Tuesday, January 31, 2012

3 Ways to Use Uncooked Spaghetti... (and Cooking Isn't One of Them!)

Who knew spaghetti was such a versatile food?  Here are 3 ways to re-purpose uncooked spaghetti for a few other useful purposes!

  1.  To keep a cake's icing intact while covering it.  Pushing a piece of dry spaghetti into the top of the cake will keep plastic wrap or a box lid from sticking to the frosting.
  2.  To mark your page in a cookbook.  Keep a piece of spaghetti in your page while you flip back and forth!
  3.  To light candles.  When your matches aren't long enough to light a deep candle, use a piece of spaghetti to reach and light the wick.

spaghetti picture source.

HOW TO... Store leftover tomato paste.

You've made those recipes that call for only 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and then frustratingly, the rest of the can is left to sit in the frig or likely, end up in the trash.  

An easy solution to storing tomato paste to extend its storage life so it doesn't go to waste?  
Freeze it.

And the easiest way to do this is by using ice cube trays.  Not only does it minimize the mess - it provides you with tablespoon-size portions to grab the next time you need tomato paste for a recipe.  

It's an easy trick:

Freezing Tomato Paste

1. Use a tablespoon measure to scoop the paste 
into each section of an ice cube tray.

    2.  Pop the tray into the freezer.

    3.  When the cubes are solid, transfer them to a
plastic freezer bag and store in the freezer.  

    4.  When you need a serving of tomato paste for a recipe, you can grab the paste and add to recipes without thawing first. 

    * For a variation, you can mix a tsp or more of pesto into each cube before freezing.  


Monday, January 30, 2012

Meal Plan Week 2 Preview

Each Monday morning, Married Living with a Single's Budget sends out a Cooking for 2 Dinner Plan for the upcoming week.  Each week's plans include an ingredient list, a list of items you probably already have in our pantry that may be necessary for the week, and recipes for each of the meals.  The recipes are chosen for being tasty, budget-friendly, and relatively easy and time-efficient to make!  Cooking for 2 can be tricky and finding time to cook may be challenging, which is why a dinner plan can help provide you with suggestions to help you plan the week ahead. 

Here is a look at some of the meals included in Week 2:
Chicken Caesar Salad

African Peanut Chicken
  • Peanut Chicken with Rice
  • Barbeque Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Onions
  • Chicken Caesar Salad
  • Banana Bread (a healthy dessert!)
  • And more!

If you'd like to sign up for this free weekly dinner plan to be sent right to your inbox each Monday morning, sign up by submitting your email via Google Friend Connect in the right sidebar on the main screen, where you see this: 
Share with a friend by selecting one of the symbols below this post, where you see this:


 Sneak Peek: Tuesday's Post - How to Store Leftover Tomato Paste and 3 Ways to Use Uncooked Spaghetti (and they don't involve eating!)

african stew: {source}
chicken caesar salad:  {source}

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dinner Plan for a Busy Week

As a feature of this site, I will be sending out weekly meal plans via email to all the subscribers of our newsletter through Google Friend Connect.  To sign up for our Budget Cooking for 2 weekly dinner plans,  all you have to do is sign up in the right sidebar with Google Friend Connect.  The plans will be sent to your inbox each Monday morning - and it's all free(See the bottom of this post if you have trouble locating the Newsletter Subscribe button.)

Below is a close-up look at a model of a simple dinner plan for a week when you know will be busy with work, classes, evening activities,  etc.


Thank you for signing up for the Cooking for 2 weekly newsletter from Married Living on a Single's Budget!

Each week you will receive an email in your inbox on Monday mornings with a dinner plan for the week.  This is a plan that we have followed ourselves at some point (and approve of!); therefore, they are taste-tested, but they are created for our portion preferences, etc.  Once you figure out how your preferences/appetites relate to ours, you can adapt the recipes/amounts as needed.

Each week will include:

  • a basic layout of each day and its dinner,
  • a grocery list,
  • a list of staples you may already have for these meals,
  • and recipes for each meal (if needed).

Weekly Plan

Monday: Beef/Barley Soup with Bread and Salad

Tuesday: Leftover Soup with Corn Muffins

Wednesday: BLT Sandwiches (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato in a Grilled Sandwich - I like to add cheese and sweet mustard to ours)

Thursday: Stuffed Peppers (can also be made with zucchini) and bread

Friday: Out to Eat

Saturday: Turkey Sandwiches and Sweet Potato Fries

Sunday: No-Cook Day!! Eat popcorn, fruit, and yogurt for a light meal, skip right to ice cream for dessert, or make yourself microwave nachos with cheese, salsa, and any leftover stuffing for the peppers.

Grocery List

  • Fresh bread (or make sure you have the ingredients to use your breadmaker)
  • Soup mix (dried soup mix: CHEAP and in the dry goods/bulk foods section): ex. Bob's Red Mill Vegi Soup Mix
  • Cabbage
  • Hamburger Meat (2 lb., or more, if you're a meat lover!)
  • Tomatoes (at least 2)
  • 2 Large green peppers
  • Onion
  • Jiffy Cornbread Mix (CHEAP - at Walmart, 49 cents/box)
  • Coldcuts (for lunch and Saturday's meal): 1/2 - 1 lb. should do it
  • Frozen Sweet Potato Fries (from Walmart, grocery store, or Costco) - use and freeze the rest.
Items That You May Already Have:
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Milk
  • Chili powder
  • Bacon (IF not, add it to the list above!)
  • Egg


Beef Barley Soup: (makes 6 servings)
  1. If there are directions on back of mix, follow those.  If not, start your dry 2 cups of your dry ingredients mixed with water and milk on low heat in a large pot for 1 hour. 
  2. Add 1/2 lb. - 1 lb. browned ground beef, 1 c. shredded cabbage, 1 c. diced carrots and tomatoes to the pot, cover and simmer for another hour. 
  3. Stir occasionally for the last 15 minutes and serve with bread and shredded cheese if desired!

Stuffed Peppers: (makes 2 servings
  1. Brown ground beef, diced tomatoes and onions, and 1 tsp. chili powder and 1 clove garlic in a pan with olive oil until just cooked through. 
  2. Cut top off pepper and carve out seeds.  Rinse.  Fill with scoops of meat mix and top with cheese. 
  3. Place in baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes (or longer, depending on size of peppers).  Serve with salsa and warm bread.

Jiffy Corn Muffins: (makes 6)

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Stir together boxed ingredients with 1/3 cup milk and 1 egg.  Pour into greased muffin tins and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Enjoy!

Thanks again for subscribing to the Budget Cooking for 2
Weekly Dinner Plan!

Next week, look for a delicious homemade (and easy!) pizza, southwest potato salad, and homemade caesar salad!

 Weekly dinner plans are essential for sticking to a budget and reducing stress.  Each week's newsletter offers suggestions for ways to adapt/substitute other ingredients within a recipe, as well as a no-cook Sunday light dinner/dessert plan! 
 We hope that these newsletters will inspire you with ideas, help reduce your meal-planning stress, and make you busy evenings a little easier. 
You can sign up for the weekly newsletter by subscribing in the right sidebar where you see this symbol            ------------------>

 Please pass it on to a friend, tweet about it, or share this blog at the bottom of this post where you see these symbols:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Video Post: How We Approach Eating Out

This weekend while snowed in and warm and cozy in my apartment while my husband was away, I played around for the first time with making an iMovie with my Mac.  I wanted to see if I could come up with a video that I could use for this post on eating out.  After several attempts, I figured out to make and crop a video, but it's no Martin Scorcese work - it's pretty rough around the edges!  I definitely need to keep practicing on my comfort in front of the camera.

But for now, I'll introduce my first video post by asking for
an extra measure of grace and patience!

Simple Giving Gift Ideas

This year for Christmas, I decided to give only handmade (or thrifted) items.  I did this mostly out of panic, at first, thinking I would be embarrassed with how modest our gifts would be because of our budget.  So I figured I could give more, and more meaningful, gifts if I could be creative.  Once I discovered how many fun and easy ideas there were out there for DIY gifts, I realized I could have fun along the way and personalize my gifts in a way I hadn't been able to in years past.

I wish that I would've taken more pictures of the gifts I made this year!  Somehow in the Christmas rush, I forgot all about pictures for later... I did find a few, which I'll share with you, and try my best to describe and link to any other sources that I used.


From Left:
  • Vanilla Coffee Syrup: A big hit this year! (and unbelievably easy!)  Check out the original recipe at A Beautiful Mess.  I used a combination of my own, reused bottles and cute oil and vinegar bottles from Dollar Tree that I covered with my own labels and brown paper.
  • Vanilla Almond Sugar Skin Scrub: A great scrub for winter skin after washing dishes, being outside, and for really any other reason!  I found the original recipe at RadMegan, and adapted it a little by adding both almond and vanilla extracts.  I also made a Pumpkin Pie version (with canola oil and pumpkin pie spice) for my sister.  It smelled so good that I had to gift a little to myself too!
  • My friend Kensey's homemade Peppermint Vanilla Skin Scrub: I'm guessing this could easily be made by adapting the above recipe with peppermint extract instead.
  • Apple Butter: This was the easiest apple butter recipe I have ever come across!  It is from Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook, a resource for tons of crockpot recipes in one book. The recipe calls for 7 cups applesauce (unsweetened) + 2-3 cups sugar (and then I just added as I tasted it, since I like it sweet!) + 2 tsp. cinnamon + 1 tsp. nutmeg + 1/4 tsp. allspice (or ginger if you don't have allspice).  Again, you can add the spices to taste.  Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker on high for 8-10 hours.  For the last hour, take the lid off and stir occasionally.  It will smell so good, so start in the morning and you'll have the whole day to let it cook and have your home smell amazing!  Ladle into jars and refrigerate. (Makes 2+ pints)

Peppermint Sugar Skin Scrub - Made by my friend Kensey

My own vanilla almond sugar skin scrub

Homemade Granola

Christmas may be past, but it's never too early to start planning for next year! Most of these would be great birthday, housewarming, and just because gifts.  Not only will they not break your budget, but your friends and family will feel the love each time they use/enjoy your handmade gifts!

How I Grocery Shop {Secrets to Buying and Eating Simply}

As soon as it was official that I would be heading back to graduate school and instead of bringing in a teacher's salary and benefits, I would be a full-time student, paying for my own health insurance and tuition, it was decided: our budget needed to be simplified.

Part of the change we needed to make came in the form of our grocery bill.  I love natural, healthy, fresh food, and am usually willing to spend a little more on it.  However, I knew that our bill had to be cut significantly - we just couldn't afford my former eating/grocery habits.  At first, I went as cheap as I could be at our chain grocery store - canned goods, casseroles that would last us for almost the whole week, and lots of pasta.  And that worked, but it didn't satisfy my desire for at least some degree of freshness in our weekly eating.

That's when I decided to explore options other than the chain grocery store closest by.  I went to local stores, markets, and family-owned shops.  I learned that some are convenient, small, and even local, but not cheap.  Out of that exploring, I found two options that work really well for us and met my three criteria
  • They offer fresh food,
  • Have bulk dry options, 
  • And are significantly cheaper and local.  

For the most part, I now alternate my shopping between the local farmer's market in our small city each week for great, fresh produce, good bread for special occasions, and occasionally flowers or gifts; and doing the bulk of our regular, everyday shopping at a small country grocery store in a nearby town.  Although it is about a 20 minute drive to and from, it is worth it for the huge discount on prices we get.  Because most of it is from local Mennonite farms and bagged by the workers at the store, it is offered at a very modest price.  Also, they offer bulk dry goods, like sugar, flour, oats, and spices at a great price that allow me to go longer without needing to restock.

Each week, I plan what I will buy and then occasionally change only when I find a better deal on something else.  I stick to mostly the same produce purchases each week (and the routineness does take getting used to...) because I've found what works well for our budget.

I now purchase mostly apples and bananas for our fruit (because they are cheapest) and occasionally berries from Costco.  I split half of my berries and often a few bananas and freeze them right away to use for smoothies and oats.

Over the summer, it was essential - and enjoyable! - for us to grow most of the vegetables we ate in our city backyard garden.  We grew tomatoes, kale, squash, cucumbers, pumpkin, herbs, lettuce, carrots, and eggplant.

 In the winter, it's a little harder.  I either purchase lettuce and squash from the farmer's market, or buy a mix of frozen vegetables in bulk to stock our freezer and bagged spinach leaves, potatoes, carrots, or celery, and occasionally tomatoes to use for BLTs (our favorite cheap, go-to meal on the weekends).

We rely mostly on chicken breasts to fulfill our meat cravings.  We buy it in bulk freezer packs at Costco, and take out as much as we need each time we cook.  This lasts us for at least a month or two.  We usually rely on gift cards to eat out to have steak or burgers.

I buy a lot of canned black, pinto, and white beans to use for protein in tacos, chili, and black bean burgers.  We also eat a lot more eggs than we used to.

Other Items:
I buy 2 pks of eggs at a time to last us awhile, and buy locally cut and packaged bacon and cold cuts for my husband.  The cold cuts have been a huge savings - I now pay about a third of what I used to pay!

So, what do we eat?
We eat a larger variety of things than I'd imagined we'd be able to, but we do have a few stand-by favorites:
  • chili (vegetarian) and cornbread
  • pot roast (with frozen venison my husband's family gave us)
  • quesadillas (with frozen peppers, corn, and bbq chicken)
  • BLTs
  • chicken caesar salad
  • baked potatoes
  • grilled chicken w/ any seasoning imaginable!
  • healthy chicken casseroles
  • egg and salsa wraps
  • soup
Although is has been a change for us to embrace shopping and eating frugally, it has been one that we have learned from, continue to work on, and enjoy experimenting with.  I love the help and ideas I've gathered from the blogging community on how to eat healthily and frugally on a budget.  I've also sought advice from our families, who have had to endure the effects of budget ups and downs on their eating habits as they've experience life.

More to come on how we approach eating out.....

About Us

Welcome to Married Living on a Single's Budget!  We have started this website as a resource to others like us, who are having to learn to live creatively with less.  For us, that means budgeting for two on one income.

Although it requires sacrifice, patience, and a little extra work, it can be done!  Living fully on a limited budget is possible, and we hope that our journey and the tips we've learned along the way will help you to find your own ways to make living more with less an adventure, rather than a burden.

We hope you'll join us along the way!

While you're exploring our very new site, sign up for my free weekly meal plans to be sent right to your inbox each Monday morning! {You can sign up at the right of this post by clicking "Google Friend Connect" at the top of the right sidebar.}