Aldi Meal Challenge – Week 3

Aldi Challenge Week 3 (1).png

Are you as excited as I am about week 3 of the Aldi Meal Challenge?  Well, you should be – because I know what’s coming and it’s going to knock your socks off.

This week we tried a couple new recipes – which is always an adventure – but I think there are several keepers.  All inexpensive, full of flavor and good for you.

But the point of this challenge is the keep the budget under control AND eat well…Let’s see how we did.

We did fantastic at ALDI’s this week.  Kept the price tag at $45.20.  Yup!  Almost $20 under the goal.  There were a couple items I had to buy at a different store – but that is only because I needed vegan products.  For the recipes below I will provide options for both.  Either way – your budget should be well under the $75.00 this week.

Aldi Total wk 3

Without further adieu…

Your Dinner…..(I cannot help but say that in the voice of Lumière from Beauty and the Beast)

Meal One:  Vegan Enchiladas **

Meal Two:  Veggie Tacos with Spanish Rice. **

Meal Three: Tex-Mex Potato Corn Casserole (I will be posting a recipe for this dish on Friday – so be sure to check back!) with a green veggie of your choice.

Meal Four:  Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Cole Slaw (We had company so I made a meal with meat.  Hubbs and I had BBQ Jackfruit instead of the pork.  I thought it was delicious.  Hubbs was not a fan.) **

Meal Five:  Calzones and green salad **

Meal Six:  Finger Foods (The grown-ups went out to dinner with our friends who were in from out of town.  A rarity! So, I bought a bunch of finger foods for all the kids.  But, this is not just for kids. We have been known to do this for the whole family on nights we just don’t want to cook.  We put in a movie and make a fun night of it.)

Meal Seven:  Veggie Sandwiches with veggie chips and fresh fruit (You could easily do sub-sandwiches here as well.)

 

Enchiladas.jpg

Vegan Enchiladas: 

Enchiladas are seriously one of the easiest dinners  to prepare.  It’s one dish, filling and feeds a lot of people.

This week we used flour tortillas, but you could use corn if you like.  Also, I add a can of tomato soup to the red enchilada sauce to make the sauce a tad thicker and to tone down some of the spice.

1 large can of red enchilada Sauce

1 can of tomato soup

Meat of your choice (1-pound ground beef or turkey, or 1 bag of Gardein crumbles)

Shredded cheese (or Cheese substitutes)

Spices

12 tortillas (Flour or corn)

Olives (optional)

Mix  enchilada sauce and tomato sauce together.  Put one to two large tablespoons of the sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass baking dish.

Brown the meat.  You can add finely chopped onion and minced garlic here.  I also add, generously, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper to the meat until it is seasoned to my liking. If you’d rather use a taco seasoning packet you can – but it’s loaded with lots of unnecessary junk in it.  (Totally not judging here.)

Take a tortilla and put it in the bottom of the pan to coat the bottom side with the sauce.  Spoon a heaping spoonful of your meat mixture into the tortilla and roll.  Do the same thing with the rest of the tortillas until your tortillas and meat are gone.

Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes until heated all the way through. Top with cheese and sliced black olives during the last few minutes until melted.

Veggie Tacos:

Whether its zucchini and yellow squash roasted, or assorted bell peppers sautéed with onion and garlic in olive oil (or all of the above) , putting a bunch of yummy veggies in a taco is scrumptious.

The trick to Spanish rice is slightly browning the rice in olive oil before adding water.  While its browning, season to taste with chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour water over the rice (two cups to every one of rice).  Add a can of tomato sauce and stir.  Dump in a bag of frozen peas and carrots or mixed vegetables. Bring to boil and then cover and reduce to simmer for about 10-15 minutes until rice is tender.

Here is a point of debate in my house.  My husband insists that you must add in Knorr tomato bouillon when you add the water.  I do not because it has chicken stock in it and I think it tastes great without it.  He disagrees.  So, when he makes the rice, he adds it.  And when it’s my turn to make the rice, I leave it out.  Either is fine in my book.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches:

BBQ Pulled Pork

Seasoning a pork roast and letting it crock all day, is about as stress-free a dinner you can have.  You put it on in the morning, leave it and the smell will cause you to do a deep inhale and exhale as soon as your nose hits the door.

For BBQ pork, after it has cooked all day, pull it apart with two forks.  You may need to drain some of the liquid.  Then either mix in or top with your favorite BBQ sauce. ( I prefer mine all mixed in, but that’s up to you.)  Serve on dinner rolls with a little bit of coleslaw….mmmmm…mmmm…good!

Wendy’s Pork and Pepper Sandwiches

Our other family favorite (that sadly I haven’t had since we stopped eating meat) was always a hit at get-togethers.  It’s perfect for a large party or any gathering, really. Or a Sunday when it’s a little chilly out and you’re huddled up on the couch watching the game. That’s just about as perfect a day as you’re ever gonna get.

Put the pork roast in the crock, pour out half the juice of a jar of pepperocini’s and then dump the peppers and the remaining juice over the roast.  The original recipe called for a can of beer to go into the pot, but you can use a cup of water with beef bouillon and it still tastes AMAZEBALLS.  Add pepper and salt (optional) and let cook all day.  It’s done when you can pull it apart with a fork.  Shred with two forks and its ready to go.

Serve on a dinner rolls (or any kind of roll, bun, or crusty bread) with mayo and provolone cheese.  The sauce will drip down your arm and you will not care one bit, because it’s that good.

Calzones:

For Pizza Friday this week, we changed it up and decided to give homemade calzones a try.  Seriously, I have NO IDEA why we did not do this sooner.  They were SO STINKIN” GOOD! I fully made a pig of myself and am not ashamed.

So easy too.  For the pizza crust, there are several options you can try.

  1. Make your own dough by hand or using the dough setting on your bread maker.
  2. Buy dough at the store from the deli (Our local Vons sells it in one of their end caps near the bakery.)
  3. Buy the pop-canisters of dough

This Friday, we intended on making the dough in the bread machine, but the day got away from us, and we ended up using the pop-canisters of pizza dough in the biscuit aisle.  One can will make two large calzones.  The price was a bit more, but still way cheaper than take out.

Roll each portion of dough into a circle, fill one half of the circle with spaghetti sauce, and whatever else you want…cheeses, sundried tomatoes, olives….So many options.

We ended up using Gardein crumbles in spaghetti sauce, with some chopped olive and a tiny bit of vegan cheese slices and herbs…Oh.my.word….It came out to less than $2.00 a calzone.  Not bad for full bellies on a Friday night.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s meal suggestions as much as we did.

If you have any meal ideas or variations to any that I have suggested – I would love to hear them!

Love and Prosperity,

Your Girl.FI.day

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Friday Night Under Five – Tangy and a Touch of Sweet Coleslaw

Friday Night Under Five Coleslaw

Tangy and a Touch of Sweet Coleslaw

Several years ago, I decided to make shredded barbecue pork sandwiches.  The recipe called for the pork to be topped with coleslaw.  I HATED coleslaw growing up.  I thought the soupy-milky stuff my grandpa got from KFC (It was still called Kentucky Fried Chicken then) was how coleslaw was supposed to taste.  NO THANK YOU. Blegh.

Well, the picture of the sandwich with the coleslaw looked so pretty and delicious.  I decided to take a stab at the recipe.  I ended up making a few modifications.  I tasted it and was pretty darn proud of myself.  What had I been missing for all these years?  The trick is in the vinegar.  I forget why I used rice vinegar instead of cider now – but it really is the difference. You’ll see.

It’s even Honey Bear (HB for short) approved.  As I was preparing it, I stopped HB as he was walking through the kitchen, and shoved a spoonful in his mouth.  If my husband gives something a thumbs-up – it’s a keeper.  And this received two thumbs way up.  The whole bowl was gone that night.  I think we even made it a couple more times that week.  Even my little ones chow down on this slaw. Have you ever heard of kids liking coleslaw? It’s almost miraculous.

So here it is…it’s pretty simple.  It is delicious on pork sandwiches and type of taco.  I especially like it on fish tacos or sofritas. Its, drip all over your hands while you are eating it, good.

Tangy and a Touch Sweet Coleslaw

(if you use vegan mayo – this can also be a vegan recipe)

1 bag of shredded tri-color coleslaw mix (the package with just the veggies – not the one with the dressing included)

Sauce:

½ to 1 cup mayonnaise (we use a vegan mayo) (I don’t like a whole lot of mayo, so I will start with ½ cup and add more if it needs it.)

salt to taste

black pepper to taste (I am very generous with the black pepper)

1-2 tsp. celery seed (or if celery salt – omit the salt above)

2-3 TBSP rice vinegar

1-2 tsp. sugar (or stevia)

Mix all the sauce ingredients together with a whisk and taste.  Add more seasoning if you like.

Pour sauce over coleslaw and toss to coat.  (If you don’t feel it is creamy enough for your liking you can add a little more mayo here.)

Serve immediately.  (You can refrigerate for a little bit – while you are preparing other dishes, but I would not leave it in for too long so it doesn’t get soggy and wilted.) You want the cabbage to have a little bit of crunch.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as we do.

Love and Prosperity, 

Your GirlFIday

Aldi Meal Challenge – Week 2

Aldi Challenge Week 2

Well, we have one week of this challenge under our belt and I have to say, it was a GREAT success.  We stuck to the plan. We even had enough left-overs from some of the meals to have for lunches the next day.  #WINNING

This week, we did much better at shopping and adjusting the menu if we needed to while in the store.  There were still just a small handful of items that we had to get elsewhere, but we left money for them to stay within our $75.00 budget. We spent only spent $67.46. at ALDI.  Less than $75.00 YA’ALL!  – that works out to about $1.20 a meal for each of the eight of us.  Nice!

Lots of yummy options on this week’s menu.  You will notice I try to pick meal options that can either use either a meat (even though we don’t eat it), fish, or easily modified to be vegetarian/vegan.

This week was also Valentine’s Day and my birthday.  So, I decided to celebrate both on the same day so we could have one larger splurge meal as opposed to stretching that between two days.

Meal 1:  Salmon with Pasta (tossed with olive oil, lemon, garlic, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, olives, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.) You can also add feta cheese to the pasta or parmesan.  Green salad with halved cherry tomatoes.  (Omit the fish and cheese for a hearty vegan dinner.)

Meal 2: Sofritas Tacos (recipe here), with coleslaw (check back on Friday for my recipe) and roasted zucchini and squash cut lengthwise. Side of black beans and steamed white rice.

Meal 3:  Shrimp skewers with vegan “alfredo” pasta, green veggie of your choice (we had frozen broccoli and cauliflower on hand)

Meal 4: Breakfast.  Vegan pancakes, fried potatoes, eggs and turkey bacon (for my omnivores in the family.) Fresh fruit. (To make the pancakes vegan, we use almond milk and an egg substitute and add in vegan chocolate chips – SO GOOD.)

Meal 5:  Personal Pizzas (this is usually our Friday meal – this is how we make them.  But you can make your own dough too or buy frozen dough)

Meal 6: Veggie burgers, chips, salsa, hot-dogs (for the little ones), green salad

Meal 7:  Corn and Potato Chowder with Shrimp (omit the shrimp to make this vegan.  We use veggie broth and unsweetened almond milk, or an almond milk soup base.)

 

I have tried to include as many recipes as a can.  But generally, if I don’t know how to make something I google it and then modify it to my liking.  It’s rare I follow a recipe to the letter (I suppose that is my internal rebel shining through.)

My coleslaw recipe is EXCELLENT with the sofritas  – and this is coming from a person who will not eat anyone else’s coleslaw. That’s coming up on the next Friday Under Five.  Put it on your calendar.  (wink)

I hope you enjoy this weeks meal plan and have fun trying to get your food budget as low as possible while still enjoying healthy and delicious food.  Because if it’s not healthy or delicious, what’s the point?

Love and Prosperity, 

You girl.FI.day

Friday Night Under Five = Sofritas

Coming up on next week’s Aldi Shopping Challenge, is a dish that has quickly become a family FAV….SOFRITAS!  Enjoy. (I would even venture to say, it’s as good as Chipotle’s 🙂 #humblebrag)

Friday NightUnder 5---Sofritas.png

 

When we decided to go plant-based (which has now become “mostly” plant-based because we eat seafood) we had a really hard time finding restaurants and fast food that had options.  We don’t eat out much, but sometimes when you are in a pinch – you need to pick up food.  Enter Chipotle!  Chipotle has a meat option on their menu called “Sofritas” and I was immediately hooked.  I think I went to Chipotle three times that first week.

But eating out that often is not an option, so I googled for a recipe (googled is totally a verb) and found an excellent knock off.  However, I thought it was a bit complicated and it had items in it that I do not keep in my pantry.  So, I have modified it.  It is RIDICULOUSLY good.  Everyone in my family loves it – even my meat-eaters.

Momma’s Sofritas

(I double my recipe – we have 8 people in our house and my kids eat A LOT!)

16 oz. extra-firm tofu (drain liquid and press excess liquid out with paper towels)

2 TBS. grapeseed oil.

For the sauce:

1 ¼ tsp. cumin (or more if you like – I love cumin!)

1 tsp. coriander

¼ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. oregano (I crush them even further by rubbing between my two palms)

1 tsp. sugar

1-2 TBSP chili powder

1-2 TBSP paprika

dash or two of cayenne

½ cup veggie broth

¼ to ½ yellow onion minced in food processor

3 cloves fresh or minced garlic

2 TBSP low-sodium soy sauce

1 ½ TBSP tomato paste

1 TBSP cider vinegar

1 tsp. nutritional yeast

¼ tsp. salt (more if you like)

For the sauce, add all of the ingredients at once to either a food processor or a blender and blend until it is well mixed. Set aside.

Add grapeseed oil to skillet (I prefer a heavy cast-iron one) and heat on med-high.  Cut tofu into small bitesize pieces and add to pan, until browned.  (I will add several spices to the tofu as it is frying – but that is optional) Once browned add the sauce to the pan, bring to a gentle boil.  Cook for 5-7 minutes until most of the liquid is gone.  Taste and add more seasoning if desired.

Serve on hot corn tortillas and top with coleslaw and limes.  DELICIOUS!

A quick tip for a YUMMY and super easy chipotle sauce is to get a jar of chipotle veganaise mayo at Sprouts, and mix several tablespoons with lime juice and use that as a sauce over your sofritas and coleslaw.

My coleslaw recipe is EXCELLENT  – and this is coming from a person who will not eat coleslaw.  You should give it a try.  I will be posting the my recipe next week.  Stay tuned…

Aldi Meal Challenge – Week 1

7 Meals for $75.00 for our family of eight.

Aldi Challenge Week 1 PINTEREST

In one of the FIRE groups I am in (if you don’t know what FIRE means – it stands for Financial Independence/Retire Early and it really is “a thing.”) everyone was RAVING about this store called ALDI for really great prices on groceries.  Always looking to tame my grocery budget, I’m like, “what’s an ALDI and where do I get one?”  I learned they are mostly on the East Coast.  Extreme Sadness. 

To maximize our grocery budget, I generally have a plan of action.  Loosely it is this.  2 large shopping hauls a month and maybe one small one a week if we forgot something or produce has gone bad.  On the big shopping days, I hit four stores, typically in this order.  The 99 Cent Store, Costco, then Sprouts for produce and lastly Walmart for whatever else I could not get at the other store and because they (usually) have the best prices on household goods like laundry soap, deodorant, dryer sheets…etc. The stores are all within a few miles of each other, so even though it is a pain to get in and out of my car 4 times, the savings I get by doing it this way saves us hundreds throughout the year.

Well, to my surprise I did a search on the interwebs for ALDI and was pleased as a peach to learn one was opening 5 miles away!  SCORE!  My daughter and I were so excited to go try it out.  For those who don’t know about ALDI, it is a very “bare-bones” store; it will not have everything you need – but it will have most of it.  There will not be name brands, but off brands, but still excellent quality.  You will need a quarter to release your shopping cart from the other shopping carts (but don’t fret – you will get it back) and you will also need to bag your own groceries at a counter adjacent to the cash registers.  Tip: Don’t try to take the cart sitting there with the cashier without giving her an empty.  She might not like that very much.  (You’ll understand when you go there.)  I am happy to report, it really was worth all the hype!  They have an excellent selection.  The only thing that it was lacking was vegan options.  It had a few, but not a whole lot.  Over-all two thumbs up!

After finding Grocery Heaven (I “heard” that’s what ALDI’s goes by) – I stumbled upon several Pinterest ALDI food challenges.  I am ALWAYS down for a challenge.  But even more, I am ALWAYS down to see how I can trim this food budget for our family of 8!

All of the challenges were for smaller families.  So, I am here to fill that void.  I know many of you have large families like us and are always looking for ways to optimize your budget.

SO….the next four weeks I will be posting our challenge.  My daughter and I will be creating a  seven day/seven dinner meal-plan for our family of eight for under $75.00.

DISCLAIMER:  I am going to rat on myself here….initially, this was going to be a $50.00 challenge; however, that proved really difficult – especially for a family of eight.  But also, we do not eat meat – only seafood and shellfish which is, by far, more expensive by the pound then chicken, pork or beef.  HOWEVER, I will be attempting to get it as far under as I can.  I am also confident that if your family is smaller than ours and you either eat meat or use 100% vegan protein alternatives, you should be able to get this to around $50.00.

Here goes…

WEEK ONE DINNERS:

DAY ONE: Shrimp seasoned with lime and spices, pineapple/avocado salsa, refried beans, cilantro/lime rice, corn tortillas. (If you wanted this to be Vegan, you could sub out the shrimp for roasted peppers and/or grilled squash cut lengthwise.)

DAY TWO: Grilled tilapia, with roasted red potatoes and yellow/green squash.

DAY THREE:  Crock-pot chili with “meatless” crumbles over baked potatoes.  Shredded cheese and sour cream as optional toppings. (you can sub in ground turkey or beef to the chili.  See my recipe here.)

DAY FOUR: Shrimp and noodle chow mien with stir fry vegetables over Basmati rice. (You could sub in chicken)

DAY FIVE: Personal Pizzas

DAY SIX: Veggie Burgers with green salad.

DAY SEVEN:  “Garbage” Stew (I will explain below!)

Note: Normally,  I do not include in the budget, rice, spices or oils.  Also, there were a couple of items that were not at ALDI’s so I had to get them at Walmart.  For Next week’s challenge, I will modify the menu if ALDI does not have the item. (I also happened to be out of rice, this week, so it is on this receipt, but normally would not be and accounts for the items purchased at Walmart.)

Also, if you have a well-stocked pantry (see what I suggest here) many of the items on this receipt are unnecessary.  

The items purchased at Wal-Mart were:

  • Pita bread $2.00
  • Chow-mien noodle $2.00

Below is a picture of the receipt:

Aldi receipt

Now, about that stew….

One of the best soups we make in this house we call “Garbage Stew” – don’t let the name scare you away.  It got its name because it is made with the left-overs for the week that did not get eaten.  If they don’t get eaten they find their way to the garbage.  Trust me when I tell you, there is just something about putting all of these foods together – it doesn’t matter what it is – that comes out delicious!   To make it, follow these  simple directions:

Empty your left-overs into the crock pot.  (If you don’t think something would be appetizing in your soup – just leave it out – easy peasy).  If you have meat, chop it up into bite sized pieces and put them in.  Then add a few canned, dry or frozen goods to it (you should already have these in your pantry/fridge…still don’t know what I mean? – Well, here it is again.)  I usually add a can or two of diced tomatoes, maybe some vegetable broth, corn and/or beans, frozen mixed veggies….just be creative.  Then several spices.  If you are going to add dry noodles, add them during the last 30 minutes., otherwise they will get super soggy.  For rice, I typically will cook the rice separately and simply serve the stew over rice.  That way it does not get over done.

So, even though, adding ALDI into the mix will mean a trip to a fifth store on shopping days, I am hoping to see an even bigger dent in my grocery budget.  More savings means more money invested, which all means Momma gets her beach house sooner!

I look forward to updating out challenge next week!  See you there.

Love and Prosperity, 

Your Girl-FI-day

 

Friday Night Under Five

Tuna Casserole PINTEREST.png

If you had told me as a kid that one of my absolute favorite go-to cheap, hearty, one-pot, comfort-food dishes was tuna-casserole?  My eyes would have rolled into the back of my teased-out Aquanet head of hair.

But, alas, it is.  I don’t even know how the Hubbs and I first put tuna casserole in our rotation, it’s been so long.

It is creamy-deliciousness-stick-to-your-ribs GOODNESS.

Now, I haven’t had this in about a year because of the whole plant-based lifestyle, but I still make it for the kids and sadly watch as they eat it. Just because I try to avoid dairy does not mean I still don’t appreciate how GOOD it tastes.

I haven’t quite figured out how to make a non-dairy substitute for this.  But, we have a really great mac-n-cheese recipe, so maybe one of these days I will see if I can turn it into a dairy free version (we still eat fish occasionally.)

TUNA-CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

  • 1 box whole wheat elbow noodles
  • 1 or 2 cans of tuna depending on the size of your family and how much tuna you like in it
  • 1 or 2 cans of cream of mushroom (see above with the tuna…)
  • 1 can of peas
  • ½ of a 16 oz. container of sour cream
  • 1-2 heaping TBS of mayonnaise (this is the trick to keep it from not being dry)
  • 2-3 large handfuls of shredded cheese*** (we use the 4-cheese blend bag from Costco)
  • extra- cheese to top
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Optional: Regular potato chips to crumple on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large cast iron pot (I like the heavy ceramic coated pot) cook macaroni until almost tender and drain. Then return to the still hot pot and combine all the ingredients except the extra cheese, peas and chips.

Take a taste.  If you need more salt and pepper, add it now.

Once it is all stirred and creamy, then add in the peas and gentle stir in.  You don’t want to mush them.

Cook in the oven until heated all the way through and cheese is melty.  (Usually about 30 minutes)

During the last  5 minutes add cheese to the top and crumble the chips over the cheese and finish cooking.

Even my pickiest of eaters, Jake, whose favorite thing to eat is plain white rice, will demolish a bowl of tuna casserole.  It ain’t pretty – but it IS DELICIOUS!

Turn It Up Tuesday

Strive for Benjamins

Man, this gave me a chuckle when I read it in one of my favorite blogs. But it also really hit home. .
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She said it in the context of valuing our time. In business, we are always exchanging our time for money. We should spend our time on those activities that give us the biggest return.
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If there are tasks you can delegate, do it. If you have a side-hustle make sure you are spending time on one that’s going to pay you what you’re worth.