admin / August 31, 2009

The Blog-Leftover Mashed Potatoes…

I hate wasting food and sometimes I find a container of leftover mashed potatoes sitting in the fridge. I usually just reheat them for another meal, but the other week I put them to better use. While we were sorting through my mom’s pantry, we found lots of cans of salmon. Yes, salmon makes great sandwiches, but combine it with leftover mashed potatoes and you have salmon fishcakes. A delicious meal that doesn’t cost that much. Best of all, they use ingredients you have sitting around the house. I combined a 15 ounce can of salmon with the mashed potatoes…I had about two cups. I added a tablespoon of fresh dill and some black pepper. I made them into patties and then rolled them in breadcrumbs to which I added a lemon black pepper mix. I lightly sautéed them on both sides for a couple of minutes until they were golden brown. I served them with fresh green beans I’d bought from a nearby farmer’s market stand. I have some leftover mashed potatoes yet again and yes, more salmon, so I’m going to make another batch for the freezer.

And speaking of easy and delicious recipes, I was sent a copy of the new Pillsbury Pot Pies and Casseroles cookbook that you can find at most supermarket checkouts. Each recipe has a color photo and you can tear your favorite ones to put in your recipe box. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but I’m going to. The book also features a section of budget slow cooker meals and a bonus one featuring Halloween treats.
The cookbook costs $4.99 and has two pages of coupons totaling $6.

This week on Budget Smart Girl. In too much of a hurry for breakfast each morning? Tips on making breakfasts that won’t take too much time or a bite out of your budget. Cold weather’s on its way, we’re heading back indoors. I’ve been checking out places to take free classes and free resources if you want to learn a new craft or two.

And upcoming…what clothes should you buy this fall/winter? Halloween on a budget, sites that can save you money. Lots of good stuff to look forward to this fall.

Have a good week and a safe Labor Day weekend.

admin / August 24, 2009

The Blog- Free Jeans and Dinner for a Dollar

I realized last week that I’ve been spending most of my time wearing jeans around the house and when I run errands. Realizing that, I knew I had to buy another pair. The price of most jeans won’t break the budget, but I still like to find a bargain. I was sitting working at the computer and happened to glance at my organizer and saw I still had a Kohl’s $10 gift card I hadn’t used. I also remembered that the week before Kohl’s had sent a $10 off card through the mail. Now I’m thinking could I buy myself a new pair of jeans for $20? Yes, I did. I found a pair for just $19.99. Now I have a reserve pair of jeans that cost me zero dollars.

You know I’m a big fan of checking books out of the library before I buy them…if I buy them at all. Books about saving money and cooking meals for less have been on long waiting lists lately, but I finally got my copy of Dinner for a Dollar. 50 Family Friendly Recipes for under $1. It’s published by Good Housekeeping-Hearst Books. And although it was published in 2006, I think most of the meals could still be made for under a $1. They have a ton of vegetarian and pasta recipes that look great and are made from healthful ingredients. I hope to get some extra time and make a couple of the dishes and freeze them. If you can find a copy, it’s worth checking out.

This week on Budget Smart Girl, The Budget Smart Girl Newsletter will be back next month, but in the meantime, I’ll be posting links to some articles I found about ways to save money. As it’s back to school time; and if you don’t already take your own lunch to work, some ideas for adding some pizzazz to brown bag lunches.

Have a good week.

admin / August 21, 2009

Ways to Save Money in August

Each month we get an opportunity to save money on specific items. With that in mind, I thought every month, I’ll post an article about items and sales to look out for. So for August…

Head to the Nearest Farm or Orchard
Head to a nearby farm or orchard where you can pick your own produce. With apple season starting this month, it’s a good time to head to the great outdoors and gather up some apples. An added plus is the whole family can pick fruit together, get some fresh air, and exercise. Check out this site for a farm or orchard near you.

Make Some Jams and Jellies
With the abundance of produce, August is a great month to start making jams, jellies, and chutneys. I think it’s one of the best ways to enjoy the taste of summer all year long. It’s also a good way to cut down on sugar, and not to mention a great idea for a housewarming, hostess or even inexpensive holiday gift. This Web site will give you some ideas for making jams and jellies.

Make Some Smoothie Kits
I love to make smoothies, even when the weather turns colder. What I hate is the price of the smoothie kits that seem to be flooding the supermarkets. Take a freezer bag and load it with some strawberries, blueberries…even mangoes and cherries and make your own smoothie mix kit. Just add milk or yogurt and it’s a simple breakfast or an after school snack.

Sidewalk Sales
I haven’t been seeing too many sidewalk sales this year. Maybe it’s because retailers have discounted items all summer long. Either way it’s the ideal time to check your budget and see if there’s some spare cash to buy some new clothes for next summer.

Back to School Sales
For me, back to school sales mean the perfect time to restock my office supplies. Paper, pens, you name it. And if you run your own business, these essentials are also tax deductible.

Patio Furniture
Things like patio furniture, beach toys, swings, etc. all go on sale now, so why not see what you need and buy something at maybe 50-70% ready for next year. Who knows if prices will be this low again?

Vacation Time
If a fall vacation is in your plans, it often means you avoid crowds and can get discounted air fares and hotel accommodation.

Labor Day Sales
And with Labor Day just around the corner, August means it’s the perfect time to stock up on certain foods items like hamburger buns, ground beef, baked beans etc.

Think Ahead
And don’t forget to thin ahead to the holidays. I often found some of the best and inexpensive gifts while I’m shopping summer sales.

admin / August 20, 2009

Cooking with Herbs

One of the things I love most about summer is my backyard herb garden is in full bloom. If you’ve never thought about using herbs in every day dishes, you’ve been missing out on one of the best ways to add some gourmet flair to any budget friendly dish.

Herbs Go with Just About Everything
You can add herbs to just about any dish, everything from sandwiches to pasta. If you’ve got a recipe you’re growing tired of, try adding some herbs. One of my favorite ways to use fresh herbs is to add ones like thyme, basil and oregano to homemade mayonnaise. Just about any type of sandwich tastes wonderful when you use an herbed flavored mayonnaise.

Other Uses for Herbs
It’s not just the herbs themselves that can transform ordinary dishes into something special. Herbs combined with other ingredients can be turned into things like a pesto sauce that can be used on vegetables, potatoes, fish, or tossed with pasta, or used as a sauce for pizza.
And don’t worry if you can’t use it all in one dish, pesto sauce freezes perfectly.
I’ve also used herbs like basil to turn leftover vegetables and chickpeas into a minestrone soup. And a few snips of chives can turn a plain omelet into a new recipe.

You Don’t Need to be a Master Gardener
One of the great things about herbs is you don’t need a green thumb to grow your own. They’re fairly hardy; don’t require lots of watering, and best of all animals like rabbits and deer leave them alone. So instead of buying them in the produce department save some money and invest in a few pots of herbs like chives, basil, thyme and oregano. You can keep them on your deck, patio, or even on a windowsill and snip as needed.

Try Them First
Some herbs have a very overpowering flavor and while you want to give a dish some zing, you never want the herb to dominate a dish. Go easy on the dominant flavored herbs like rosemary. I once bought some rosemary roasted potatoes from a deli and found the chef had been a bit too heavy handed with the rosemary and it ended up ruining what could have been a great side dish. Cilantro is another herb that packs a punch. I find you either hate it or love it. So always taste the herb first before you add it to the dish.

Let’s Not Forget the Dried Herbs
While summer’s bounty doesn’t last forever, herbs can be dried and even frozen. They can also be added to oils and vinegars and enjoyed throughout the winter months. I’ve managed to keep many herbs like basil and dill thriving right up to the holidays. And don’t be tempted to buy herbs in bulk. I’ve learned this the hard way. Never buy more dried herbs than you think you’ll use in a six-month period. After that they lose their punch, and always keep them out of direct sunlight.

Not Just the Cook’s Friend
While you’re buying pots of herbs for use in the kitchen, consider buying some to fill out your perennial garden. Some produce beautiful and long lasting blooms. They’re often less expensive than perennials and a lot more hardy, which makes your gardening dollar stretch a lot further.

admin / August 17, 2009

The Blog- Good Finds

Anyone try the recipes I included in last week’s Preserving Summer Produce? I made some of the strawberry jam. While I was at the store on Friday I noticed a sale on strawberries and stocked up. Now I have two jars of strawberry jam sitting in the freezer ready for winter.

We have a grapevine growing over an arbor near our patio. Most years the bounty’s been so-so and what does grow is usually eaten by raccoons looking for a bedtime snack. However, this year we cut down some trees and the vine’s getting more sun, hence a bumper crop. I checked it this morning and so far, the grapes are untouched. Now I’m thinking about making some grape jelly.

One thing that seems to go missing in my house is hangers. I saw that Walmart had a good deal…, a pack of 10 for $2. Seems the deal was even better than that. When I stopped there this morning, it was a pack of 10 for just $1.17. And while I was there I also picked up a copy of All You magazine. I’ve never read it before but the front cover said $72 worth of coupons inside. You know me, I love coupons. Seems there are coupons for just about everything, not just food. And if you go to, they have more coupons. I haven’t read all the magazine yet, but it looks like it’s packed with good stuff.

And if you like cereal and movies, check out Buy specially marked boxes, collect five tokens and you get a free movie.

This week on Budget Smart Girl, things to buy in August and how cooking with herbs can make any meal taste gourmet.

Have a good week.

admin / August 13, 2009

Preserving Summer Produce…without canning

I say this year after year, this summer I’m going to spend a couple of days in the kitchen canning all the great…and yes, cheap summer produce. Do I actually follow through? Hate to admit this, but no. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to miss out on making the most of the cherries, the green beans, the berries that are sitting in the produce department and farmer’s market stands. Here are some ways I make the most of the all the bargain priced produce. And I’ve also included some tips from experts and others who just like me love to save money and eat well.

Dried Foods
Many years ago I bought a food dehydrator. I have to say it’s been a wise investment and paid for itself over and over again. Just last month I used it to dry strawberries and cherries that I plan to use as topping for oatmeal in the winter.

Food Savers
Another kitchen gadget that comes in handy is my food saver machine. I use it to store things like greens beans and mashed potatoes in the freezer. It’s also ideal for storing things like soups and sauces. Best thing is the price of these machines has fallen drastically. These days even some supermarkets sell a smaller version of these wonder machines.

Make Ahead Meals
And speaking of soups and sauces, a great way to preserve summer’s bounty is to use it to make meals ready for fall and winter. Last year I made a couple of peach crisps and cobblers and stored them in the freezer. There’s nothing better than enjoying peaches while you’re looking outside and watching snow falling.

Jars for the Freezer
I call this my wonder find. About five years ago I was looking for some new Mason jars and stumbled upon Mason jars that you can use in the freezer. It cuts down on time and the hassle of everything that’s connected with canning. Right now I’m using some to store soup and leftover shepherd’s pies. Yes, you can even use them for leftover meals.

Great Site
Okay, if you do have time for canning or looking for supplies, I found this great site. It’s very addictive so visit it when you have some time to spare.

And now some tips from the experts-

Strawberry Jam
If the thought of eating homemade strawberry jam puts a smile on your face, but the hassle makes you frown, Maureen Smithe Brusznicki shares with us her tips for making jam as hassle free as you can get-

I’ve been buying cucumbers for as little as 50 cents at farmer’s stands, and here from Linsey Knerl, a senior writer at Wise Bread (and check out, lots of great tips for Budget Smart Girls) gives us a tip for using and preserving cucumbers that won’t keep you in the kitchen for hours.

“I’ve found the “refrigerator pickle” to be a great way to use up spare cukes and make yummy treats for our family and for guests!” says Knerl. “Here is my favorite recipe.”

1.Cut them. You can slice them in any manner you choose. (I prefer short, stubby pickles for snacking, but you can slice them thin or in hamburger sized slices, as well.) If the cucumbers are small enough, you can leave them whole (but pickling time will be longer.)
2. Prepare your brine. Simply boil 3 cups water (bottled is preferred), 1/8 cup kosher or sea (not iodized) salt, and 1 tablespoon white vinegar. Once it has come to a full boil, remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature (you don’t want to boil your cucumbers.)
3. Add your seasonings. While the liquid is boiling, you can begin packing the jar as full of sliced cucumbers as you can fit (with room at the top). Then add your seasonings, which includes 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill (you can use less, if desired), ¼ tsp mustard seed, 1/2 tsp black pepper (whole peppercorns work well), and finely chopped garlic cloves (5 or more, depending on how strong you want them.) I also add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and will occasionally throw in a small jalapeno pepper for extra kick!

Dry Them
And from Jill Houk, chef and partner in Centered Chef Food Studios in Chicago, IL.
One of my favorite techniques for keeping produce through the winter is oven drying. This is great for veggies with a high moisture content, like tomatoes, or mushrooms, and also works well for herbs.

In addition, I make a lot of soups and sauces using a bountiful harvest, which I in turn freeze. As a result, I’m eating summer-fresh marinara and asparagus soup in the middle of January, when the veggies were harvested months ago.

Freezing is a great way to preserve fruits, and I have created granitas and sorbets, as well as pie fillings, from an abundance of fresh fruit. Freezing fruit whole and throwing it into smoothies is also a great way to extend the produce’s life.
Here are some recipes that are standards for our shop:

Minestrone with Basil

Makes 4 2-cup servings.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 16-ounce can beans (kidney or white beans), drained and rinsed (or 1 ½ cups cooked beans)
2 cups chopped frozen collard greens
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 ½ cups chopped frozen broccoli
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 medium russet potato, peeled, left whole
1 small russet potato, peeled, diced
½ teaspoon salt or salt substitute
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat olive oil in a deep, heavy pot over medium heat until hot. Sauté garlic for 30 seconds, stirring constantly

2. Add beans, chard, tomatoes, greens, celery, carrot, zucchini, whole potato, and chopped potato to pot. Add 5 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

3. Transfer 2 cups soup and whole potato to blender and puree. Return puree to soup in pot. Add 1/4 cup basil and simmer, uncovered until flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in 1/4 cup basil. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Minted Wild Berry Granita
Makes six servings.

4 cups grape juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs fresh mint leaves
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tsp orange zest

1. Bring grape juice and sugar to a boil in a saucepan to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat.

2. In a food processor, add the berries and part of the hot grape juice solution. Pulse until smooth.

3. With a mesh strainer, filter the berry puree over a hotel pan. Next filter the remaining hot grape juice solution through the china cap, using the back of a ladle to expedite the process.

4. Add the lemon juice and orange zest into the hotel pan.

5. Let cool down to room temp before placing into the freezer. Ensure pan is flat. For quicker freezing, stir with a fork every hour, or use a larger pan with more surface area.

6. For serving, use a fork to scrape/shave the granita loose. Serve in a martini glass with sparkling water or Champagne.

Mixed Berry Smoothie
Makes two servings.

1 cup orange juice
2 cups plain, low-fat yogurt (or almond milk)
3/4 cup raspberries
3/4 cup blackberries
3/4 cup blueberries
honey or agave nectar to taste
1 cup ice cubes

Place all the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth.

Note: If you cannot use both servings when you make the smoothie, freeze the second portion and enjoy another day.

Two Books Worth Checking Out
And here are two books that came to my attention-
Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own: Bob Flowerdew’s Guide to Making the Most of Your Garden Produce All Year Round, Sept 2009, $29.95
And also, check out Preserved by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton, June 2009, $22.95
Both books are chock full of advice and recipes, check out

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