$60.00 A Week Grocery Budget Challenge + Weekly Meal Plan - Week of September 26, 2016

BBQ Beer Can Chicken
It's officially soup season!  This will now be the primary lunch for us for the next few months.  Although the grill doesn't get officially put to bed until later in Fall, it will be used less and less.

Brussels sprouts gratin is on the meal plan for this week.  I'm excited about it.  J is not.  I think he'll like it though.  I'm trying a recipe out of Shaye Elliott's{from the Elliott Homestead} newest cookbook found here.  We splurged a bit this week with the addition of both Pak Dong {Thai pickled cabbage} and cashews to the grocery list.  I now have J hooked on Pak Dong - he originally hated it.  It's a mouthful of flavor!!  Sweet, spicy and tangy...all in one bite!  It takes time, but I can usually get him on my side......

Weekly Meal Plan

Quick & Easy Eggplant Parm

I had not been a fan of eggplant parm until about 18 years ago.  We were invited over for dinner by a guy who worked for my husband.  Joe and Connie, two of the sweetest people ever, wanted us to come over so they could get to know us better.  We had just been transferred to Connecticut where my husband was the Chief in charge of the area where Joe worked at the Coast Guard Academy.  J was about 25 years younger than Joe but they got along great.

Connie welcomed us with open arms when we arrived, and the house was absolutely filled to the brim with delicious Italian scents.  Joe showed us around while Connie completed dinner.  After our tour she rushed us into the dining room to get settled.  In came platter after platter of amazing food.  Pasta with meat sauce, sausages, salads, and eggplant parm.  Huh, I thought.  I'll take a "thank you" portion of the eggplant parm and force it down.  The texture is what I had a hard time with.  Although we didn't communicate it at the time, J was planning the same strategy.

After I devoured the "thank you" portion I couldn't believe that I wanted more!  It was simple and delicious and J and I both reached for a larger helping at the same time.  No slimy texture, no bland sauce.  Connie eventually passed away from breast cancer, but before she did she gifted me a collection of her recipes.  She and Joe had 3 boys and she had compiled their favorite recipes for their wives so they would be able to make the delicious dishes long after she was gone.

Connie was an amazing woman who taught me more about life than I even realized at the time including a lot about kindness and humility.  I hold onto dear memories of our friendship and I treasure each and every recipe she shared.  Every single time I make this dish we end up reminiscing about her.

{Secret Ingredient} Creamy Stovetop Mac & Cheese

Creamy, cheesy, ooey, gooey, and delicious!  Exactly what homemade mac & cheese should be.  I'm a big fan of stovetop mac & cheese, not such a big fan of it baked.  I think it all comes down to texture and consistency.

The secret ingredient bumps up the cheesy goodness, something a lot of homemade mac & cheese recipes miss the mark on.  Of course, if you're hankering for a good stovetop mac and don't have the ingredient on hand, it's still a very delicious recipe.  I like evaporated milk for it's creaminess and the same goes for adding Monterey jack cheese in addition to cheddar.  It adds that ooey and gooey to the delicious!

$60.00 A Week Grocery Budget Challenge + Meal Plan - Week of September 19, 2016

Quick & Easy Eggplant Parm

Weekly Meal Plan:


Have you ever had a weekend that felt as though it was a week long?  And not in a good way?  Yup - that was this past weekend for us.  After a super busy summer we are headed toward a very busy Holiday season which means a lot of shows, a lot of orders and a whole lot of cranking out the products.  Don't get me wrong, we are absolutely grateful for it all.  The dogs, however, not so much.  This means they are slightly neglected {in their eyes, of course}.

This also means home improvement projects take a bit longer to complete.  My dining room and office are the perfect case in point.  Um.....not yet complete.  This week the tiny bit of painting that is left should be complete but we still have curtains to decide on and order, a hutch to decide on and order, and a light in the office to install.  And a table to paint {side table}.  And a bookshelf to make for the office.  And.....you get the picture.

Table Top
We did get our new dining room table and I love it.  The wood on the table top is gray elm.  It almost

$60.00 A Week Grocery Budget Challenge + Meal Plan - Week of September 12, 2016

My garden is winding down.  Actually, it is getting pretty close to being done.  I did not re-plant mid-season so many of the veggies are coming to an end.  This is a bummer.  It's so much easier to head out to the garden in the evening and pick the parts of dinner that look or sound good.  The good thing is that since we sell at a farmer's market we can buy fresh veggies while we're there. 

My corn was attacked by an animal.  J believes a rabbit.....I have a hard time believing that a rabbit could take down the corn stalks, rip out the silks and then attack the corn in the way it appears it has been done.  But, we'll never know.  My pie pumpkins are almost all ripe and the winter squash is just about ready. 

I have had no time to watch the sale flyers and stock up on any reduced groceries this week but our freezers and pantry are pretty full so I continue to "shop" from those.

On to the weekly menu.....

Weekly Meal Plan:

$60.00 A Week Grocery Budget Challenge + Meal Plan - Week of September 5, 2016

homemade Creamy Mac & Cheese
We were lucky enough to receive a sneak-peek of fall weather the end of last week and I love it!  In my opinion, it's too short of a season.  Summer has made a return but the sneak-peek encourages me to add fall-type meals to the menu.  I mean who doesn't crave creamy chicken enchiladas smothered in sauce or chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy???

We only shopped at one store this week as we had almost everything on hand.  No stock-ups this week.  Unfortunately, I haven't even had time to peruse the sale flyers....

Weekly Meal Plan:

And With Chaos Comes A New Room...... or Two!

The small renovation is in progress and, of course, has not been without it's fair share of drama.  Part of the drama is that this is the wrong floor...... We ordered "asian walnut" and received "walnut" which is a LOT darker.  I love the floor, however, it's an interesting contrast against the oak stairwell.

Oh well.

The first night there were only a few planks of wood installed in the dining room but all of the carpet had been removed and rosin paper applied.  This confused Oliver.  He was sure he could not go beyond the wood.  Now how in the world was he going to get to the living room????  He frantically tried to figure this out.  Surely stepping on that rosin paper was life threatening.

We tried to convince him with food. 
We tried to convince him with promises of scratching his bunnies {his favorite thing EVER}.
Um, nope.
We then tried to convince him that Jack was after him and was going to grab his bunnies {his worst fear EVER}.
Nope.  Not happening.

He was on the hardwood floor island with no way of getting off.  Until I picked him up and plopped him in the middle of the paper.  And you know what?  He lived.  Yes indeed, and he was able to cash in on the snacks and the bunny scratching.  Life was good.

The floors are installed and the painting is almost complete.  A new light fixture needs to be wired into the office.  There is an unfinished wall in the office that needs one last bit of tape and mud prior to paint.  The trim will be repainted {white} to freshen it up and the crown molding still needs to be purchased, cut, painted and installed.  I am told this will all be done next week.  Fingers crossed......

Jack absolutely loves the hardwood and spends his evenings moving all around it, laying in virtually every spot to try it out.  Once the furniture is moved back in this could put a damper on his evening adventures, but until then, at least it keeps him occupied.

Since the new flooring is so much darker it required a new area rug as well as a new dining room set and, quite possibly, new curtains.  Funny how it all snowballs, isn't it?  You'll remember that the chandelier was replaced recently {thank you Lowe's for the $39.00 special}, which means at least one thing that will remain unchanged.  My wallet is happy about that.

$60.00 A Week Grocery Budget Challenge + Meal Plan - Week of August 29, 2016

Taco Meat Quesadilla
This post is a bit late.....I completely forgot to set it to go live.  Just part of the craziness of the week.  :)

Well, we now have a surplus of potatoes!!  They have been somewhat neglected in the back of the garden and I decided to stick my hand in the ground on Saturday to see what they looked like and lo and behold they are beautiful!!  The green beans are winding down - I forgot to replant, so I bought some this week.  I did not plant melons {I stink at growing them} so that was purchased at the farmer's market as well.  Meat again comes from the back-stock in the freezer.

Here's what we're eating this week!

Slow-Cooker Hawaiian Chicken

I am a big fan of cooking chicken in the slow-cooker.  It always turns out moist and delicious and you literally plop it in with a little sauce or broth and forget about it for a few hours.  Genius!  I particularly like to use chicken thigh quarters as they are fall-off-the-bone-good after just a few hours.  Because of that, I have used those in this recipe although you can use any cut you would prefer including boneless chicken breasts or thighs.

As I've stated before, with J being home, meals like these are easy for me to prep the night before {this can also be prepped and frozen for an easy freezer meal}, and I leave instructions for him so he simply has to pour the contents of the bag into the slow-cooker and turn it on.  And just like that, he's cooked dinner!


We've had quite the stretch of hot and humid weather these past few weeks.  The type that results in conversation about it with virtually everyone you run into.  But finally we get a brief break.  It's wonderful!

We did a little necessary shopping this weekend.  Because J is laying hardwood flooring next week and finishing the drywall in the office and the molding {fingers crossed} in the dining room, we still had a few things to get such as a paint for the 2 rooms, light for the office and an area rug for the dining room.  And in the midst of all of the shopping, someone got a new gas grill.....