Monday, January 31, 2011

The first annual Vegan Pizza Day! Yes, I know but, you have to read about some of these AMAZING companies!

Once again I missed a Simple Saturday! Very terrible of me I know but, there was a good reason why!

Saturday was the very first annual Vegan Pizza Day in the US! I know, I know, sounds appetizing right?! Before I tell you how great some of these companies are, because I will,  I will tell you why this kind of thing is a big deal in the Blue Collar household. Especially since vegan food is not a typical thing in a house where you're pinching pennies.

My boys were born milk intolerant. The oldest was suppose to have outgrown it but, recently we've discovered that he has not. So, as you can imagine, going from having his favorite foods like macaroni and cheese or pizza and then having to give them up, is a very hard transition for a little guy. Especially one who relies heavily on structure.

Well, at the local Whole Foods store, we came across a Vegan pizza that my oldest agreed to try it out of sadness and desperation. We took it home and gave it a go. My son LOVED the pizza so much so that even I had to give it a try. It was better than some of the pizza's made with real cheese!!!

The name of that pizza was Tofurky cheese pizza, all Vegan and no milk or cheese. I was so in love with it and so amazed that my son was in love with it, that I wrote the company. This is how amazing some of these companies are......

When I wrote Turtle Island Foods about their Tofurky pizza, I never thought they'd email me back. They did and then went above and beyond! They emailed me back, even asked for out address so they could mail me "coupons and goodies". My son got a cute Tofurky lunchbox, some pins with cute sayings on them and some stickers, his favorite thing! As if that wasn't enough, unbeknown to me,  they then forwarded the email onward to yet another company!

This company is called Daiya.This company is the one that puts the cheese on the Tofurky pizza! They make a casein/milk free cheese! I know it sounds bad but, trust me when I say that it has to be THE most amazing non cheese - cheese I've ever, EVER tasted! I could not be more serious either! This coming from a pure Nebraska girl! We live off of meat and potatoes here. Which also includes a LOT of cheese, so to find this cheese good, was a shock!

Anyway, Daiya wrote me the most amazing email. Where they offered up information on their company and links to another site where they work with a company to make the cheese on a gluten free, dairy free, macaroni from a company called Amy's.

My son also loved the macaroni and cheese and needless to say, we have Daiya shredded cheese in our house and thanks to their company website, we also found 2 restaurants in town that serve the Vegan pizza with their cheese on it! So, we spent Saturday afternoon at a local pizza shop having pizza just like "normal people" do.

I should note that NONE of the following companies solicited my opinions expressed here. As a mother I was just so impressed with their products and how they are striving to make amazing products that are actually worth the money, taste amazing and are so great, even a little child who was used to milk enjoyed eating them!

So, if you've got a little extra cash or are looking for something a little different or even if you have milk allergies in your family, seriously consider checking out Tofurky pizzas or even making your own with Diaya cheese!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Tastes Like Outdoor Grilled Turkey Burgers" & What you can do with a package of burrito mix!

Again, sorry for the late post! My mother is staying until tomorrow and it makes it a bit hectic to try and get a post in on time. Especially when she has a QVC addiction!!

So, for manly mondays, again it's nothing really new and something you've heard me say a million times before but, wanted to share with you my little tricks and the picture of the finished product. Everyone could barely finish theirs, let alone ask for another!

It comes with a little trick that I do on occasion so that we're not eating the same kind of thing over and over and over again. I mean everyone loves a burger but, how many can you eat before you just really don't want to eat them anymore?! So, here's my trick for burgers, rice, potatoes and so much more.....burrito mix! Swear to all that is holy, you will LOVE it! I just go to the aisle in the store with all the little pouches of seasoning for things like tacos, roasts, etc. Find a burrito mix, you can do it with a taco mix too if you prefer.

Again, it's what your family prefers but, you can add a little to your mashed potatoes or in the water as you boil some rice to add a new flavor. Below is how I throw that into a burger with a few more odds and ends to create a new taste for everyone!

Tastes Like Outdoor Grilled Turkey Burgers

1 - 2 lbs of ground turkey
1 bag of brown rice, cooked
1/2 - 1 cup of steamed veggies, diced
1/4 - 1/ 2 pckg of burrito seasoning
1 / 2 green pepper, cubed or diced
worchestersire sauce, liquid smoke
salt & pepper
*1 - 2tbs of bbq sauce - if you want a bit more flavor and spice add a bit of this to mix too!

Let me preface this by one again saying that we have egg sensitivity in our house so if the meal is something that everyone will eat, we don't use an egg, as some people would when mixing together a hamburger. Also, the amount of burrito mix, worchestersire sauce and liquid smoke you would use, again depends on your or your family's tolerance for savory or spicey meals.

It's a pretty simple meal to make. Just mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. For my family, we used 1/2 of a package of burrito mix and about 2 - 3 tbs of worchestersire sauce and 1 tbs, give or take of liquid smoke.

I know you're wondering about the crackers. I just keep crushing them up and adding them to the mix until it's not to wet. You don't want it too dry either, as it will really fall apart but, if you've done it before you'll know the feeling on your hands. You just don't want it too wet or too dry. I think after I add the rice, and the liquids, I probably use close to 1/2 package of crackers. You can crush them by hand or put them in a sandwhich bag and use a rollig pin to roll over it and crush them.

Anyway, mix it all together. You can do this several hours ahead of time and just cover and refrigerate until you're ready or you can do it right before you cook them. The longer it sits, the more the flavors intermingle and bring out more of the unique flavors.

The trick to any hamburger or turkey burger patty I have known since I was a girl but, was shocked to find out that not everyone knows it! It's pretty easy. Roll into a ball, kind of gently mash it flat but, make sure that the middle of the patty is thinner and a bit flatter than the outside edge. The outside edge will be thick as it should be. I forgot to take a picture of it but, will do so later when I make them again. So, the middle will almost sag down for being too thing and the outside edge will look almost like it's way too big. This is perfect! Why do we do this? Because ground meat plumps when you cook it! So, what will happen is your burger will even out and cook evenly all the way through.

Depending upon the shape of your pan and/or whether you use ground hamburger or ground turkey, you might want to spray your pan or use a little bit of butter.

Place on med heat and cover. Do not flip until the bottom begins to carmelize or brown up. You flip and cover again. Shouldn't take too long and you have time to make the rest of your meal! For this meal, I simply used a store brand mashed potato, 3 cheese blend and added a bit more burrito mix to it, some leftover  veggies, some shredded colby and monterray jack cheese and viola a completely different mashed potato that complimented the meal nicely. I didn't add any veggies to the plate because a) I was out of time and b) there were so so many in the burger but, most of the time I do! This way, your family most definitely gets their veggies for the day! : )

They were so huge that the drawed the normal sized buns and literally no one was able to finish their plates! Which means I had plenty left over for another day, or a different meal!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Egg & Bacon Sandwich and Oatmeal

First off, sorry for the late post. Digging out of the snow that is falling yet again, takes some time and with my mother here, we've been chatting away and the day has gotten away from me! Anyway, on with the post!

Someone I considered a dear friend said something to me a while back about what they were having for breakfast and it inspired me to make it my way. Hold onto your hats though everyone, it's definitely NOT a healthy, diet inspired breakfast. It's one of my mother's favorite things that I make now!

The best thing of all about this breakfast is that it hits most of the food groups!! Dairy, protein, fat, grain and if you serve it with a side of fruit, even better!

Egg & Bacon Sandwiches

2 slices of bread, per sandwich- per person (wheat or whole grain is healthier)
2 eggs, per sandwich- per person
3 - 4 strips of bacon per sandwich (low sodium bacon is healthier)
butter, garlic salt & pepper

First butter one side of your bread and toast in a pan, like you would a grilled cheese sandwiches.
Once toasted on one side, set aside. I cheat and even stick them in the freezer to harden a bit before I butter the second side. YES, you butter the other side!

I fry up the bacon in a pan. Cook until it's the consistency you or your family prefer. Set on a napkin covered plate to soak up the extra grease.

Crack open two eggs and put them in the same pan you cooked the bacon in. Top with freshly ground black pepper and a bit of garlic salt.

While they're cooking, pat the tops of the bacon, with a paper towel to also soak up the grease on top.

If you've not done so before, remove the bread from the freezer and butter the other side and set aside. Flip the eggs over, and top with pepper and garlic salt again. Just a little salt though, you don't want to overdo it. Depending upon how you like your eggs, or you desire for easy eating, you might want to make sure eggs are cooked through, meaning that the yolks are solid. 

Once eggs are done remove to a paper towel lined plate to soak up the grease. Again patting the tops with another paper towel to get rid of the excess grease on the tops of the eggs.

Then simply assemble the sandwich! Bacon on one side, eggs on the other. Slap together, eat and ENJOY!! :)

Yes, that was a lot of pictures but, really who wouldn't want to see a lot of bacon?! :) Besides, with all that grease patted off, it's a healthy breakfast! Right? Yeah, you really shouldn't answer that!

Second simple thing to do on a Saturday is oatmeal. Only I do something I'm sure a lot of you have done but, some may not do. I get the (insert fruit here) & cream kind. Then buy matching fruit. For example, if it's bananas and cream. I buy bananas and cut them up into bit sized pieces and throw them in. Or peaches and cream, the same thing, chop them up into bits and throw them in. Just make sure to do it after the oatmeal has cooled down a bit so you don't get over cooked fruit! Besides fresh, raw fruit is much better to eat! Your kids will love it and you've really not gone to much trouble at all!

Again, nothing that we all haven't thought of before but, just a reminder of the simple things we can do and enjoy for a meal.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Auntie Em's Sloppy Joes

Welcome to the very first Manly Monday! :P I chuckle at this but, since we joke about that in my family, it seemed fitting to use it here.

As explained in the “Manly Mondays” tab, these recipes will be hearty meals that are designed to literally fill a tummy without breaking a budget. With a house full of testosterone, this has actually become a mission of mine. Especially when 3 out of the 4 mouths I have to feed are still growing!

I should warn you though, that I was taught to cook these kinds of meals at a very young age and taught by some very accomplished cooks, that is definitely not to toot my own horn, I am by no mean in a class with them or probably have the bloggers whose recipes I salivate over. What it means is that they didn’t believe in measuring! Instead telling me, “Bakers measure, chef’s create!” Which I always found a bit melodramatic as an 8 year child but, I’ve come to learn over the years as I cooked for other people, teaching them how to do it on a strict budget, everyone has different tastes. So, while I may like a chicken meal with 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, you may only like the taste of 2. So, you will find that most of my recipes are a general idea of what is used (as I eyeball it, as RR would say),  or most likely toned down in one area or another.
My first recipe for this day is:

Auntie Em’s Homemade Sloppy Joes
There was suppose to be some really grand picture of sloppy joes on buns but, when I went to get my camera back from the camera happy toddler, the rest of the clan ate my pretty plate full!!

1 lb of ground turkey
2 cloves of garlic, minced or diced
1 /2 - 1 whole green pepper, diced
1 package of already cooked brown rice
Worcestershire sauce
Liquid smoke
Fresh ground black pepper & salt (I prefer my own premixed garlic salt)
1/8 - ¼ cp of BBQ sauce, you choice of flavor

In a pan, over med high heat, throw in your peppers and garlic, and ground turkey. Continually break up ground turkey. That doesn’t mean you have to literally stand over it but, just every few minutes you’ll want to go in, give it a stir and break it up.

Add in your Worcestershire sauce and Liquid smoke. Notice that there are no measurements? That’s because these can be very strong flavors and again, taste is subjective, if you want that strong, smokey flavor, use at least 2-4tbs of Worcestershire sauce and abot 1 tbs of liquid smoke. Be careful though, if you’ve worked with liquid smoke before you know it’s a very strong flavor! So, respectively if you’re a more milder type of family decrease those amounts to your comfort level. I will tell you how I was taught to do it - by smell! Swear to the heavens that is how they taught me to cook! It has yet to fail me too. So, if you add a small amount and you can’t smell it, add more. The stronger the scent the stronger the flavor. Though keep in mind, most things begin to get milder as you cook them, not everything but most.  I would much prefer though that you under do the flavors and be able to add more than to go all out and it be more than you family can handle. My oldest son can’t do a lot of flavor but, the rest of the family can never get enough!

Add in rice and let this cook till the meat is cooked well and by all means, let it reduce and simmer for a bit, this will kind of burn out that liquid and concentrate those flavors. You may still have to drain the pan a bit if done right, you won’t have much to drain at all. Before you do, I will give you another tidbit of sage advice that was drilled into my head, taste it! See if you need more of something before you drain it.
Once drained, add it back to the pan and put in your desired amount of barbecue sauce. Again, you honestly will not need a whole lot as the meat will have this tremendous smoky flavor to it. I can never stop eating it out of the pan BEFORE the BBQ sauce is added!! Sad I know but, seriously, it’s so so so good!
Once your sauce is added, just kind of warm it through. The longer the simmer, usually the thicker the sauce, so that is something to keep in mind.

Toast the buns. I know this is kind of a pain but, if you have the extra few, trust me, do it. That crunch in there with the mix of flavors is amazing!
Add Mozzarella. I know, sounds a bit odd but, Mozzarella is a nice dry, smoky cheese in and of itself. Added on top of a sloppy joe like this, toasted bun or no, and your mouth will be beside itself!

Again, you will find that the simple addition of brown rice, is quite filling. Especially in addition to the buns or bread that you serve it on. I don’t think any of my guys has actually been able to make it to 3 sandwiches like this. The times I did it out of a can and “normal” they literally would blow through a whole can and still be wanting more and I was left with none!

So, I hope that you not only come to love this recipe but, that it fills your family up just as well as it does mine.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Auntie Em's Parmesan Chicken

Welcome to the second installment of Simple Saturdays. The embodiment of life in the Blue Collar household. We live in a crazy, fast faced world as it is and being a mother to two special needs boys, I know the meaning of busy. There is always some therapy or doctor appointment looming several times a week, not to mention that we home school in our home as well. Add in meals, laundry, cleaning, baths and somehow, there still doesn’t always seem to be enough time in the day to get it all done!

Saturdays are the perfect day to tone it down. There are no appointments, no errands to run, no church or family functions to attend to in our home. Saturdays are the day to eat leftovers, to sit on the floor and have tickle fights, there might be a load or two of laundry or some dishes in there but, it is for the most part, a simple quiet day.

So, as I have mentioned before, I use simple little tricks throughout the week to get it all done, such as throwing an extra brown rice packet in when I cook one night for another dinner, etc. Well, Saturdays are when that extra packet of rice will come in handy or those potatoes that I popped in the microwave the night before and threw in the fridge before bed.
Now, I have saved myself the extra time and have just to heat up the rice or potatoes and I have my side dish already ready! I can have mashed potatoes, double baked potatoes, etc. I can add a can of flavored soup to that rice as I heat it through, whatever comes to mind I can do and do it fast as it’s already been cooked through once.

So, my addition to this Saturday’s meal is my version of Parmesan chicken. We all know how to bread things and I’m going to be honest I HATE it! Just because a) it can get messy and b) it seems to take the longest time to do. Probably not really true but, it can feel like it, depending upon how you do your breading. My version cuts that time in less than half! It also helps that as I’ve mentioned before, we have food allergies and intolerances in my house. So, some steps are amended!

Auntie Em’s Parmesan Chicken:

Sorry for not having a GREAT picture as most of my favorite blogs do but, we were hungry!

Keep in mind that you can again add more of one thing or omit something entirely it is your preferance. Though you kind of have to keep the parmesan and Italian seasoning or it’s just no good!

1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast*
¼  of Parmesan cheese, the kind you sprinkle on pizza
2 - 3 tbs of Italian Seasoning
1tbs of garlic powder
Salt & Pepper
Minced garlic
*you can buy bone in, skin on, chicken as it is usually cheaper but, it does take time trying to skin and remove the bone.

To save you the mess, simply add everything except the chicken to a quart or gallon bag, depending upon how much chicken you actually have. Seal the bag and give it a good mesh or shake.
If you want to get the chicken cooked a lot faster, you can place it between two pieces of saran wrap and pound flat. This makes the chicken so thin and cooks it a lot faster for you.
When the bag is mixed thoroughly well, drop your chicken into the bag and seal it. Move the chicken around through the bag and make sure that all the pieces get coated well.

That’s it! No eggs, crackers or anything else! Just drop them in a pan or broiler or even wrap them in foil with the minced garlic and into the oven to cook. However you want to make them, they’re ready to go. If you do cook in the pan, it goes without saying, cover it with a lid or if you don’t have a lid to the pan, you can simply use a sheet of foil to sit over the top of it. It helps to keep the heat in and cook the chicken all the way through a lot faster.

If you want, you can even dump a little of that mix left in the bag onto the chicken as it’s in the pan…..yes, my boys don’t like to waste a bit of anything!!
Serve with your rice or potatoes and you’re as good as gold!

Wondering about those potatoes? One of my kitchen staples, those bags of steamed veggies from the freezer section, cooked, cooled and then diced and thrown in with the potatoes. It’s one way to guarantee your family gets their veggies and doesn’t mind!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A healthy, CHEAP and FAST breakfast that costs less than a dollar per person.

Ok so this is nothing new to you really, what I am about to share. The problem is that nowadays convience food has become our mainstream form of nutrition. We're all doing so many things at once that sometimes those little extra minutes to stop and make something from scratch is a bit hard to do. So, that is the point of this post, to show you how simple, fast and easy a good meal can really be (And cheap!)

All that being said, there are always several things you can do during the week or another day to save some time. For example, when I am putting away the groceries, I remove the grapes from their stems and give them a quick rinse. Put them back in the bag and when the boys want some they can help themselves straightaway.

When I make some brown rice for dinner, I always make an extra package. So, that way I have one on hand and cut my next meal time in half. If I have a few and am thinking of it, I even throw a few sweet potatoes or regular ones, in the microwave. Put them in the fridge to cool and the next day or next meal I have ready potatoes for hash, to make homemade mashed potatoes or whatever else I fancy and it has saved me ages of prep time for the next meal. Little things like this seem silly but, can save you loads of time every time you're making a meal.

So, that being said, here's the meal we all know about but, think it will take too long to make or it's too hard. Took me less than 15 minutes tops to make a massive batch, to feed four. When I say feed four, I usually mean a giant helping too!

It literally cost something like $0.80 per person to make!

$1.58 package of Walmart frozen veggies in a bag that you can steam
$1.24 package of mushrooms, presliced or whole you choice
5 eggs, which comes to something like $0.20 a piece.
1/2 of a green pepper - free from a neighbor this summer. ( I chopped and froze them)
3 cloves of garlic, diced or minced - mere change and you can easily leave it out.

Total is something like $3.82!

That's it!! Seriously! You can leave out the peppers and/or mushrooms, even the garlic, if you've got none of those things and it is still just as good and you save a bit more money.

My trick to save a bit of time though, he night before bed, I threw the veggies in the microwave so that when I got up this morning I could cut/dice up the veggies without burning my hands.

Another thing I did, a little non healthy really is I used the pan I had cooked my oldest son's bacon in. To get that smokey flavor but, the trick is to not use a lot. Just enough to add a bit of flavor. So, in the pan with the garlic and green pepper. I let those cook for a just a minute longer alone to get their juices flowing.

I don't like to cook them til their soft all the time and in healthier foods, I've found over the years that the more texture and flavors you can add to your food, the amazing it is and less deprived you feel.

So, then you obviously chop your veggies up and toss them in next along with your mushrooms. In my house though allergies and food intolerances are an issue. To side step this, I simply add about a tsp or less of that bacon grease to another pan and then throw in the mushrooms. Don't be afraid to heap the pan full and if you don't want to add anything to the pan to give it flavor that's ok too. As mushrooms cook, they release their water and they still taste great! They also shrink so if it looks like too much mushrooms, it's probably right on the money. :)

Again, I don't like to overcook a mushroom. So be mindful of that, the whole point of a mushroom is to have a meaty bite. If cooked just right that is how they should feel in your mouth, like a juicy bit of meat.

When these have had a minute or so to cook, then throw in your eggs. If you're sticking to your healthy lifestyle you can simply do eggwhites only. For our house though, waste not, want not! :) Also, I have a son with weight issues and you have to come up with ingenious ways to add extra calories!

Make sure that you thoroughly cook your eggs though, running eggs are soo not appetizing! Just give them several tosses to break them up. Once cooked, if you have seperated your mushrooms, add them.

Here is my youngest's breakfast:
To which I got a "Wow, danks mom"! :)
Here is the adult version with mushroom:

Does that not look delicious?! Seriously less than 15 minutes, a very delicious, healthier, CHEAP breakfast that you can be proud to serve your family or to even treat yourself! Again, I know we all know how to do this but, the point was to show you how little time it takes to do it in. This was the main things many of my BFFs seemed to not be able to get past! How I have the money and time to make a decent meal NOT out of a box.

Now, I pass onto you a breakfast you all already know how to make but, some ideas on how cheap it can be and some silly little tricks to save you time whenever you're cooking. You may find more tips and tricks to get things done faster when you begin doing things this way.

Ok, time for me to enjoy my breakfast now! ;) 

Friday, January 7, 2011

10 Practical (some a little gutsy) ways to save money this next year!

After Christmas is always tight for everyone I think but, living on one income can make it especially tight!

So, every year, like so many of you, I do the "I'm going to cut out every coupon I see" thing. I mean it to and truth is I do it......for about a few months and then I get behind and suddely those little dotted lines on the edge of those coupons seem soooo tiny, the scissors feel a bit too heavy in my hand and suddenly I don't need those clorox wipes! Even though I am using paper towels and bleaching what's left of my everyday T-shirts!

So, this year along with several new things I am willing to try in an attempt to keep the few remaing shirts that I own, well those without holes, spit up stains from either boy or some kind of food I have spilled down the front of me (I am messier than my boys!), I have decided to keep to the coupon thing and share a few of the ways that I have been able to stretch the dollar over the years. Some you all will know, or have heard about but, if it puts a bee in your bonnet and gets you thinking....and sharing, then I'm all for it! :)

1) Coupons....yes those dreaded things that we all cut, sometimes use and can easily forget about. The trick to it though is this, keep them organized! I bought a few years back for a dollar, one of those little, plastic, accordian wallet things for just such a thing! I keep the cleaning products in one pouch, canned food in another, etc. I found that for me, as I shop usually at one store, even dividing them by the aisles I've come to memorize was good!
The other trick to them is to routinely clean them out. Every two weeks or a month is good. Nothing is more of a letdown than finding a great coupon and realizing that it expired 3 weeks ago!

2) Shop some place that price matches! I know the concept was a bit foreign to me all those years ago when I started doing that but, you can save so much gas by not running around to several different places. Obviously if it is a store brand, you have to travel to that particular store but, I can't tell you how many Tuna, Chicken or Hamburger Helper brands I've gotten for less than a dollar by doing this and it begins to add up! Most places keep the local adds on hand so that they can find what you're after, some don't even bother, knowing that most of us either show up with add in hand or written down.

3) Store brands, depending upon what it is can be just as good as name brand! Sometims a little spices, sauce or pinch of this or that can help but, in the long run, you save so much money it is worth it!

4) Always compare bulk and single prices. Most of the time we all know that bulk ends up being cheaper but, seriously If I am going to pay $6 for a single vitamin bottle of 200 or pay $9 for a two pack that houses 80 each....which comes out to be only 60 caplets more....$3?! That's just a bit ridiculous. That is half the price of the regular bottle and you're not even getting half more, you know? Now, sometimes if I've got the cash on hand, I don't fret that stuff but, more and more I see deals where it is cheaper to buy two single packages than to buy the bulk. You just have to be mindful.

That being said, it is hard to pass up the bulk of chicken on sale but, also when shopping in bulk, try to keep in mind what you will be cooking til your next shopping trip. A lot more of us live paycheck to paycheck so, those little extra dollars for things that we're not going to use this pay period can almost break you.

5) I know we all know this but, I can't stress enough, take a kitchen inventory and make a menu! You don't necassrily have to stick to it, but it give it go. Often times I a surprised what I still have in my kitchen that I can make. This most especially includes your freezer items! For example, this week, I literally didn't have to buy any meat except a package of ground turkey! I found roast, pork breast, hamburger, bacon, etc. in my freezer. Wrote down what I had and the menu for the week just came to me. So, I could then take that money and buy things that might serve the house better, like Clorox wipes! :)

6) This next one is a relatively new concept to me but, I love the idea! It's called copycat grocery shopping. This is when you find a blog of someone who lives locally and is great at pinching a penny, stretching a coupon, etc. They tell you where to go to get the best deal, a coupon, even how much they spent on items or total at the store! These blogs are a bit easier to find in bigger cities but, it is most definitely worth looking into.

7) Bundling your services. We all know this but, it can save hundreds if your smart about it. Even cell phones, some lines are only $10 more! You really can't beat that!

8) Here comes the part where you take a leap of faith with me! The thought is a tough one, especially when you've not got a lot of time with the TV but you still have "your shows". DROP CABLE or dish! Are you screaming at me yet?! :) The thought was foreign, terrible and horrible to me at first. I mean seriously?! Who does that?! I NEED to know who made what on Iron Chef! I NEED to know who wasn't ehe Biggest Loser!! These are NEED to know things!! Right?! :) Well, in this day and age, it is soo much simpler to go without dish or cable and we're so clueless we've no idea!

Netflix comes into play here a lot! :) For $10 or less, you can have streaming TV to your laptop, computer and Wii or whatever game device you have! Serious, less than $10! I believe it's really only like $8 but, for $2 more you can get DVDs to your house.

Internet access also comes into play. With most major stations have some kind of reply of the episodes on their sites now, you can simply watch online what you missed the night before. Some episodes are only available for a few weeks but, what most of us can find time in a couple of weeks to sit down and watch our favorite show! Well, at least when you're not hearing "mommy look", you can watch! Also, my favorite site, I'm sure you've heard of, Hulu. Offers loads of different shows there as well!

Between the two you really don't miss a whole lot at all! :) And some of us are savvy enough to know how to download episodes from Itunes or whatever else there is....I'm still working on Twitter!

9) Phone....again bundling services is a great idea or simply only have a cell phone. If you can afford it, as I mentioned before, sometimes a second or third cell on an account is only $10! Research a bit before you just jump in though, make sure that it is a fit for your family.  If you're financially challenged having a bunch of cells for everyone and paying upwards of $60+ a month is just astounding! So, here's how the Blue Collar House does it now, again it's a leap so try and not freak out just yet! We do phone over the internet. I will not say the product name but, there is a "jack" that you can get that plugs into your computer and like "magic" you can all almost anywhere in the US, Canada, US territories for free. It also allows cheap international calls on a prepaid basis. It is not for everyone and I always suggest reading every FAQ you've the time and patience for but, the best thing of all is that when you buy it, you're already paying for the year of service plus the device! So, no phone bill for a year AND it is less than or close to a month of regular phone service for a whole year!

There are also things out that like companies that offer you phone service for less than $30 a month, that start with a "V" that also are quite useful. Again, I stress that this is not for everyone so make sure you check out all of their FAQs! Like 911 service, 411 service, etc. Make sure that you have every questioned answered before you decide and never be afraid to research these products online. If there are any reported problems, see if they've been resolved or what was done to compensate. Things like that and most importantly, pick up the phone and give them a good old fashioned call! That is what they are there for.

Another resource we've all heard of is Skype. You can have a phone number through there and make cheap calls to and from most places. I don't know all the details but, a few friends of mine swear they love how cheap it is. I think though then that most of your calls would have to go through your actual computer though. So, again, I advise reading all the FAQs before deciding if any of these are a fit for you!

10) Lastly THE most important thing, never live above your means! We all want nice things, we want decent things but, the truth is we all can find some mediocre things and make them into INCREDIBLE things! Look at all those fabulous blogs out there that show us all how! The trick to it is to know what you can "make do with" until you can rightfully afford to get something better; to know what you can redo and make into an amazing decoration, useful piece of furniture or something truly brillaint. Again, I know we all know this but, it's not always easy to do when you see those Paula Deane pans staring at you for half price across the aisle or those RR orange handled knives you wanted for two years at 30% off....or that bag of dark chocolate calling your name while you're in the checkout. It's just a means to be practical.

There is nothing wrong with giving your wee ones used clothes from a consignment shop or garage sale, as long as you can see that they are in good shape, no stains, etc. Hand me downs are perfectly good too, as long as they are decent.

No reason that all your appliances HAVE to match.....*sigh* If they stove still works, use it until you've got money enough, that won't tax your resources, to buy another. *sigh again* :) The truth of it is, the stove, the last 90s off white appliance in my home has never really attracted a lick of attention, really. It's not the first thing I see someone looking at when they walk in. I'm sure that they notice eventually but, they are usually looking at my Coca Cola red walls, that are trimmed in the middle with the 50s black and white, checkered border, I painstakingly handpainted all the way around the room. The big windows I am fortunate to have in my kitchen and even the dark pink spots on my ceiling from when my oldest was 2 years old and I shot his penicillian up there! :)

Being practical and not over spending when you can help it, will always help keep you from going under.

What do you do? Feel free to share, we all can learn something new daily!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The top 10 must haves in the kitchen for this Blue Collar household!

Ok, the holidays are well over with and I should have some downtime, right?! RIGHT?!? :)

So, aside from the nervous breakdown above, I want to apologize to you all for not posting sooner. I know that as a new blogger I have very tiny following but, I am so grateful to you all for hitting that "like" button on Facebook! That I feel I owe it to you to always do something or bring you something decent!

I've not had a lot of time lately do read a lot of my blogs and am truly going through  blog withdrawal! It's terrible! There really needs to be a rehab for this! :)

Anyway, since I've not been able to look anywhere else for inspiration, I have had to keep my eyes on my own house and food....not always as much fun as looking at other people's goodies and printables but, it keeps you on your toes!

Especially after a bit of a tight holiday, eyes on my own affairs is something I need to do for a few more weeks til, things are not as "tight"! Wise advice I think. That being said, a friend of mine the other day, was having a bit of time trying to make new and fresh meals. She asked what are my go to things in the kitchen. What 10 things do I always have on hand, that makes dinners good, different and don't always cost a lot.

A few I knew offhand, no thought about it, others I had to think about but, here is my list. I hope it's similar to yours or at least fives you some ideas!

1)Obviously some premixed spices, except garlic salt! I buy garlic powder and salt because I always mix my own garlic salt. I prefer more garlic and less salt and it's better for you. Obviously the better quality the better the taste but, really you can always buy the 50 cent garlic powder and massive carboard can of salt and it tastes just fine! Spices in general can make or break a meal though. Spices I always have on hand: Italian, chilli, lemon pepper, some kind of hickory, barbecue or hamburger seasoning and my littlest one's favorite for his fish, McCormick's Montreal Chicken....yes I said on his fish! lol It's actually quite delicious!

2) Another one being instant brown rice. I'm sure if you've not noticed by now you will! Most of my recipes that I make in the Blue Collar house have rice in some way. Why?? Because a) brown rice is healthier for you and b) it fills the tummy!! You can take the smallest amount of food and turn it into the most filling meal. You can even buy the instant kind with 4 bags or so in it and that easily stretches 4 meals and you are more than halfway through one week!

3) Another one, is frozen veggies. The kind that you can pop in the microwave and steam. You can buy the cheap store brand ones and usually, at least in my sad microwave, if you add a bit of extra time to them, they cook up just as fresh tasting as the name brand ones! I love these because you can dice, chop, etc and put them into anything! ANYTHING! Sneak them into burgers, mashed potatoes, plain rice, etc. This not only sneaks the much needed veggies into a meal but, again, fills a tummy up quite nicely!

4) Another given, soft shell burrito wraps. Any size is ok but, the bigger the better really, as it holds more food! :) These as I've said before in my other posts, are life savers when you're on the go or the husband or kids are. It's easily thrown in the micro, taken on the go. Once you try this, it's almost amazing you didn't do this before! If you can afford it, they have all sorts of flavors and kinds of them now. The Blue Collar house sticks to the cheap giant or small ones, depends upon what ever is on sale!

5) Rounding out the top five, is when the money is there, I will buy a bulk bag of Tilapia. It's relatively cheap for a decent amount. It is actually pretty healthy for you and not only fast to thaw out but, fast to cook as well. You can do loads of different things to it as well to change it up.

6) Always, always, always ground turkey. I say this knowing full well that if you get the regular, not white meat turkey, it is the same health wise as lean ground beef but, at least where I live, I can get twice as much ground turkey as I can hamburger for the same price AND when I cook with it, it is a lot less greasy than hamburger.

7) I always keep some kind of cheese on hand. Just because lets face it, what is not better without cheese!! :) Usually it's some kind of shredded combo cheese like Monterrey and Colby Jack but, there are times I find that Parmesan, like the kind you would put on spaghetti and pizza works just as lovely.

8)  Then as will a million other homes probably either Worcestershire Sauce and/or liquid smoke. One because it snows a lot here in the winter or it's FREEZING and I can't always brave the cool temps outside to grill out. Not to mention that used right, they can add such flavor to a recipe! Again, there are people that say the higher the quality the better the taste but, truth is you can always make anything taste good with the right spices or sauces! :)

9)  Eggs. Always have eggs on hand. Having a breakfast for dinner, is always a fun way to change things up and lets face it, you can add anything to eggs and make them fabulous! Spices alone, with veggies, with meat or a combination thereof.

10) Lastly, bacon. Be it turkey bacon and regular bacon, my boys LOVE bacon! :) I mean who doesn't! No secret or tip to why I keep it on hand, simple little boy love will always sway me to keep it on hand. I'm a sucker for a cute grin, followed by a peck on the cheek and a sweet little "please"!

I hope it's given you some ideas to rethink how you spend your kitchen bucks and maybe given you some meal ideas as well! Now, it's got me wondering what you can't live without?!