Category Archives: Menus

Windy Lake Day

Last week was insanity piled on top of more insanity. I promised the kiddos we would go to the lake on Saturday. I qualified this promise only with the requirement that they behave and clean their rooms… In hindsight, perhaps I should have mentioned “Depending on the weather”… Come Saturday morning I saw only clouds and felt only wind. But the lake was promised, so the lake received a bit of our family insanity.

We packed up some cheese & crackers (that’s an absolute must for any beach or picnic outing, if you ask me! Just grab a block of cheese and a knife to cut it with and your favorite crackers), watermelon and some cupcakes. The boy child packed up his beach toys and put on his swim shorts, despite the cold wind blowing through town. The girl child & I each grabbed a book for reading.

Arriving at the beach, we saw one lonely truck sitting near the water and the rest of the beach was empty. The empty beach made me want to walk to the far end of the beach, where I had never been, since it was usually crowded. The views were beautiful, even with dark clouds looming over the mountains. And the cold wind did not keep the boy child out of the water! He built his masterpiece near the water’s edge while the girl child walked the beach drawing pictures. I preferred to sit on my beach towel with the book* I just started reading, wrapped up in my blanket. (Once the wind let it go and allowed me to wrap it around my shoulders. We all enjoyed the afternoon sitting at the beach. The wind didn’t even bother us (well, once we got used to it, anyway)… it was the rain that drove us away, eventually, but not before getting our feet a little wet!

*I have just started reading Eat, Pray, Love and though I have not ventured far into the book, yet, I am in love with the writing of Elizabeth Gilbert. Perhaps because I remember some of the same feelings she has expressed in the beginning of her book, or perhaps she writes in the same way I think… but something about this book has drawn me in and I already know I will feel like I’ve been on the journey with her by the end of the book. (And I refuse to see the movie before finishing the book! My girl child has called “dibs” on reading the book after me, because I have told her she has to read it before I will take her to the movie… At least I know I’ll have a movie partner!)

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Filed under Books, Cooking With Love, Menus, Picnics

A Little Money Goes a Long Way

Many people are surprised to learn that I lived on and supported myself and 2 children on nothing more than $650 a month and the help of a food grant from the state for several months and during that time, we ate healthy, well rounded meals. I was fortunate enough to be living in assisted housing, which of course helped me make the ends meet. I’ve answered many questions about this time of my life, and I am always happy to share what I learned and how I managed to get my family out of that tough spot. Some of the more common questions have been:

1.) What was your food budget? (A: Around $150-$200/month)

2.) Yeah, but was the food good? (A: Why does food have to be pre-packaged or expensive to taste good?)

3.) Can I really make it work for my picky family? (A: YES! My kids were young, 2 & 4 years old… those are some of the pickiest eaters on the planet–ask any parent, they’ll tell ya!)

I have this first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to live on extremely limited income. I pulled myself up from that situation with the help and support of many wonderful people, to a point that I now work with families living in similar situations to what I got through. In my position, I don’t have the opportunity to share what I learned, what I went through, and how they can come through it.

One of the most important things I learned through it all is that menu planning will save you time, money and sanity! Some day, I will have at my disposal all the resources necessary to reach out to families living at or below poverty levels, and help them learn the skills to plan healthy, affordable meals. Menu planning, budgeting, and grocery shopping are skills that have been lost along the way and it’s time we start finding those skills, learning them and teaching them to everyone!

You don’t have to be rich to eat well. You just have to know how to shop and plan. I want to teach you these skills, and then I want you to teach the skills to someone else, plus pass the knowledge to your children.

Give me the resources to share and watch as changes emerge!


Filed under Cooking With Love, Menus

What’s in the Freezer?

I’m in “stop spend” mode right now. I go through these cycles of buying too much food… and when I realize I can no longer fit anything else into the pantry and/or freezer (and often refrigerator), I put the family on “stop spend” and then we take stock of our food and create our menus using only what we have in the house, going to the grocery store for only milk, bread and possibly some fresh produce.

So… what does a “stop spend” menu look like, and is it really possible to create a full week of meals without going to the store?! Keep reading this week to see what we create from our “stock on-hand”. For those of you that did not follow my previous blog, you may be wondering if it’s really possible to have that much food in the house, and really not need to go shopping for a whole week. Let me tell ya… I’ve done this challenge in the past for 2 weeks and longer! It’s an awful, wonderful thing, my love of all things food!

On to tonight’s “stop spend” dinner: Creamy Pasta with Roasted Vegetables! This dinner required nothing from the store, because I had it from last week’s shopping trip (or from previous trips…that pantry is pretty full!)

  • Whole Wheat Pasta (pantry)
  • Shrimp & Scallops (freezer) cooked in butter & garlic (fridge & fresh garlic keeper)
  • Asparagus, Zucchini, Mushrooms (fridge), drizzled with Olive Oil & tossed with garlic (pantry & fresh garlic keeper)– roasted on stoneware bar pan at 425F for about 25 minutes
  • Whipping Cream (fridge)– simmered on low to thicken
  • Fresh Basil (snipped from my window container of herbs… but you can use dried also, just simmer it in with the cream)
  • Tomatoes (sitting on the counter–did you know tomatoes lose much of their flavor and they have a different texture when stored in the refrigerator?)
  • Fresh Parmesan (fridge)

Toss all this together for creamy goodness! Serve with a salad and/or garlic toast, if desired. I like this with whatever vegetables I happen to have on-hand, and usually don’t add any kind of meat. I compromised with the family and added the shrimp & scallops this time… but next time, it will be a perfect “Meatless Monday” kinda meal!


Filed under Eating What we Have, Main Dishes, Menus, Recipes