Feeding a growing family of five on a military budget is often VERY challenging.
It never fails that every time Congress sees fit to give us a pay raise my children grow a little more and quickly eat up that raise, literally!
With appetites that seem to grow faster than my food budget, I’ve had to develop a few strategies that save me not only money, but time as well. And who doesn’t need more of both?!
My strategy is simple:
1. Plan – I know not everybody was born as A-type as I am, but heading to the store with a weekly plan saves time and money. By limiting my trips to the store, I’m preventing that extra spending that seems to always push me over budget.
2. Eggs – Eggs are one of the cheapest and best sources of protein in the grocery store, and they’re certainly not just for breakfast. A quiche is a great way to use up leftovers and stretch a buck.
3. Meatless Monday – meat and produce are the two big budget busters in my family. A simple alternative is to serve a simple vegetarian dish one night a week.
4. Rinse and Repeat – If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Nobody likes leftovers. NOBODY! Find ways to take leftovers and repurpose them into a new dish that nobody but you will know is really leftover. Like turning Old-Time Beef Stew into Beef Stew Shepherd’s Pies.
5. Pasta – at $1.40 a box, you simply can’t beat it. And when using a sauce and some cheese, it’s easy to substitute whole wheat pasta or Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta and get a little extra nutrition in your kids without them being the wiser. Score two for mom!
Sweet and Spicy Baked Ziti
Yields: 6-8 servings (depending on how big your appetite is…)
1 – 28 oz. jar of Plain or Traditional Pasta Sauce
¼ c. water
1 tsp. Italian Seasonings
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
¾ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Nonstick cooking spray
2 links sweet Italian Sausage
1 link spicy Italian Sausage
8 oz. cooked penne pasta
½ fresh grated Parmesan
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 2 qt. casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.
In a covered saucepan, combine all the ingredients for the sauce, cover, and bring to a gentle simmer. Allow to cook 15-20 minutes for the flavors to meld together.
Meanwhile, remove the sausage casings, crumble, and brown the sausages in a medium skillet. Once cooked, drain off the excess fat and add the sausage to the prepared pasta sauce.
To begin layering the ziti, add a small amount of sauce to the bottom of the prepared casserole dish to prevent the ingredients from sticking. Start with one half of the pasta, one half of the sauce, and half of the Parmesan and mozzarella. Repeat layers with the remaining ingredients. (I usually only do two because I’m kind of lazy, but if you want more, feel free to do whatever floats your boat!)
Bake 15 – 20 minutes, until cheese on top is melted and very lightly browned.
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