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Mix and Match Recipes on a Budget

Diced tomatoes
Black beans
Peanut butter

Green beans
Mixed peas and carrots

Pasta (shells are always good)


Recipes (serve 2-3):

Veggie Soup
1/2 can black beans
1/2 can diced tomato and the liquid from the whole can
1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots mix
1/2 cup frozen green beans
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup rice
1/4 cup pasta
seasonings to taste
6 or more cups of water

Bring water to a boil. Add rice and canned tomato, reduce heat to medium. Cook 10 minutes. Add pasta, cook additional 5 minutes. Then, add the rest of the ingredients. Cook until frozen vegetables are hot, skimming off any foam from top of soup as you go. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs. Turn off heat, allow soup to sit to reconstitute dried herbs and cool. Serve with a slice of toasted bread.

Seasoned Vegetable Rice
1/2 cup rice
1/4 cup frozen peas and carrots
1/4 cup frozen corn
salt, dried garlic and onion, and dried herbs to taste
4 Tbsp butter, divided
1 1/2-2 cups water

Heat 2 Tbsp butter in a saucepan on medium until melted. Add rice, stir to coat and cook 2-3 minutes or until the rice starts to toast slightly and smell a little nutty. Add 1 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, then bring to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and add vegetables and seasonings, and bring back to a simmer. Stir occasionally until water has fully been absorbed, then check rice. If not fully done, add an additional 1/2 cup water and reduce again.

Let cool, then fluff with a fork. Serve just-hot. Reheat by adding 2 tbsp water and cooking on the stove, or in a mostly-closed container in the microwave.

To turn into fried rice, heat 1/4 cup butter in a pan on medium until melted, then add one egg scrambled with water to thin consistency. Cook until still slightly runny, then add seasoned vegetable rice. Add soy sauce to taste, serve hot.

Basic Roux
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Flour

Melt butter on medium-low in a sauce pan. Stir in flour with a whisk and heat until mixture begins to bubble and flour begins to smell nutty and turn toasty brown.

Makes enough to thicken 1 pint (2 cups) liquid - any liquid will do! Great to make sauces and gravies or to add to soups for a thicker broth.

Homemade Cheese Sauce
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Flour
2 cups milk, divided
1 cup shredded cheese, room temperature
1 tsp garlic salt
pepper to taste

Make basic roux and while still hot, slowly add 1 cup milk, whisking constantly. When mixture thickens and all lumps are worked smooth, add second cup milk. Remove from heat, then sprinkle mixture with cheese, stirring to incorporate until cheese is fully melted. Add garlic salt and pepper if desired.

Cheese sauce can be served with pasta, over vegetables, or mixed with salsa to make nacho cheese.

Homemade Croutons
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 slices bread, cubed
1 tsp salt, 1 tsp seasonings of choice

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place cubed bread in a wide bowl, then drizzle with melted butter, stirring constantly until pieces are evenly coated. Add salt and seasonings and stir to coat. Distribute on a cookie sheet and bake for an hour, stirring occasionally, until pieces are fully dry, crunchy in the middle, and toasted golden brown.

Easy Cheesy Casserole
1 cup dry pasta
1/2 cup peas and carrots mix
homemade cheese sauce recipe
1/2 cup homemade croutons, crushed into chunky crumbles
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to directions. Add peas and carrots to hot water and pasta, and cook 1-2 more minutes until vegetables are hot inside. Drain well. Return vegetables and pasta to the pan and combine with homemade cheese sauce, stirring to coat evenly. Transfer mixture to shallow baking dish. Top with shredded cheese, then crushed croutons. Place in oven uncovered until cheese is melted and croutons are browned. Let cool slightly before serving.

Corn and Apple Salad
1 1/2 cup lettuce, rinsed and chopped very coarsely
1/2 apple, diced
1/4 cup corn, defrosted
1/4 cup homemade croutons

Toss all ingredients. Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or your vinaigrette of choice.

Grilled PB&J
Peanut Butter
Butter, softened
2 slices of bread

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread peanut butter on the dry side of one piece of bread, and jelly on the other side. Close peanut butter and jelly sides together (duh, i know) and place sandwich butter-side-down onto a preheated skillet. Press sandwich with spatula, then flip when sandwich is sizzly and toasted. Cut diagonally (to feel like a fancy pants) and eat warm. Serve with coffee or milk.

Savings Experiments for New Year's Day, 2011

A few years ago, I consolidated almost all of my credit debt. Since then, I've been steadily working my way out of debt and working toward getting my financial life on track.

Now, with things most of the way paid down and everything under control, I have started to think about a word I usually dread: SAVINGS. I've been realigning my priorities with money and what I really want lately, and this has included realizing that I don't need nearly as much stuff as I previously believed to keep myself happy. What I do need is less stress, some stability, and a focused drive to improve my life. At one point, every extra dollar went to paying down my high-interest-rate credit cards, and I've eliminated all but two accounts: one business account that acquires miles and one personal account to a favorite clothing company. I'm currently in the process of paying those accounts down from almost-maxed to within 10% of their balances.

With all this money going to correct purchasing mistakes from my past, and the rest going to support my business, I wonder how I ever have any money at all. But then I look around and realize how much money I spend on superfluous things, such as some new craft kit or a new ball of yarn that I just had to have when I haven't gone through hardly any of what I got the time before, or even the occasional hundred-dollar stack of books I walk in the door with. I decided that I had to stop telling myself "I don't have enough money to put into savings."

I started a few months back with a monthly account transfer into 2 accounts: my shared savings with my husband and my smaller, personal savings account. I figured if I had an automatic transfer, I'd kind of set it and forget it, and just notice that ok, 25 has gone here and 10 has gone here. I've been working off that method for a while, and I'm never put back by the small amounts of money leaving my account at 2 different points during the month.

Then, I started thinking. At the very, very least, I make $10 an hour at work. Usually more, but at the very least, $10. I thought, why do I not think my future and finances are important enough for me to invest what equates to usually less than 1 hour a week of my time and money? I needed to give at least $10 extra a week to myself to put aside for either emergencies, or for whatever future plans require - college funds, maternity leave (ahem, eventually) or vacations my husband and I want to take together.

However, since my industry is a per-customer situation, my income is not always consistent from week to week, so a certain amount per month on a certain date other than my prerequisite phone bill or credit payments always makes me nervous. I decided to see if I could trick myself into not noticing myself saving money by doing smaller increments, but a lot more frequently. And when I say small, I mean small.

I decided that I'd add a couple more transfers to the list. One day a week, 3 dollars comes out of my account and goes into my personal savings account. Originally I was hoping to set up a $5-a-week payment to my credit card, but I wasn't able to set that up. That's when I decided that I'd save the whole $10 a week I was thinking about originally, and just make an outside effort to pay my cards down instead of buying unnecessary items in 2011. Instead of changing my 3 dollar transfer to $10, or adding another transfer day, I decided to break up the remaining 7 dollars, and transfer $1.40 every business day to my account.

This way, 5 days a week, I'm paying myself $1.40. 1 day a week, an additional transfer of $3 goes to the same savings account. 1 day a month, an additional transfer of $10 goes to that same account. And finally, 1 day a month, $25 goes into my shared account with my husband.

With less than 2 dollars a day coming out of my account, I don't have to stress whether or not my savings transfer is going to threaten my account into overdrafting, and I'm already used to the higher two amounts from coming out of my account.

I know it doesn't sound like much, but with this system, I'll be bringing my savings from what was before $420 a year, to a total savings of $940. And hopefully, I'll barely even notice.

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