Saturday, September 16, 2017

Creamy Ham and Pasta

I'm pretty sure I have three of the pickiest eaters on earth.  For a while the only things they would eat were scrambled eggs or spaghetti.  That got old fast! Fortunately they have expanded their pallet to include a few staples that are available at most restaurants. Yay! But it still requires a little cooking creativity to make a meal they want to eat.

Enter: Creamy Ham and Pasta

Pasta, ham, cheese and corn.  Think: ham and cheese sandwich-ham, cheese, bread (in this case pasta). I add the corn because I felt I needed to add a vegetable and since corn has a mild flavor it wouldn't take away from the ham and cheese. Four foods my kids love individually, so I thought they might like them together.  And although it took a few tries (they were leary of the fact that they were "all mixed up") they ended up loving it and I love making it! Win!

Cooking this recipe got even simpler when I got my Pampered Chef All-Purpose Pot.  It is huge and makes this recipe almost a one pot meal (if you boil the noodles ahead of time this meal can be whipped up even quicker.)

Creamy Ham and Pasta

9oz package thin sliced ham ($2.98)
16oz pasta ($1.00)
1 can corn ($.50)
1 cup cream or half and half (I have also made this with whole milk as well as 2%, but I wouldn't use less fat than that, it affects the consistency a lot.) ($.80) 
1/2 to 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (depending on how cheesy you like it-we love cheese and use 1 cup or more!) ($2.00)
1 Tablespoon of butter ($.10)
Salt & pepper to taste

Chop up the ham into small 1/4 inch pieces and toss it in the pot at medium/low to kind of give it a fried taste along with the butter. Turn the cooktop to low. Then add the pasta, corn and cream (in that order, so the pan cools down a bit and doesn't curdle the cream.)  Stir it all together and then add the parmesan slowly constantly stirring, so you don't get clumps and it melts into the cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.

I know it sounds like such an odd combination, but it really is delicious! And it uses stuff most people already have on hand. Win! Win!

I would say that this meal could easily serve 8 hungry adults, but for my family of 5 it lasted for 3 meals. It reheats well because of the cream. It comes to just under $1 per serving.

Let me know if you tried it and how you liked it! I'd love to know if you think the combination works, too. (So far I have only had surprised delight.) :)

(I used local prices from my area Walmart for this article.  I get some things from Costco or Aldi for less than I pay at Walmart, so my meal costs even less than listed here.  Keeping a price book will help you determine when you have found a good deal on something or if you should stock up.)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Eating from the pantry - a week too busy to shop

The last few weeks I have gotten this wild hair to do some major spring cleaning.  I am seriously decluttering and purging my house of things we simply don't use, can't use, won't use, don't want, etc. (I'll post about that later, too.)  This has been pretty time consuming and I have not been doing the standard laundry/grocery shopping upkeep that I typically do. This means we have been eating out of the pantry and freezer a lot and since I'm not done with this purging kick I'm on, we will most likely be keeping it up for a few more weeks!

We are pretty good at buying the foods we eat in bulk, so we almost always have an excellent supply of eggs, milk, oatmeal, apples, pasta, bread, cereal, cheese and peanut butter-now we just have to get creative! I do make a trip to Costco about every 6 weeks and although I don't buy that much food there, I did grab a giant container of animal crackers last time I went and that has lasted us quite a while. An additional note, I don't eat a lot of meat and my kids are pretty picky, too, so when my husband is away for work we don't eat meat unless it happens to be leftover.  That alone cuts back our food budget!

Breakfast- Oatmeal w/ pb or brown sugar and milk, depending on who is eating it & milk
Lunch - Veggie Patch Mediterranean Patties (super yum- from Costco), applesauce
Dinner - hotdogs and chicken breasts my darling husband grilled up, strawberries, canned peas
Snacks - yogurt, animal crackers, canned peaches

Breakfast - Oatmeal, toast w/jam, bananas
Lunch - PB & Js, string cheese, chips (free lunch where I work)
Dinner - pasta w/butter and parmesan cheese, green beans, hotdogs (no buns-just cut up an dipped in ketchup)
Snacks - cheese, animal crackers, cereal

Breakfast - toast w/pb
Lunch - leftover pasta, bean burritos, bananas
Dinner - leftover grilled chicken, veggie patties, peaches
Snacks - yogurt, cinnamon toast, popsicles, dry cereal
(This was an odd day because my husband was out of town, my oldest was with her cousins and my youngest had tubes in that morning, so she wasn't really hungry.)

Breakfast - oatmeal, toast
Lunch - bean burritos, bananas
Dinner - pasta w/canned alfredo sauce, leftover chicken and frozen broccoli
Snacks - yogurt w/granola, animal crackers, push-ups

Breakfast - yogurt, oatmeal, cereal w/milk
Lunch - crunchy chicken wrap, celery w/ranch, nectarines, chips (free lunch offered where I work a few hours a week, so the girls and I got to eat something different again! Yay!!)
Dinner - tomato soup with cheese and crackers, applesauce
Snacks - mandarin oranges, animal crackers, stray granola bar I found in the pantry, popsicles

Breakfast - yogurt, cereal w/milk, banana, toast w/jam
Lunch - leftover buffet (everyone ate something random from the fridge)
Dinner - bean burrito, canned pears (My husband and I went out for the evening, so it was just the girls).
Snacks - chocolate pudding, animal crackers, applesauce

Breakfast - oatmeal, cereal (I went to my monthly mom's coffee and had a coffee & scone!)
Lunch -leftover pasta, leftover soup, leftover canned pears
Dinner - We went out for pizza! :)

There are a lot of repeats since my kids are picky and leftovers always reheat nicely.  I finally got to go to Aldi Saturday morning, but we were out and about a lot that day and reheating leftovers to make room in the fridge for fresh fruits and veggies was easier then cooking up something new.  I ended up spending $32 at Aldi.  I refilled my milk, yogurt and string cheese stash, bought tons of fresh fruit and a few veggies we don't have in our garden and even got the kids a treat! I feel we eat more simply when we eat from the pantry and that habit carried over to what I thought we NEEDED at the grocery store this week versus what we could have bought. I am certain in a few days someone will tell me they are bored and I'll have to come up with some more dinner ideas, but for now it has worked out pretty well.

I am certain I will have another week like this soon, so help me out: What are some foods you always have on hand?  What ideas for pantry meals do you have?  I obviously need a few more - oatmeal, yogurt and pasta can only be tolerated so much before the kids (and the husband) start to notice.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Saving For the Home: Cutting the Cable Cord

Recently my husband and I needed to drastically change our budget. That meant a lot of cuts.  The hardest cut to make was cable.  We had too many "shows" we watched and too many we had recorded and not yet watched, and we couldn't bring ourselves to cut cable.  We made a list of our favorite shows and I did some research.  It turned out that all the shows we watched regularly were available for free or from another source that we were already paying for.  So we took the plunge and cancelled cable!

I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult then it was, but I think it actually made life simpler.  And a lot less costly.  We already had a subscription to HuluPlus ($8 and month) and Netflix Streaming ($8 a month). On top of that we paid $189 a month for cable and internet.  We kept internet for $55 a month as well as our two streaming services.  We borrowed a digital antenna from my mom and hooked it up to the tv for free network channels and public television channels.

The cost of our tv viewing habits with cable:

Cable + Internet - $189
Netflix - $8
HuluPlus - $8
iTunes/OnDemand - approx. $100
=$305 a month

The breakdown of our expenses without cable:

Apple TV - already owned, so free ($70 if bought new)
Digital Antenna - free from mom ($25 if bought new)
Netflix Streaming - $8 a month
HuluPlus - $8 a month
iTunes budget - $50 a month
Internet - $55 a month
(Both Netflix and HuluPlus are now charged to PayPal and I get monthly PayPal credit through Swagbucks, so they are essentially free.)
$121 a month for our new cable free lifestyle (or less if we don't include HuluPlus,  Netflix and the discount on iTunes gift cards we use.)

That comes to a possible savings of $2400 or more a year for simply dropping cable!  We realized that with cable we bought a lot more movies on demand and without it we naturally bought less, so we changed the budget to reflect that.  Cable had become an expensive habit to break, but I don't really miss it and so far neither does anyone else!

We did subscribe to HBO NOW for three months while we got our Game of Thrones fix, but cancelled afterward.  It was about $20 per month, but we still saved money versus cable!  We do rent and buy movies and the occasional tv show from iTunes, but I buy iTunes gift cards when they are on sale (yup -  they were 15% off just this week at Bed, Bath & Beyond!) and put credit onto our accounts each month.  We also buy gift cards at our local grocery when they offer fuel saver points.  It really adds up!  That way we stay within our $50 a month "Entertainment" budget.  Even when our income returns to normal, I don't think we will return to cable.  It is simply not worth the expense for us. Anyone else cut the cable cord?  Do you think it was worth it?