Friday, February 28, 2014

Pork Chops, and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

IGA has family packs of sirloin pork chops for 99 cents a pound. Select varieties of chunk cheese are $2.99 a pound (which is $1.50 for eight ounces, a common size for chunk cheeses). Select varieties of shredded cheese are three eight ounce packages for $5.00, or $1.67 for eight ounces or $3.34 per pound. “Bunched” broccoli and brunched cauliflower are both two for $4.00 or $2.00 each. I’m not sure what “bunched” means, and whether it’s a good price depends on how big they are. Tomatoes on the Vine are $1.99 a pound. IGA pasta is 88 cents a pound and 24-ounce cans of IGA pasta sauce are 88 cents each. These prices are good through next Sunday, March 2.

Marsh has strawberries, three one-pound boxes for $5.00, or $1.67 a pound. Not great, but better than they have been. Green or white asparagus (white asparagus is just green asparagus that was kept covered while it was growing so it didn’t turn green) is $1.77 a pound. Ground chuck is $2.79 a pound in the family packs. Whole boneless pork loins are $1.99 a pound. They average about six to nine pounds each, and Marsh will slice them for you for free. Sugardale hams are advertised for 69 cents a pound, but they were out of them last week and not giving rain checks, so don’t make a special trip without calling first. “Vine ripe” or Roma tomatoes are $1.49 a pound. 32-ounce (two pound) bags of frozen vegetables (the picture showed peas and green beans) are two for $5.00, or $2.50 each, or $1.25 a pound. These prices are good through next Wednesday, March 5.

Aldi’s best buys are, as usual, on produce. Avocados are 69 cents each. Roma tomatoes are 99 cents for 20 ounces, or 80 cents a pound. Grapefruit are 39 cents each. Bananas are 44 cents a pound. Cantaloupe are $1.89 each. If you like Mexican food, you might want to check out their ad at They have a lot of things advertised for making Mexican food, but I don’t know how good the prices for most things are. Just because they’re in the ad doesn’t mean that the price is anything special. These prices are good through next Tuesday, March 4.

Kroger has “medium size” fresh pineapple ten for $10.00, or $1.00 each. Asparagus is $1.28 a pound. Sour cream is ten 16 ounce (pint) cartons for $10.00, or $1.00 each. These prices are good through next Wednesday, March 5.

The pork chops are a good price this week, and they’re one of my favorite foods, so let’s work with them again. Don’t forget the other recipes for pork chops that have been posted here, too - 

And hints for what goes well with pork -

Herbs and Spices

Sometimes I regret saying that I wouldn’t include “fillers” like potatoes and rice and such in my menus. Not because they’re cheap and make it easier to come up with complete meals at $1.50 or less per serving (which of course they are and they do), but because they go so well with some things. This recipe for CREAMY HERBED PORK CHOPS is an example. With all that gravy, mashed potatoes or rice would be great with it. But it’s not necessary! But it would be good. Sigh. 

Four pork chops plus the gravy should come to about $3.20. Serve it with a pound of the frozen peas ($1.25), a few sliced Roma tomatoes for color (60 cents for twelve ounces), and half a cantaloupe for dessert (95 cents) and you’ve got a big meal for $6.00, or $1.50 per person. Or have the pork chops and gravy plus a pound and a half of asparagus ($1.95 – you may need less, depending on how much of the stem you have to cut off), half a pound of sliced Roma tomatoes (40 cents) and half a pineapple (50 cents) for $6.05, which is just a nickel over my goal of $6.00 to serve four people. Use COPYCAT MONTREAL STEAK SEASONING to help keep the cost down - and so you don't have to buy a big jar of the seasoning when you just need a teaspoon. You can make a lot of different seasoning blends from just a few basic herbs and spices and really cut back on what you spend for seasonings.

I don’t cook with flour or breadcrumbs, so when I want to bread something I usually use either fine pork rind crumbs (I give them a whirl in my food processor until they’re very fine, though you could probably just put them in a plastic bag and roll them with a rolling pin. If you don’t have a rolling pin, a large round bottle works well. A wine bottle is just about the right size. It’s best if it’s full. If not, fill it with water so it has the extra weight. Just make sure it’s tightly corked! This works for making pie crust, too. Use ice water in the bottle, or chilled wine, when making pie crust. The chill of the bottle will help make your pie crust flaky.) or almond flour or coconut flour or just use all cheese. PARMESAN AND SAGE CRUSTED PORK CHOPS uses the traditional/normal way of breading pork chops with flour and bread crumbs, and adds some parmesan cheese to the mixture. The original recipe makes a point of using the real imported Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fresh sage, but regular parmesan and dried sage will work, too, and cost a lot less.

The pork chops themselves are $2.00, and another 40 cents for the cheese (at Aldi, five ounces for $1.99), so let’s say $3.00 total for the four chops with breading and all. Cook a package of broccoli until it’s not quite done and then finish it off in the skillet, where it should pick up all the pan juices and nice crusty bits from the bottom of the skillet. I’m assuming you’ll use the whole package, though I don’t know how big the packages of “bunched” broccoli are. Finish up with either half a cantaloupe (95 cents) or a pineapple ($1.00). Or have some sliced tomatoes with the pork chops and broccoli instead of having fruit for dessert. Or have a pound and a half of asparagus instead of the broccoli. Or a pound of the frozen veggies instead of the broccoli, and you can have tomatoes with the meal and still have fruit for dessert.

Another way to fry pork chops or other meat is to coat the meat with mustard and let the mustard act as the “glue” that makes the flour stick to the meat, instead of using egg to do that. This recipe for SPICY MUSTARD PORK CHOPS does that.  This will come to about $2.75 or so, maybe a bit less depending on how much the flour costs. For some reason, I’m thinking a green salad would go well with this. How about half a head of iceberg lettuce, a tomato or two, some bits of broccoli and cauliflower, and some ranch dressing. Or whatever kind of dressing you prefer. A homemade oil and vinegar dressing with some extra mustard would be good. The salad should run about $1.00. Pick one of the frozen veggies from Marsh, for $1.25 for a pound. Green beans go well with pork, though I don’t much care for the taste of frozen green beans. That brings us to $5.00 for the pork chops, salad and a hot vegetable. You could leave it at that and have an extra dollar to spend on another meal sometime, or you could add half a cantaloupe (95 cents) or a whole pineapple ($1.00).

Friday, February 21, 2014

What Do We Do With the Veggies, and the Weekly Special with Mary Anne

Marsh has meat this week. Family pack assorted pork chops are 99 cents a pound. Hormel Cure 81 Spiral Sliced Half Hams are 99 cents a pound. Sugardale hams (water added) are 69 cents a pound. And they have iceberg lettuce for 99 cents a head. These prices are good through next Wednesday, February 26.

Aldi has some great buys on produce. Green peppers are three for $1.49. Mushrooms are 99 cents for eight ounces. Roma tomatoes are 99 cents for twenty ounces, or 80 cents a pound. Red potatoes are $1.89 for five pounds, or a little less than 40 cents a pound. Onions are 99 cents for a three pound bag. These prices are good through next Tuesday, February 25.

IGA has turkey breast for $1.19 a pound. Ten pound bags of chicken leg quarters are $5.99, or 60 cents a pound. These prices are good through next Sunday, February 23.

Kroger has their regular one-week sale and also a special four-day sale. The four-day sale ends Sunday, February 23. On sale for those four days they have milk for $1.98 a gallon (limit 2) and ten pound bags of russet potatoes for $1.98, or 20 cents a pound (no limit). On sale for the week ending Wednesday, February 26, they have iceberg lettuce for 99 cents a head and leaf lettuce for 99 cents a pound. Celery is 99 cents a head and Roma tomatoes are 99 cents a pound. Ragu spaghetti sauce of various types is $1.29 a jar after a 50 cent discount for buying six of various things. Split chicken breasts (including bone and skin) are 99 cents a pound. Various cheeses are $3.49 a pound. Cottage cheese and sour cream are $1.99 for 24 ounces. 

I’ve given recipes for all of the types of meat that are on sale this week, so I’m going to do something a little bit different. I’m going to focus on the veggies instead of the meat. I’ll still give recipes and menus that come in at about $1.50 per serving for the whole meal, though, and they will all include meat. I just won’t limit myself to one kind of meat.

The first recipe, SMOKEDSAUSAGE AND PEPPERS uses Bar S Smoked Sausage that’s $3.99 for two and a half pounds, or $1.60 a pound, this week at Marsh. There are a few different kinds at this price. I’m going with the Polish sausage. In case you’re wondering why I say to cut the sausage on the diagonal, it’s because it makes the pieces look bigger! This will cost about $5.15 and will make four servings. You could add a lettuce salad and stay under $6.00. Or a can of fruit. Or carrot sticks and dip. Or you could add some more veggies to the sausage and peppers. Carrots would be good, or cabbage, or mushrooms.

One of my favorite vegetable dishes is MUSHROOMS AND ONIONS. It seems to go over well with guests, too. It goes with just about any kind of meat. Here I’ll pair it with pork chops. You’ll think this makes a huge amount, but because the mushrooms and onions cook down so much you’ll end up with a lot less than you expect. It makes four servings as a side dish. With the mushrooms and onions on sale, it will cost about $2.50. Add four 8 ounce pork chops for another $2.00, and a salad of iceberg lettuce, carrots, green pepper, and a diced Roma tomato for another $1.50, for a total of about $6.00.

And finally, PEANUT STIR-FRY. You can use whatever meat you want with this – IGA’s turkey breast or chicken leg quarters, or Marsh’s pork. It's the PEANUT SAUCE that's important here. Let’s go with the pork, shall we? Pork is so good in a stir-fry and goes well with peanuts, too. You can use pretty much any vegetables you have on hand. I just chose these because they’re on sale and the colors look nice together. Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are good in a stir-fry, too, as are fresh green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, etc. Pretty much anything goes. This will come to a little over $5.00 and will make a lot. You shouldn’t need anything to go with it.

Isn’t it great when veggies go on sale? These are good, but I can hardly wait till summer!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chicken Legs and Leftover Chicken

Kroger has boneless (and, I assume) skinless chicken breasts for $1.89 a pound and boneless (and, again, I assume skinless) thighs for $1.99 a pound. Bar S franks and bologna are 10 for $10.00, or $1.00 each. You don’t need to buy 10 of them to get this price. Honeysuckle 93% lean ground turkey is $1.99 a pound, limit of one, and you have to have a digital coupon. Canned veggies (tomatoes and beans for sure, maybe some other kinds) are two for $1.00 or 50 cents each. Anjou pears are 99 cents a pound. It sure seems strange to have fresh apples cost more than fresh pears. Organic sweet potatoes are 99 cents a pound. These prices are good through next Wednesday, February 19.

Aldi has eight ounces of mushrooms for 99 cents, broccoli crowns for $1.49 a pound, and onions three pounds for 99 cents. These prices are good through next Tuesday, February 18.

Not a very inspiring bunch of specials. In fact, I’m going to go with Walmart’s ten-pound bags of chicken leg quarters. They’ve raised the price to $6.90 for the bag, or 69 cents a pound, but it’s still a pretty good deal.

I’ve talked before about Walmart’s bags of chicken leg quarters. I’ve given recipes for cooking the leg quarters, but unless you have a big family, you may think that ten pounds is too much to cook at one time. I tend to agree with you, but, on the other hand, I hate to have open bags of chicken in the fridge. So I usually cook up the whole bag at once, which leaves me with lots of leftover chicken. Some of it I leave on the bone, but most of it I take off of the bone and use it in recipes that call for cooked chicken. Here are a few of my favorite recipes. A ten pound bag of leg quarters is usually about ten leg quarters, and each quarter yields about a cup of cooked chicken. These recipes will work with either ROASTED CHICKEN or STEWED CHICKEN.

Incidentally, there’s nothing that says you have to cook all of the chicken the same way. You could take out enough for whatever recipe you want to use for the legs as legs, and then cook up the rest for “cooked” chicken recipes.

When you’re trying to save on the food budget, it’s important not to waste anything. This goes for the bones, too. The bones from the chicken legs can be used to make CHICKEN STOCK, or BONE BROTH. Save up all of your bones in the freezer, and when you get a bunch of them (say, three pounds or more), make a big batch of stock and use it to make soup. Freeze the rest of the stock to use in soup later. The vinegar is to leach out the calcium and other minerals from the bones. You shouldn’t taste the vinegar in the stock or in the soups you make with it.

By the way, I include bones that I’ve chewed on. I make my stock in the slow cooker and cook it at least 24 hours. I figure that if there are any germs strong enough to survive that, they’re going to get me anyway! Out of consideration for the squeamishness of others, I wouldn’t use my chicken stock in a recipe that I’m serving to guests, and, unless they’re family, I wouldn’t use the bones that other people have chewed on. I’m sure they’d be safe and all, but I’m a bit squeamish, too.

I figure that the broth is free. Yes, there’s the cost of the onion, celery and herbs, but they don’t come to much. I make my broth in a 6-quart slow cooker and I usually get about eight pints of broth. That’s less than five cents a pint.

So far you’ve got the meat to use in recipes, and you’ve used the bones to make broth, but, if you stewed the chicken, that still leaves the skin. No point in wasting that, either. (If you roasted the legs, the skin should have puffed up and gotten crispy. I hope you ate it right away, because it’s much better freshly roasted.) Use the skin to make GRIBENES, or Chicken Crisps. They’re pieces of chicken skin that you’ve baked by themselves until they’re nice and crispy. They’re my very favorite chicken dish! I always figure that they're free, since I really bought the chicken for the meat, not the skin.

DOMADA, a West African stew, calls for both cooked chicken and chicken broth. In fact, it goes even further by calling for sautéing the vegetables in chicken fat! And why not? It adds another layer of flavor, as they say on the cooking shows.

A batch of this will make about eight cups and will cost about $4.80. It’s rich and thick and filling, and really doesn’t need much more. If you do want to add something to it, you could add a salad, or maybe some sliced pears, or canned fruit.

CHICKEN AND CABBAGE LO MEIN is a sort of a take on Chicken Lo Mein, but without the noodles. The traditional recipe is noodles, chicken and some vegetables. I use lots of vegetables instead. It’s something I usually make on the spur of the moment when I haven’t gotten anything out of the freezer, because the cooked chicken thaws quickly. You can use whatever veggies you have on hand. Broccoli is a good addition, or zucchini, for example. I like carrots, cabbage and onion because I usually have them and because they tend to be among the cheapest vegetables. This will come to about $4.25 for four big servings. Some sliced fresh pears would be good for dessert.

You probably have your own recipes to use the leftover chicken. You can use recipes calling for any sort of cooked chicken or cooked turkey, even if they call for chicken or turkey breast. I frequently use it in main dish salads and in main dish soups. The chicken freezes well, and so does the broth. Just be sure that you leave “head room” if you freeze the broth or it will break the container and/or force off the lid. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Valentine's Day Special

Kroger has whole chickens and chicken drumsticks and thighs for 89 cents a pound. Honeysuckle 93% lean ground turkey is $1.99 a pound with a digital coupon. Peeled baby carrots are 99 cents a pound, strawberries are two pounds for $4.00, or $2.00 a pound, and asparagus is $1.99 a pound.

IGA has seasoned ground turkey in one pound packages for $1.00.  One-pound bags of frozen vegetables are $1.00. Assorted pork chops are $1.59 per pound. These prices are good through Sunday, February 9.

Aldi has cantaloupe again for $1.49 each, and blueberries are $1.49 for 6 ounces. That’s almost $4.00 a pound, and I wouldn’t mention them except that they go so well with cantaloupe and Valentine’s Day is next week, after all. Cantaloupe and blueberries would make a good Valentine’s Day splurge, should you feel so inclined. Strawberries are $1.99 a pound, which again isn’t a great price, but would make a good Valentine’s Day splurge.

Marsh has boneless skinless chicken breasts in the family pack for $1.79 a pound. The pork combo packs (center rib chops, country style ribs and sirloin roast, all from the loin) are $1.29 a pound, limit two, with $25 in additional purchases. Not nearly as good a deal as the 99 cents a pound that they were just a few months ago, but not bad. Watch how much you pay for the “additional purchases,” or the extra costs may make the pork not such a good deal after all. Asparagus is $1.99 a pound, which isn’t great (it was $1.49 a pound at Kroger last week), and Red Flame seedless grapes (my favorite!) are $1.28 a pound. Hillshire Smoked Sausage in 14-oz to 16-oz packages are two for $5.00, or about $2.50 per pound. I’m not sure whether that’s a particularly good price. It may just seem like a good price because it really appeals to me today for some reason.

(Incidentally, that’s exactly why you should have a price book that lists the regular and sale prices of things you buy frequently or would like to buy if it is ever reasonably priced. It’s way too easy to justify buying something you want “because it’s on sale,” even when it’s not at a good price. I haven’t update my price book for several months, and prices have definitely changed over those months. That’s one of my goals for February, to update my price book, at least for the things I use most often and those I include in my recipes and menus here.)

How about a Valentine’s Day dinner for two this week, instead of supper for four? I’ll keep it inexpensive, but it will go over $1.50 per person. How does Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo, asparagus, garlic bread (just make sure you both eat it!) and chocolate dipped strawberries sound?

CHICKEN FETTUCCINE ALFREDO is a snap to make and somewhat reminiscent of that romantic movie Lady and the Tramp. (Remember the spaghetti scene?) If you don't eat wheat, you can put the chicken and sauce over spaghetti squash, broccoli, zucchini, or other vegetables, or just eat it plain, adding a salad to make it a full meal.

Selecting and cooking ASPARAGUS is really a matter of personal preference. Some people like the very thin stalks. I prefer the big fat ones. Some people like the stalks cooked whole. I prefer it cut into bite sized pieces before I cook it. Some people like it boiled or steamed. I prefer it sautéed in butter, with maybe some garlic. I’ll tell you how to cook it the way I like it, but you can cook it however you like. A pound of asparagus serves two to four people. With everything else in this meal, and especially the rich Alfredo sauce, I’m going with half a pound for two people. Don’t forget that you have to cut off the tough end of the stalk, which may be a lot or it may be just a bit. You won’t end up with as much as you might think you will, because of that waste.

GARLIC BREAD isn't really necessary, of course, but nice to have. (And I have a bit of a problem thinking of garlic bread as a romantic food, but as long as you both eat it…) Try to get just one small loaf of French or Italian bread – something like a hoagie roll. Check the prices, though. Sometimes that single roll can cost as much as a whole loaf of bread! To save some time, you can serve the loaf whole and cold and you can each butter your own at the table.

Not much says Valentine’s Day like CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRIES! I haven’t priced them in stores recently, but I remember that they used to be a dollar each at a candy store about twenty years ago. What an indulgence! What a ridiculous price to pay for something so easy to make!

So how much will this dinner cost? The Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo will cost about $3.50. $1.00 for the asparagus. The bread, about 50 cents. It depends on the bread you get. Assuming fifteen strawberries per pound, they’re about 20 cents each, so let’s say another dollar for the Chocolate Covered Strawberries. Total for the meal, about $6.00, or about $3.00 each. More than my meals usually run, but it is for Valentine’s Day, after all!

Of course, that’s a bit deceptive, because you had to buy a whole pound of strawberries, and the rest of the asparagus and the Parmesan and the cream, which probably cost more than you would normally spend for things. But it’s still a pretty reasonable price for a romantic dinner for two.