Menu Planning with a twist

This is officially the week after Thanksgiving.  Leftovers are still heavy in the refrigerator, and I do not want to waste any food plus we really like to eat!   One thing I did different this year is that we added several appetizers to our evening meal on Thanksgiving to get some variety going!  But in reality we also have more leftovers as well. This week has also turned out to be one of the busiest on the fall. Zach has all county band, Kendall has a swim meet. I have multiple meeting at work that will run late. Zach gets his braces off and has a physical appointment.  Did I say busy?

Breakfast are pretty standard around here.  You find it and make it. We still have some prepared items in the freezer and eggs and yogurt to spare.

Lunches will be leftovers for everyone.

Dinner are a little bit more challenging.  So after doing some planning and thinking. I decided that we would have leftovers for dinner at least Sunday, Tuesday and possibly Friday unless they are gone. Saturday evening, I made a turkey soup that was actually really good. So that is another option for Friday or I could change it up and use rice instead of potatoes. .

Here is the twist, I was able to assemble a meal for Monday and a separate meal for Wednesday in 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon.

Monday- Gnocchi  bake. This is a recipe that I found from watching “Acre Homestead” on Youtube. I used store bought Gnocchi, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce from this summer, frozen onions and a jar of canned ground beef.

Wednesday- Queso chill mac- This is a recipe total I made up. I used about half of the leftover queso dip, add a jar of ground beef and boiled the remaining pasta in a jar sitting on the cabinet.  So far everyone wanted to know if that was dinner.

Simple meal using what we have!

Saving On Saturday

This weekend I have saved money in two areas food and gas!

We knew when we purchased the Tahoe that it was not fuel efficient, but we also knew it was what we wanted to fit all the needs we had.  With the significant increase in prices, some folks are talking about how they are reducing trips and changing habits to save on their fuel bill.  I can honestly say that although we are seeing a bigger saving, we have not changed how we drive. First of all, we live at least 5 minutes from the closest gas station and Dollar General. At least 10 minutes from the closest store or restaurant, so not driving is just not an option. What we do is to combine trips whenever possible for example, Matt had to attend a parent meeting uptown for Lily yesterday, so I asked him to stop by the store to grab some drinks that were on sale.  We also combined a trip to Costco with filling up our tank to save money as well. The other thing is that we try to use the Equinox as much as possible. I have not left the house this weekend, so the Tahoe has been sitting in the driveway with me while the Equinox is running all the errands.  By doing this we are able to fill the Equinox about the same number of times as the Tahoe for $20 or more less.  Every little bit helps and adds up.

Food is our 3rd largest expense.  Our goal this year is to use up as much of the food in our freezers prior to the summer so that we can restock it.  We currently have a stand up freezer and a chest freezer in our building. Both were completely full at the end of 2021.  This week we have been able to use and move 50% of the items in the chest freezer. Our goal is to purchase a whole cow this summer and we will need every bit of room in this freezer in order to do so.  My plan is once we get the freezer emptied to turn it off and defrost and clean it, then I will begin the hunt for a cow to fill it back up! Another area of savings is that we have not eaten out this week.  We did enjoy Chick A Filet on Friday but we used money that was earned by selling a car box. This was a win win situation for us!  We have several other items listed to sale on Facebook market place as well so hopefully we can continue to clean out and repurpose the funds.  We also have been working really hard in order to use up and not waste left-overs. I decided on Saturday to use the left-over turkey we had from last week to make a Turkey Dorito casserole.  I used this recipe  subbing turkey for the chicken. It was a hit. I also make a turkey noddle casserole that we will eat on Wednesday for dinner.  We added a box of stuffing, sauteed zucchini from the freezer, air fried some corn and that was our dinner.  Matt and I made bagels on Friday night which turned out awesome!  Again it is all the small things that count!


Friday Food Five

  1. We have tried 3 new recipes this week. One of the reasons is that I realized that we have been able to have a different meal every night for the entire month of February. This is quite an accomplishment and a way for us to use up items in our freezer that we would not normally do.
  2. Rotel Chicken Spaghetti I really had high hopes for this dish. I thought that Zach would love it. But it turned out ok. It was the favorite one of mine of the week, but I honestly don’t think we will repeat it again because no one was thrilled with it. And we have so many awesome Mexican recipes that we really enjoy!
  3. Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole- This is a recipe that I found on Facebook. The difference is that it uses sausage links and bacon. This actually turned out to be very good and filing. However, it was very time consuming. Matt made it for dinner, and it took almost an hour to prepare so even though it was good. I don’t think it will be a repeat especially with our very busy schedule.
  4. Chicken casserole- layer in order 4 cups shredded chicken, can of cream of chicken soup, can of cream of celery soup, packet of onion soup mix, frozen vegetables and a box of already prepared stuffing.   Matt made the stuffing at lunch. Kendall ended up assembling this while we did some quick planting outside.  She did forget the onion soup mix, so I simply threw it on top.  This took almost an hour to cook but was good. We probably will not repeat it again either, but it may be one of those meal we make just to eat and run.
  5. I have already made a list of 42 meals that we are going to plan to use during the month of March. The best news is that we already have all the ingredients needed so I am not planning on spending much for groceries in March!

Saving on Saturday including More Recipes!

I have spent the entire day inside… yeap that makes it a good day!  We have spent a lot of extra time today working on food prep and on making some new and different things to try out!

We started this morning or actually last night working on “burrito bowls” that Matt and Zach could eat for an easy lunch. We actually used a bag of black beans from the pantry to make the re-fried beans, rice from the pantry and made taco meat from already cooked ground beef. Zach had one for lunch that he actually shared with Matt. Both agree that it is a definite repeat.  We made 8 original bowls, but Zach thinks he would be fine with just half of one!

We tried “Keto Pickles”

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These did not turn out what they looked like here and actually Matt thought they were also too salty.  We will not be repeating this.

I saw these cucumbers on Facebook today

They were an all-around hit!  Cucumbers with cream cheese, bacon and Everything bagel seasoning!

And finally, the crockpot in the back is full of this deliciousness which we all enjoyed for dinner!

bowl of cheesy sausage potato soupCheesy Sausage Potatoes   

A couple of changes or things we did differently- I used breakfast sausage, frozen hashbrowns (small strips) canned corn, diced tomatoes, beef broth and left off the cilantro. I am so thankful that we were able to freeze a container of this to use for a future meal. The thing that made this soup even better was the homemade bread that looks perfect

The plan is to end the night by backing some 3 ingredient bagels for tomorrow morning.  No spending at all because everything was from the pantry or freezer!


5 Things Friday

  1. Matt has been working on getting the greenhouse functional this week which including install shelves to hold the planter boxes. We had originally screwed the plastic boxes to the wall and some had already started to crack with the weather change. We are running a small heater at night which has increased our overall electricity usage so this is something we will need to monitor.
  2. We planted 8 more boxes with more fall vegetables. I am hopefully that we will be able to have a mid-winter harvest that carries into the spring. It does appear that some of the lose leaf lettuce has already started to grow.
  3. Matt was able to try a new recipe this week for Impossible Cheeseburger Pie.  Matt, Lily and Zach really liked it. Kendall said it tasted like beef. This will definitely be a repeat for us!  I also found a breakfast recipe that I am going to try in the morning!
  4. We have NOWHERE that we have to go tomorrow. My plan is to work on cooking as much as possible for next week so that I can spend the extra time working on Christmas decorations!
  5. Food Lion finally has a sale on 2 Liter Diet Cokes!   I have already stocked up on 30 with plans to add at least another 10 this weekend.

Recipe to Repeat! Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells

I was so excited to get the air conditioning turned back on but I knew I would have to do some work to keep from losing food.  Because I had not been cooking (even using the microwave most days) we had a lot of restaurant leftovers.  I had purchased a rotisserie chicken at Costco to help save money.  I think we actually had all eaten one meal from it.  I found this recipe and knew I wanted to try!  The really good news was that it also used up some other things like cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese.  I actually split this into 2 separate pans freezing one for later use.   Matt liked it so well that he asked how much trouble it was to make!  This is definitely a repeat but likely one that is made ahead of time in the summer.

I ended up using one jar of Alfredo  Sauce per pan mixed with 5 oz of melted cream cheese.  I also used one cup of mozzarella on each pan as well.


  • 22 ounces Alfredo Sauce  I used one jar but it was not very sauce per pan
  • 12 ounce jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken breasts leftover rotisserie chicken works great for this recipe
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 6 slices bacon cooked until crispy and crumbled
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon ranch dressing mix


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cook the pasta shells to al dente, drain well.
  • Cook the bacon until it’s super crispy, drain well and crumble.
  • Dice the chicken.
  • Combine the jar of Alfredo Sauce with 5 ounces of melted cream cheese.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the diced chicken, ½ the mozzarella cheese, 3 ounces of cream cheese, cottage cheese, bacon and powdered ranch mix.
  • Ladle a small amount of sauce onto the bottom of the casserole dish. Stuff the shells witht the chicken mixture and line them up in the baking dish.
  • Pour the remaining sauce on top of the pasta shells, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese over the casserole dish and cover with aluminum foil.
  • Place in preheated oven and bake until hot and bubbly!
  • To brown the top of your casserole, remove the foil and place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy!

Recipe -Chicken Bubble Biscuit Bake Casserole

Still trying new recipes to see if we can add a different variety to our cooking over the coming months.  This recipe I copied out several months ago, Chicken Bubble Biscuit Bake Casserole.

It has all the making of goodness, chicken, bacon and ranch. It appeared to be fairly simple with the hardest part being cutting up the biscuits. I also thought it would make enough for a meal. Such promise!

The reviews were mixed.  Neither Kendall nor I were impressed. Zach said he would eat again and Matt’s reaction was “not bad”.

It was very simple to prepare but I felt like it needed more so I added half a squash casserole, half a dish of creamed spinach and tomato basil biscuits.  Zach and I spent around a total of two hours in the kitchen.

Overall this will not be a repeat on our menu list!


Asian Sesame Chicken- Crockpot

One of the things I love todo on the internet is find new recipes. I usually print out several of these at a time. My thought process is that if we like the recipe I can put in my book or if not simply throw away.  This is an awesome plan but I often find that I do not have time to try these out or I am in fear of making it and no one eating.  With a few extra minutes this week I have decided to try a few new recipes as well. This one, Asian Sesame Chicken is a definite repeat!  It is super easy and everyone enjoyed.  I used my casserole crockpot for this which worked awesome!

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 lbs)  I cut mine into small cubes before putting in the crock pot. 
  • 1 cup asian sesame seed salad dressing
  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 packet  onion soup mix
  • chopped green onions & sesame seeds (optional, for garnish)


1. Spray slow cooker insert with cooking spray. Lay chicken in bottom of slow cooker.
2. Mix together the Asian sesame salad dressing, apricot preserves, and onion soup mix packet. Stir together with a fork and pour over the chicken.
3. Cover and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.
4. Serve over cooked rice (brown or white) or noodles Drizzle with sauce from the slow cooker and garnish with  sesame seeds.

Corn Basil Tomato- Recipe

Yesterday, Saturday I realized that I could not buy any more food to freeze, everything is full!   This is an awesome problem to have but it also means I need to be very diligent about using up items we have and not letting things (veggies and fruits) go bad.  This recipe is the perfect fit.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (I used the inside pieces of a red onion that were left in the bottom of the fridge) 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 can (10-3/4 ounces) reduced-fat reduced-sodium condensed cream of celery soup, undiluted
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped ( Used 2 small zucchini that I had purchased last Saturday) 
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped (Used several tomato from the garden that had bad spots.  I ended up using 1 cup of diced tomatoes)
  • 3/4 cup soft whole wheat bread crumbs (The bread hill and another piece of bread)
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh basil (Us
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Additional minced fresh basil, optional
  • Preheat oven to 350°. In a small skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and condensed soup until blended. Stir in vegetables, bread crumbs, basil, salt and onion. Transfer mixture to an 11×7-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  • Bake, uncovered, 40-45 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 5-10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. If desired, sprinkle with additional basil.

This actually turned out very good. I added a piece of grilled chicken to mine but everyone else ate without!   This is definitely a keeper!

Recipe Challenge

I did not set an specific recipe goal for this year just because I have so much else I want to work on. But I am still working through some recipes that I have print. And of course I am always printing more.

We have actually found several that are definite repeats.

First is the batter for fried green beans.
1 cup beer or white claw
1 cup self-rising flour
salt and pepper.
This is one I discovered by accident. I need to use up some fresh green beans that I had purchased.  The first batch I used a bottle of beer. The second batch I used lime white claw instead and it was actually even better!

Next up are Egg and Potato Breakfast muffins of course from one of my favorite food sites. Matt helped me make these last week due to our busy mornings that I just can’t seem to get ahead of! Of course getting up an hour early is not an option either. We have a batch in the fridge for the grab and go needs around here.

Last is Philly Cheese Steak Casserole- I used some left-over steak to make this. Matt described it best. It is not bad and I am glad you used up all the stuff we had to make it but it is definitely not something I would make again.

For the next couple of weeks- we are using what is in the freezer. Do you have a great recipe for pork chops?