Groan, how could I have forgotten to mention the new $21 Challenge in my last blog? Yes, it's that time again and anyone who has been reading the forum lately will know that next Monday 21st August is the day for the next week-long challenge to start. I am also endeavouring to put together a '$21 Challenge Survival Guide' as a quick reference source of recipes from those who have already delved to the back of their pantries for the challenge and have shared their recipes that may prove helpful during any future Challenge weeks. This will also explain fully the origins and aims of the $21 Challenge to anyone who has not yet come across it! Hopefully I will get that finished today, but this morning I was feeling very guilty reading about everyone else's plans for the week ahead on the forum, so decided I had better look in my own pantry and start trying to organise myself! So far, I have come up with the following: (any recipes mentioned here will be included in the $21 Challenge Survival Guide):
Monday: Easy Chicken Curry with rice. The easiest curry recipe ever and one of Noel's favourites! Found can of Creamy Chicken Soup in pantry left over from Ali's post-op recovery period. Already have sour cream in fridge, chicken pieces in freeze and rice in pantry. Ran out of curry powder last week though!
Tuesday: Salmon quiche with green vegetables. Found a 440g can of pink salmon in pantry. Will need to buy eggs but have cheese on hand, chives and broccoli in the garden and plenty of other veges in the freezer.
Wednesday: Carnation Pasta. My favourite recipe for using up evaporated milk! Found can of Lite evaporated milk in pantry. Also have pasta in pantry and mushrooms and capsicums and cheese in the fridge, will just need to buy a couple of zucchini or could substitute for something else if zucchini too expensive. Had better grab a piece of steak from the freezer for Noel to go with it too.
Thursday: Star Wars Stew. Haven't made this for years! From one of my kid's cookbooks I've had since I was nine years old! Perfect for the crock pot too, just chuck it all in and forget about it. I remembered this recipe when I found a couple of tins of tomatoes and a can of sweetcorn in the pantry. You also need sausages and bacon, which I already have in the freezer, onions which I have and potatoes, which I'm going to have to buy.
Friday: Reminded myself to look in the freezer as well as the pantry and came up with 'Home Burgers' – a Destitute Gourmet recipe. I already have the mince in the freezer and all other patty ingredients in the pantry, just need to buy some burger buns. Will use some of the bought potatoes to make home made potato wedges too.
Saturday: French Onion Chicken. Courtesy of the Vault and a great way to use up the sachet of French Onion soup from the pantry! Another good crock pot recipe too. Will have enough chicken pieces left in the freezer from Monday and can use up the other tin of tomatoes from the pantry too. Nice with rice or mashed potatoes, both of which I will have, along with more vegetables from the freezer (remember I always prepare and freeze my fresh vegetables as soon as I buy them, so always have plenty on hand – broccoli, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkin – you name it!)
Sunday: Roast Dinner. We always have a Sunday roast, just as my Mum raised me! Normally I would have to buy one during the week, but thanks to Noel's generous client last week we have half a ton of pork in the freezer so it won't be necessary to buy one! Will still have plenty of potatoes to roast, along with all necessary ingredients for Yorkshire Pudding and of course all the veges I need in the freezer!
That's about it I think! We never eat dessert as we're always too full, so don't have to worry about those. I have bananas in the freezer to make the kids banana muffins for lunchboxes and after school snacks and rolled oats in the pantry to make Anzac biscuits. So from what I can see at the moment, my shopping list to get me through the next week should look like this:
Bread ($2.70 for three loaves in our local store if you buy three at a time) and burger buns,
Eggs (one of these days I'll get some chickens to go in my chook run!)
Zucchini (if not too expensive)
Tomatoes for sandwiches ($2.00 for a huge bag from a local lady selling them outside her house!)
Potato chips for the boys' lunchboxes
Hmm, I wonder how much that little lot will come to? I'm determined not to go over! The kids just might have to suffer 'uncool' chips at school for a week! That is the one and only savings hint that just has not worked for me – buying family sized bags of potato chips and dividing them up into small bags each day. If I buy them the multi packs of chips, they eat them quite happily, but if they open their lunch boxes to find a plastic bag full of chips in there, they will return them home untouched day after day. Why was this? They're the same chips after all, just in a different packet! In fact, they're getting a better deal than the measly multi packs, which are mostly full of air and have about six chips in them. When discussing this with Maxine, she admitted she had the same problem with her kids, but on challenging them she found the reason why ' They're just not cool Mum', the kids admitted. That's all there is to it. Now if I was less of a softie in character, I would simply say 'well stuff you, eat those or go without!' but it's hard enough to get my two to eat a decent school lunch as it is, they're always too busy playing, so if I have to pay a bit more for multi packs of chips that they will actually eat, well so be it.
One thing's for sure, I definitely won't be buying my bread for the week from my local factory outlet! We are lucky in our area to have a huge bread factory in a nearby town, who supplies the local grocers with their bread. The bread is good quality and by far the cheapest around at 99c per loaf, so it's easy to buy in bulk and freeze. Driving past last week, we noticed that the factory had opened a new outlet store right outside their building. 'Great!' I told Noel, 'I can't wait to go and have a look!' - but I soon changed my mind when I saw the welcoming billboard outside 'Rivermill Loaves $1.10 here!' it proclaimed. Noel and I couldn't believe it! 'I thought factory outlets were supposed to be cheaper!' I laughed. Why pay more at a factory outlet when half a dozen shops in the area are still selling the same products for 99c? Talk about a false bargain!
Anyway, I had better go and finish putting the '$21 Challenge Survival Guide' together. You could probably call it a bit of a rough version, as I'm hoping that more recipes and contributions will be added with each challenge, but if it helps anyone get through the next week just a little easier then it's worth sending it out now! If anyone would like a copy, just hide('penny')email me and I'll send one out to you. Good luck with the Challenge!