Mama Duck
Some weeks I just don't get arounnd to menu planning. For the week of  10/4 - 10/10 I had no plan. Luckily we made out fine thanks to coupons, but it wasn't the healthiest of choices.

Monday and Wednesday were Quizno's subs- Buy 1 get one of same size free.
Tuesday - chicken fried rice
Thursday - chicken cutlets
Friday - sandwiches after grocery shopping
Saturday - spaghetti and meatballs

the Quizno's coupons were a huge savings. $8 on Monday and for some reason $9 on Wed. Works for me, lol

I've been having a really eye opening experience with my coupons and smarter shopping. I now look thru the circulars much more carefully, usually while relaxing and watching TV. Doing this I am starting to stock up on items that we'll use and while using coupons as well.

I added up my savings since I started using the Couponizer... in 2.5/3 weeks of use I have saved $110.  Not bad when my first goal was to have the couponizer pay for itself at a mere $23.70, lol. What I have also noticed though is that we are not doing a full grocery shopping every week. Now we have enough to go every other week, with just a brief trip during the week for little things. Generally not more then $10.00. I'll have to start tracking that so I know the savings there as well.I'm also starting to stockpile a 3 or 4 month supply of items so that I do not have to buy them if not on sale. we have enough laundry detergent for 5 months I think, lol.

This morning I was reading a news report where food prices are once again predicted to rise in 2010. Thats giving me more incentive to be even more diligent with being smarter with grocery costs.

Now to this week's menu... 10/11 - 10/17/2009

Monday -Barber's Chicken Cordon Blue
Tuesday - potato battered cod
Wednesday - Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Thursday - Spaghetti and Meatballs
Friday - Quizno's - coupons good till 10/25
Saturday - chicken parmigian
Mama Duck
Sunday - Dinner at the IL's- taking something made of apples for a desert I think. not quite sure yet though

Monday - Pizza
Wednesday -Italian Wedding Soup and homemade bread - at least Joe can make the soup easy enough, lol

Thursday - Crockpot chili
Friday -  Dinner at Chez` Fridge......aka Leftovers!
Saturday - Grilled chicken salad
Mama Duck

I'm always looking to save money on the cost of food. Coupons are a great way to do this, but having them in an envelope or one of those small, velcro tabbed file systems was not working. First off an envelope is just to unorganized.. the small file systems leave it to you to either sit and wonder at the best categories to put on the tabs.. or to buy 2 sets to have a tab for each suggested label they give you. Now I'm sure many do perfectly well with  these methods.. but it was not working for me. I had found the website for the Couponizer some time ago. While I liked the look of it... $20 for a coupon organizing system seemed a little pricey.  I finally caved. My husband does not want to set a budget when it comes to food. So I told him fine, then we will start using coupons more and more.

Being me I found a coupon for $1.00 or $2.00 off the purchase of the  Couponizer system.. with shipping the total price was $23.70. I did NOT tell hubby till it arrived. He thought I was nuts to spend that much to sort coupons to save money. I told him that my goal was to have it pay for itself in the first month and then anything else was a bonus.. my ultimate goal is to have one or more of those trips where I buy oodles of items.. and pay less then $10.00, lol.

Today was my first official day of using the Couponizer. 2 local stores had fabulous sales to begin with, and are close together, so we did both. Well I'm please to say that the Couponizer did very well. I planned my shopping with the circluars and used the enclosed shopping list with the ones with coupons checked off.  Then  had my potential use coupons neatly in the section for  'coupons for this shopping trip'  I had a large stack of coupons and that did cost me time in sorting thru the stack to find the one I wanted, but was a learning curve. As I found the items and my coupons i placed them in the pocket for 'checkout' and headed to checkout. At the first store I saved $10.69 with the coupons. In the second store I saved $13.23 for a total of $23.92. Plus was able to find a coupon for $1.00 off for an item that the woman ahead of me had. While I hoped to have it pay in the first month.... my Couponizer paid for itself in the first day!  I was very impressed. The checkout woman asked me about it in the first store and I gave her the website name to check it out for herself. (If you're reading this post please click on my affiliate link in the upper right hand side to get to the website.)

To give you an idea of my new shopping buddy I thought you'd enjoy some pictures:

the outside of the organizer on top and what you get with the system on the bottom.

one section of the coupon mat on top and the entire thing stretched out on the bottom. There are a lot of categories, lol.

 These pictures show the pockets. On the top is the pocket for 'Coupons for this shopping trip' and 'Checkout'. Pretty self explanatory. On the bottom, when its time to put the coupons in the organizer sections, each section of the organizer has it's own corresponding  pocket. Just take them off the sorter and put them in the correct pocket, quick and easy.

The picture on the top shows the additional categories other then groceries. There are sections for entertainment and travel, shops and retail, restaurants and a few others. I love having a pocket for rebates as I never keep my rebate forms where I can find them. On the bottom is the last pocket which has a nice list for tracking coupons and the savings.

The front and back have a nice sturdy piece of lightly frosted plastic to protect the book. A purchase well made in my eyes and experience.

Mama Duck
Sunday - Oriental Shark Steak

1 ½ lb. shark steak sliced into ¾ inch thick steaks
¼ cup soy sauce
1Tb sesame oil
1Tb olive oil
2TB lemon juice
1/4tsp ground ginger
1 clove garlic
1tsp prepared mustard
1/2tsp sugar

Combine all ingredients except shark steaks in shallow baking dish. Add steaks and marinate about 1 hour, turning half way through. Pour off excess marinade and reserve. Broil shark steaks about 4 or 5 minutes on each side, brushing with reserved marinade when turning. Makes 4 servings.

Monday - Pizza
Tuesday - Spaghetti and Meatballs
Wednesday - Chicken and Dumplings
Thursday- Oriental sausage stir fry - this should be interesting. This is a sausage made in a local grocery store that is dark pink and supposedly tastes like boneless spare ribs.
Friday - chicken cutlets ala joe
Saturday - Chicken fried rice, heavy on the chicken and veggies and not so much the rice

Mama Duck
Sunday - Stuffed Pepper Casserole
I have a bag of frozen green pepper strips in the freezer. So instead of traditional stuffed peppers, I'll layer the dish and make a casserole out of it. I'll also be using brown rice instead of white and some mashed white beans mixed in with that (Thanks for that idea Dani!)
Monday - Pizza
Tuesday - Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with fresh baked bread
this will be so easy as I made the chicken noodle soup tonight. I'll freeze a portion and just toss the frozen soup in the crockpot mid day for a nice easy dinner
Wednesday - Leftover night
Thursday - Herb Crusted London Broil with tuscan salad and baked potatoes. Apple Bread for desert with light whipped cream.
This week I cleaned my spice jars and restocked up on fresh herbs at the health food store. 10 varieties of fresh, organic, dried herbs cost me $7.81! Plus I have no big jars lying around with herbs that will go stale.
Friday - Malaysian Fried Chicken and rice 
I'm going to try this in a crockpot, less fat then frying the chicken and Joe can put it on mid day.
Saturday - Spaghetti and meat balls

If anyone is wondering how Joe managed with the hip surgery and the crockpot... he did just fine. He walked out of the surgery with no crutches or cane, fully weight bearing... and managed to avoid lifting the crockpot completely.

My new crockpot has been given a very thorough test run this week. It has made a couple of batches of bbq chicken drumsticks (good for lunches) , a crockpot roasted sticky chicken (too salty, I'd almost leave the salt out), chicken noodle soup, baked ziti and tomorrow it's making the brown rice for the week. It has performed like a champ and my only near miss was the ziti.. but that should have had more sauce anyway.
Mama Duck
Joe is going in for surgery again on Wednesday. Not as major as the last time, just to have a compression screw removed that was holding the bones together while he healed. It usually wouldn't come out but it bothers him a lot and he says its like sitting on his keys all day. He thinks he can manage to get the crock pot from the fridge to the counter so that dinner can be cooked when I get home. Wednesday I'll be handling it, Thursday I'm home and hopefully by friday he'll be good to go. Hmmm I may take the crock pot to work with me on Wednesday and let it cook there so it doesn't overcook.

Sunday -  Crock Pot Fried Rice
Monday - Pizza
Tuesday -  London broil with herbed butter
Wednesday - Chinese take out - Joe made an excellent point that we will be out till late with my work sched, and then to pick him up from his parents house after the surgery. If all goes well I'll pick up something before I pick up Joe. Knowing how well he did with the anesthesia the last time, he may not even want to eat more then soup.
Thursday - Slow cooker lasagna & tuscan panzella salad

how about some yummy pics?

Friday - malaysian chicken with rice
Saturday - homemade...crockpot (yes again, lol) chicken noodle soup

I'm also trying something new this week. While on my favorite crock pot blog ( I saw a brief mention on bento boxes. If you've never heard of these, they are a Japanese lunch box.  I was directed thru another site to one of the many bento box stores on the web and was enjoying window shopping. In the back of my mind was my boss and a recent business trip she took to Japan. Now my boss is tiny.. 5 feet  and maybe 3 inches tall? and a size 0 I believe. She commented that she felt like a huge giant in Japan. Looking at these little boxes in the store and having that comment rattle in my brain made me think of something. Portion control! In the somewhat typical american eyes I looked at the bento box sets and thought 'but I'll never be full'. Hmmmmm.. Yes i would be full if I do it right. I'm going to try a week of bento box style lunches. Even if I make my heavier main meals, the bento box portions will be controlled. Now of course I enjoy shopping. And of course I want to get a traditional bento box set to start off with. However I also want my new crock pot and what if I don't like the lunches like this? I then figured I'd go to Target and get some small containers to create my own bento box. I have a great insulated lunch tote that will work perfectly.  Lock and Lock containers are wonderful. Again though my frugal, budget conscious  side said wait a minute. I have a good container for an entire meal. The only challenges are that it won't keep sauces from spilling to other  sections if it tips... and well... its a lunch thing for JP and has cartoon animals on the top, lol. It will be perfect to start with. If I like this way of lunches then I'll invest in different containers. The more I thought about this, the more it makes sense for me. I'm going back to at least 80% raw foods (nuts, seeds, grains, fruits and veggies) and cut up fruits and veggies with a dip will work great, slice vegetables thin and put over rice, add some nuts in the tiny containers, etc etc etc. (Keep on the lookout for my newest blog on a raw food lifestyle). I love variety in my meals and sometimes eat too much in order to get that.

Some recipes to try in the future:
Lemon and Herb Crock Pot Roasted Chicken
Steak and Blue Cheese Roll Ups - Joe will hate this... I will love this, lol
crock pot yogurt
Mama Duck
I bought my crockpot when we moved into this house. Just about 5 years ago. It's stainless steel, removeable stoneware pot and very dependable. However I think that it tends to cook too fast. I would love a Rival Smart Crock Pot that automatically switches to warm. On Friday I made the chicken and dumplings. I had an auto temperature changer. I call it Joe, lol.  I set up the chicken to start in the morning at 6am and left him a note to turn it down to low as of 11am. I was then going to have him add in the dumplings for another 30-60 minutes and let it cool and place in the fridge. However he spent his day getting our cars inspected. Pretty much a necessity as they were both due in August. He left the house around 8 and got back at about 12 and turned the crock pot to low. I told him when he got back home (he was heading out with the second car) to call me and I'd tell him the trick for easy dumplings. He never called and I left work at 5:30... with the crock pot still going strong on Keep Warm. I got home, flipped it to high, added the dumplings (torn up refrigerated biscuits) and much to my surprise there was still quite a bit of liquid in the crock pot. usually it gets dried out more then expected. I went looking at reviews of the Rival and a Hamilton Beach crock pot and have decided to get the Rival one. It will automatically switch to low and keep foods perfect. If all goes as planned I'll pick it up Tuesday morning and will have it all set to go for a dish I have planned on Wednesday. I think I'll take the other one into work and use it for warm drinks for staff and patients as an occasional treat.
Mama Duck
Sunday - Roast Turkey breast, mashed potatoes and gravy, tossed salad, homemade biscuits, Gertrude hawks Caramel/nut and chocolate/m&m covered apples
Monday - Pizza
Tuesday - Sloppy Joes and organic french fries
Wednesday - leftovers
Thursday - French Dip ala Kate - or at least the link is.. thanks Kate!
Friday - Chicken and Dumplings - slow cooker
Saturday - soup and sandwiches

If you've been looking at this blog over the last few days, I apologize for the constant changing look. As you can see I've been trying to find a unique look that works for what this blog is intended to be. I'm not looking  to create a food blog, (or at least not yet, lol) but more of a blog for home management ideas and tricks with menu planning as the base.

In getting back to posting regularly I've been just working on the menu planning. I'm now going to start expanding more with more  recipes to try and their result, home management tips and tricks (as soon as I learn them, lol) and cost savings tricks that work for me. I'm not sure how fast all the additions will be added, but I am going to be working on them. Thanks for reading!
Mama Duck
Sunday - Herbed Roast Pork Loin and Potatoes, tossed field green salad with vinaigrette dressing and bluberry buckle (who's coming over for this dinner? lol)
Monday - Pizza
Tuesday - Pork loin leftover sandwiches*
Wednesday - leftovers
Thursday - spaghetti and meatballs (please, please let the humidity and heat be low)
Friday - Chinese take-out

* for some weird reason I can never spell sandwiches right the first time. I always put an extra 'w' in it, lol.
Mama Duck
Better late then never. I set the posting time and date for this coming week instead of this past sunday! Ooops :)

You'll notice a definite theme of easy to prepare, no or little heat meals. Its in the 90's with high humidity to boot. I'm melting enough as is and am turning on the stove as little as possible, lol.

Sunday - Popcorn chicken bites (made into spicy buffalo bites for me), tossed salad
Monday - Sausage, Broccoli, and Noodles
- eta this was not nearly as good as it looked. will not make again
Tuesday - Cheese dogs, potato chips and applesauce
Wednesday - my usual leftovers night as I get home with JP after 8pm
Thursday - Sloppy Joes with sliced tomatoes
Friday - sandwiches - ham and a nice smooth and creamy swiss.. simple and yumm
Saturday - tossed salad with sauteed chicken breasts (maybe a grill next year?)

Something different for Saturday as well. We were getting lunch from Panera Bread today and I went to the site to get the menu. I didn't know they had recipes on there and found a recipe:

Asiago Bagel Breakfast Bake

its all made and waiting to bake in the morning. The only down side is that it will take an hour to bake :(

this is how it looked when it came out of the oven...i'll definitely make this again...yummmmm

Mama Duck
Sunday - Chicken Parmesan with pasta and sauteed zucchini
Monday - Pizza ($8.25 for a plain cheese pie)
Tuesday - Sausage and peppers - Joy of Cooking version
I decided to make a dessert and I wanted chocolate, but kicked up a bit. So I found a recipe for this...
Wednesday - Leftovers as I get home after 8pm and Joe's at work
Thursday - Potato and Bacon Torte with Cafe Green Salad and applesauce granita
Friday - Chicken over tossed salad with choice of dressing
Saturday - To be determined

I was actually given a hint by a friend that she missed this blog so I am starting it up again. Although by her emails she is well on her way to out doing my attempts and could do her own blog. She even makes home made bread regularly, lol. Instead of overthinking it today I just sat down and said lets get this done!

If you watch the the Food Network a couple of things may look familiar up there. I enjoy watching the Next Food Network Star and the competition just ended with Melissa, a SAHM with no formal training, was the winner. Her new show is called Ten Dollar Dinners and I'm all for that. Thursday's meal is the menu featured on today's episode, lol. The Chicken Parmesan is also partly from her. On the last episode she shows how she does a 4 step chicken that can have endless options. One of the steps is to dredge the chicken in flour using a ziploc bag. Now this is nothing earth shaking or new, but I just hadn't really done it before. I did this with some chicken breasts the other night and they came out wonderful! I made a pan sauce with evaporated milk, butter , salt and pepper. It needs something else but was tasty none the less. I'll have to experiment more with the base recipe in the future, lol.
Mama Duck
yep.. once again I've been slacking. However I have a good reason with explanation that does NOT involve major injuries to my husband or holiday stress, lol.

Like so many in this country I battle a weight problem. I will not divulge my starting weight for some time. My eyes seeing it was tough enough as well.

I have 3 good friends that have either started or restarted Weight Watchers over the last several months, all with great results. Due to cost I never really explored WW all that much and relied on my own self control to devise a 'quick' plan to get the weight off. As you can probably figure out, that was met with dismal failure, lol.

My favorite program so far has been Take Shape For Life, with which I dropped nearly 40lbs in 3 months!! I did not however have the strength of mind to keep on it with Joe's collapsed lung last summer and I got off track. I did go back and forth to it and while I put the weight on again, it was not the fault of the program. Being that I live with 2 toddlers (one aged 2, the other aged 34) who are picky eaters, I've tended to make foods most appealing to them. Well the 34 year old (sorry dear!) quit smoking when he was in the hospital for a broken hip. Now he's adding weight as well and it's time for me to start planning healthier meals. about 1.5 weeks ago I decided to start WW online. It was a less expensive option and a better way for me to start. I am happy to say that I am very pleased with the program and I do a combination of WW and Take Shape For Life which works very nicely for me. As of this morning I have lost 8.7lbs! This is including the dinner we had at a chinese buffet place on Monday night. With all the unhealthy choices and salt I managed to put on 2lbs with that dinner alone, lol.

What this means for this blog is a few things:

1. Planning meals that are healthier and fit into a daily points range better
2. Allowing for the occasional splurge (be it ice cream sundae's or a buffet dinner)
3. Tracking my weight loss
4. Finally reaching a goal weight that I like so that I actually will get in a pic with my son, lol

I hope you enjoy the new direction, and if you have any favorite recipes or ideas please pass them on!
Mama Duck
Sunday - Ponsette (stuffed veal breast) w/ homemade french bread and cucumber salad
Monday - Leftovers of roast sticky chicken and stuffed veal - whichever anyone wants
Tuesday - grilled chicken breast over salad
Wednesday - frozen chicken parm - Joe's specialty of course
Thursday - Chicken taco's
Friday - Pizza
Saturday - Sloppy Joe's

I also wanted to add a link for a new favorite drink. Several weeks ago I tried, and loved, the sweet tea at Mc.D's of all places. I'd heard of sweet tea before but couldn't figure out how to make so that it tasted right. I finally thought to look for a recipe and found the missing ingredient! I now make this at home and am probably drinking more then I should.. but oh well. Oh and I also plan to try this with green tea. A popular higher end bread/sandwich shop makes a yummy iced green tea and I think its the same principle behind it.

Sweet tea
Mama Duck
What a crazy few months! In January I was all set to get started again and then my husband broke his hip! Lucky for him he's young (34) and has made nearly a full recovery. Really amazing since he spent the first 16 days in 2 different hospitals. Today is a cozy, soft, gray day and I've been looking at recipes. Time to get back into my meal planning!

Sunday - Mexican Baked Fish - I'm using Tilapia
Monday - BBQ Beef Casserole ------> this was changed to beef stroganoff over mashed potatoes
Tuesday - Ham and cheese or grilled cheese sandwhiches - easy dinner night
Wednesday - Frozen chicken parmigiana - Joe thinks this is high cuisine..sigh
Thursday- Italian sausage casserole
Friday - Pizza night
Saturday - Crockpot Roast Sticky Chicken - this was soooo good! The house smelled incredible while it baked and I couldn't wait for it to finish. I am definitely making this again! I also made a pan gravy that was equally delicious, although a bit spicy from the cayenne pepper. I may experiment the next time and omit the cayenne as Joe can't eat spicy food
Mama Duck
Wow - just about a month without a new menu. Sorry about that folks.. my only excuse is that the holidays got me distracted. Without further ado... and because I'm desperately wanting my pillow and a good nights sleep.... here's this weeks:

Sunday- Kate's mac and cheese
Monday- Chicken parmigan - homemade with some 'oven fried' chicken breasts
Tuesday- homemade waffles - just JP and I and we like to take it easy on tuesdays
Wednesday- soft chicken taco's
Thursday - spaghetti and meatballs
Friday - 'eggplant 'steaks' - trying for one solid vegetarian meal a week now
Saturday - moo shu pork
Mama Duck
Sorry folks, life has been a touch more hectic then usual of late and I've not been able to keep up with my planning. I'll be starting again this coming week so check back for next weeks menu.