery

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