Penny Pinchers

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Less meat means more savings

By Julie Norman
Monday, May 12, 2014

One very easy way to save money at the grocery store is to buy less meat.  Meat is expensive.  We all know that!  That's why grocers see so many of us checking out the clearance bins every day.  Even so, a Ranchers Reserver Grass Fed Roast at 30% off is still going to cost way more than a bag of black beans.

Maybe you're already incorporating a "meatless" dinner into your routine once a week, but cutting back even more on meat, or just using less in meals where you DO have meat, can be a huge help.  Here are some ideas for meatless lunches and dinners to get you through the week:

For lunches: 

  • Cook a batch of pasta (I like whole wheat these days, but if you're on a budget whatever is on sale works just fine) then, for lunch meals, add some cannellini beans, spinach leaves, a little broth and some parmesan cheese to a serving of pasta.  Heat it up when you're ready to eat! 
  • Pre-chop veggies like asparagus and snow peas and add to pre-cooked brown rice.  Shake on some soy sauce and red pepper flakes and heat that up for lunch or eat it cold for a crunchy brown rice salad.  You can get a 5 lb bag of brown rice for CHEAP these days.
  • An apple and peanut butter make a great lunch, especially if you add in a few of your favorite crackers or a side salad.
  • Leftovers are always a great way to use what you have without the need to use MORE of anything.

For dinners:

Here's what we had last night:  Slow Cooker black beans over Roasted Polenta.

  • Beans, as I've written about before, are great for meatless meals.  You can add rice or pasta for more bulk, or just top with veggies or crumbled cornbread.
  • Pasta dishes are great without meat.  Pasta with just a nice homemade tomato sauce (recipe below) is one of our favorites.  It's SO easy and simple!
  • Pizzas can be great for dinner and even healthy when topped with whatever veggies are on sale.  Try pizza topped with zucchini, mushrooms and onion or even broccoli and bell peppers.  Buy the largest size of mozarella cheese you can because it keeps well, can be frozen and is great for both pizzas and pastas.  If you buy local and get your pizza dough from Homestyle Bakery it's only .98/each.  One ball of dough will make one 12-14 inch pizza.

Tomato Sauce for pizza or pasta:

1 large can of plum tomatoes (either already chopped or whole), drained

1-4 cloves of garlic depending on how much garlic you like

1/4 cup of olive oil

Italian Seasoning

Fresh basil if you have it

Begin heating the oil in a saucepan.  Chop your garlic and add it to the oil.  Let this cook for a few minutes over medium heat.  When everything begins to smell garlicky, turn the heat down to medium low.

If you bought a can of whole plum tomatoes, roughly chop them. You can even just use your hands and squish them if you want.  Add these to the garlic and oil.  Be careful! It might spatter a little bit.

Stir everything together, add 1-2 tsp of Italian seasoning and cover.  Let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   (See below for low acid instructions)

If you need a lower-acid tomato sauce, try these tips:  To the sauce, add 1/8 tsp of baking soda.  Stir and let it bubble a bit.  ONLY cook the sauce until it is heated through and bubbling.  Then remove it from the heat. If you can find a brand of tomatoes like Cento, then buy those because they do not add citric acid to the tomatoes before canning.


What tips do you have for making great meatless recipes?


Thinking about Waste

By Julie Norman
Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday is usually Frugal Friday links day, but today I'm being a rebel! Last night I was lying in bed reading...well, trying to read...really what I was doing was thinking about dinner for the next few days.  I always sort-of make a menu, but sometimes things change.  Last night instead of pasta with shrimp (yay for 50% off shrimp!) we had shrimp tacos.  They were awesome.  Of course, that means now I have to have my pasta dish tonight. It all comes down to waste.  Right now I've got these items that need to be used soon:




a spaghetti squash


tomato sauce (I made some a few nights ago)



3 "cocktail" tomatoes from Safeway.  Bigger than a grape tomato, tastier than a current roma or "vine-ripe"...

So here's the latest plan to help me combat the mass of produce I need to use up: 

Friday: whole wheat pasta with fresh tomatoes, asparagus, kale and parmesan cheese / salad

Saturday: Boca "chicken" parmesan sandwiches with sauteed mushrooms and roasted potatoes

Sunday: Crockpot shredded boneless pork country style ribs with cheddar and chive polenta rounds and salad or whatever veggie is lying around

Monday: Something involving spaghetti squash.  If there's spinach left, I'll probably saute that with garlic, then add it to the spaghetti squash with some feta cheese.  It'll be a great side dish! I've got some fish in the freezer, so we may have that too.

Can you tell this turned into a brainstorming session? Sometimes you really just have to take a moment to stop and THINK about what you have before you set foot inside the grocery store...again!


The age old question…is junk food cheaper?

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I ran across this article today by Mark Bittman as I was reading a much more recent piece.  Considering our goal here at Penny Pinchers is to save money, Bittman's article about fresh healthy foods being cheaper than processed junk definitely hits home.  Check it out here:


Frugal Friday Links: Gear Reviews

By Julie Norman
Friday, May 2, 2014

The Frugal Girl reviewed a Vitamix blender today and seems to pretty much have the same philosphy I do when it comes to large it better to buy a cheap blender and replace it every three years, or is it better to buy something high quality to begin with? Find out what she decided by clicking here.


photo from

Over at you can find out what the Leake family considers essential kitchen tools.

While eating "real food" doesn't constitute penny pinching, their section on 100 Days of Real Food on a budget does, so after you check out essential kitchen gear, go spend some time browsing through their other posts too.


Happy Friday!


A Penny Pinching Recipe

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I just ran across this online and thought I'd share it. It's a recipe for "Tex Mex Casserole" and sounds like it could be a good winter comfort food type meal.  It might even be good with elbow noodles substituted for the rice. 

Here's a link to the Passionate Penny Pincher's site, but I'm including the recipe below too.


Tex Mex Chicken Casserole


2 cups cooked rice
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used their Healthy Request brand)
4 oz sour cream (I used light)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (also used light) :)
1 can Rotel
1/2 cup red onion
black beans (optional - I left these out but think they would be delicious!)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp chili powder
salt & pepper to taste


Mix together cooked rice, chicken, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, softened cream cheese, Rotel, chili powder, red onion, black beans (optional) and 1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese.
Pour into greased 9x13 baking dish or two smaller dishes.
Bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes.
Sprinkle additional 3/4 cups cheddar cheese over casserole.
Bake another 5 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
Cool 10 minutes - Enjoy!

Page 20 of 33


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