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As a family of servants of God, we seek to Glorify Him by offering our lives as living sacrifices, being intentional about engaging people with Christ and the Gospel, and using the talents and training He has given us through grace to proclaim the Gospel of Grace to those near and far.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

What Works for Me

Kristen Chapman used to do "Works for Me Wednesdays" on her blog. Well... I don't promise to be that on top of things to be able to do weekly posts... and, quiet frankly, I'm not sure that many things work for me at this point. But as I realize that I have come up with a system that is working for me and my family in our current stage of life, I will try to post about it. It may give you some ideas, and I'm sure your comments will just add to the usefulness.

(This post was prompted by a conversation I had with Claudia earlier this week.)

Claudia asked me for some tips about keeping the grocery budget in check while still allowing for spontaneous guests. Since JR and I have been on our "rice and beans" budget to get out of debt, and are still keeping it pretty tight as we work on the next baby step (we're on #3 for the next few months), I had a few ideas. Then I realized that my ideas extended to some recipes as well as time-saving tips.

So... without further ado, I will share what works for me.

In case of un-planned dinner company, keep a couple of "pantry meals" on hand at all times. Our family favorite is:

Tortilla Soup
combine in soup or crock pot the following:
  • 2 cans corn, drained
  • 2 cans beans (any kind you like), drained
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 jar of your favorite salsa
  • Heat on stove and serve with tortilla chips and cheese.

This is a great soup, but we have found that we like it as left-overs because they make great nachos.

Tortilla Soup Nachos

  • pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  • line pie plate (one per eater) with aluminum foil (no-mess clean up)
  • put Tortilla Chips in bottom of pie plate
  • use slotted spoon to dip the Tortilla Soup and spread over chips
  • Cover in cheese
  • place in oven for 10 min.
  • for last 2 min. turn oven to broil
  • eat and enjoy!

But Claudia had a good point. We are going into summer and soup just doesn't sound all that appealing. So, I thought about this recipe. Now, I have NOT tested it yet, but I'm not really sure how it could go wrong.

"Tortilla Soup" Pasta Salad

  • 1 box pasta, cooked, drained, and cooled (use a fun shape like farfalle or corkscrews)
  • 2 cans corn, drained
  • 2 cans beans (any kind you like), drained
  • 1 jar of your favorite salsa
  • toss
  • sprinkle with cheese
  • (and if you've got it available... fresh cilantro)

So now, you've got a pantry meal that is always on hand just in case of guests. The basic recipe won't break the budget either.

Another way we save money is buying our meat from SAM'S. We could pay $3.99 a pound at Publix for chicken, but we pay $1.97. And here's the time-saving trick that I have found works for me: When you divide up the chicken and put in in serving sized ziplock bags... include the marinade. That way, when it thaws, you are already marinading it!!! :)

It just so happens that both my kids become very needy when it's time to make dinner. So, the crock pot and these pre-marinaded frozen chicken "packets" are SO working for me. Just make sure to label the chicken/marinade combo. :)

If you've remembered anytime between breakfast and lunch to take the chicken out to thaw, then 45 min. before you want to serve dinner, you literally dump all the contents of the ziplock bag into a pan that you place in a pre-heated 375 degree oven. Now all you have to get ready is the salad, or veggies, or whatever.

Our favorite recipe for the pre-marinaded chicken:

Sesame Ginger Chicken Salad

marinade: Newman's Own Lighten Up Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing (now, I find this dressing too strong as a dressing... but it makes a great marinade that flavors the chicken so much that additional dressing on the salad is not needed)

  • Cook the "chicken packet" as directed above.
  • prepare lettuce for salad
  • when chicken is finished, let cool and cut into cubes (unless you want to do this before it bakes) :)
  • toss chicken with lettuce, 1 can mandarin oranges
  • top with La Choy Chow Mein Noodles
  • serve and enjoy

Ok, so there are some of the recipes that save me money and time. If you try them, I hope you enjoy them. And if you make the "Tortilla Soup" Pasta Salad before next week, let me know how it is. :)



Kim Hodges said...

That Sesame Ginger Chicken Salad looks SO good. I don't do salads enough, but that one, especially with the mandarin oranges, sounds great!

Janay said...

I've had Daisha's tortilla soup! Yummy....

Great idea about freezing the chicken with the marinades... I too buy my meat at Sam's, WAY cheaper and quite yummy. I usually boil all 6 pounds of chicken breast (or tenders depending on what they have) at once, shred, and then freeze them in 6 separate baggies. Then the chicken is already cooked and ready for whatever meal I want to throw together right before Carlin comes home.

I look forward to your future posts on this topic -- I'm in a "cheap meal" rut and need some new recipes!

Deborah said...

That tortilla soup recipe is a standard in our house. I have adapted it in so many ways, so it seems like several soup recipes!

GREAT tip with the marinated chicken packets. That salad sounds delicioso!