Menu Plan Monday (7/7/14)

I started working full-time from home this last week, and as it’s been well over a year since I have worked 40 hours a week, I knew I needed some help in the evenings with getting dinner ready. So I’m back to menu planning and thought I would share!  I will share recipes and a fun printable with my notes later this week.

Sunday (last night):

Dinner:  Chicken Cacciatore (slow cooker) with pasta and garlic bread


Lunch:  Leftovers

Dinner:  Beef & Broccoli (slow cooker) with rice, Pull Apart Oat Rolls and fruit


Breakfast:  Pumpkin muffins and smoothies

Lunch:  Leftovers

Dinner:  Stuffed shells with sauteed vegetables and leftover rolls


Breakfast:  Cinnamon Swirl Bread and fruit

Lunch:  Leftovers

Dinner:  Salsa Chicken (slow cooker) with rice, cornbread and a vegetable

Thursday:  Have a dentist trip 2 hours away so an easy meals day.

Breakfast:  Leftover muffins or cinnamon bread or cereal with fruit

Lunch:  Packed lunch for after dentist (sandwiches, chips, fruit and cookies)

Dinner:  Minestrone (slow cooker) and panini-style sandwiches made with Italian bread from bread machine


Breakfast:  Breakfast burritos (making extra for freezer)

Lunch:  Leftovers

Dinner:  Salsa Fiesta Chicken, Mediterranean pasta salad and a vegetable


Breakfast:  Yogurt with homemade granola and fruit

Lunch:  Leftovers/sandwiches

Dinner:  Oven-Baked Chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable, Make Ahead Butterhorns


Breakfast:  Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip muffins and smoothies

Lunch:  Leftovers/sandwiches

Dinner:  Twisted Pizza Breadsticks with vegetables, fruit and Peanut Butter Cup cake (slow cooker)


Some stuff I will be making for the freezer or making just for fun include:

  • Breakfast bowls
  • Glazed cinnamon scones
  • Pumpkin crescent rolls
  • Freezer biscuits
  • Pumpkin dog biscuits

Homemade laundry detergent

I remember learning that I could make laundry soap myself and how empowered I felt for having one less item to get at Wal-Mart, which at that time, about 16 years ago, was the only option other than the grocery store in our small town.  Of course after I tracked down the items to make it, I quickly realized that I still had to purchase the ingredients, but after making it over and over, I am happy with how long a batch lasts so it relieves me from adding laundry soap to my shopping list frequently.

When I first started making this, I made the liquid kind and kept it in a big 5-gallon bucket by the washer.  Eventually I tried the powder version, and I prefer it now because it’s super quick and easy to make and can stay in a smaller container but still lasts a long time.

Yesterday, Anna and I made another batch and remembered to take some pictures, so without further ado, here is our homemade laundry detergent tutorial!



Ingredients and amounts:

  • Bar soap — 1 bar  (Fels Naptha, Zote, any kind you like.  Find the cleaning bars in the laundry detergent and/or cleaning aisle.  I really like Zote but the only kind I had on hand at the time was Tone body soap, so I used that.  Worked fine before so I’m using it again.  It really depends on your preference.)
  • Washing soda — 1 cup  (Also in laundry and/or cleaning aisle.  Only kind I’ve ever seen is Arm & Hammer.)
  • Borax — 1 cup  (Find next to washing soda.  The only brand I’ve found is 20 Mule Team.)
  • Baking soda — up to 1 small box  (Generic is fine, and this is an optional ingredient.)
  • Essential oil of your choice — a few drops  (Also an optional ingredient for a nice aroma.  Sometimes I put it in if I remember to but usually I don’t.)


  • Container with lid
  • Spoon for stirring
  • Knife for cutting up bar of soap
  • Grater or food processor
  • Measuring cup

**Note:  All of the tools I use are used exclusively for soap-making, as it’s a real pain to wash them good enough to be put back in the kitchen again.  I keep all of it stashed in an empty cat litter bucket in the laundry room and just pull out the bucket when it’s time to make some.



First, I cut up the bars of soap.  I use an old knife that is so old I can’t remember where it came from.  I was blessed with a secondhand mini food processor, so I roughly cut up the bars of soap and toss them into the bowl of the processor.


You can also grate the soap, which I used to do and hated.  You want it as fine as possible, which is another reason the processor is so handy.  I toss in a little of the washing soda with the soap so the soap doesn’t gum up in the processor.  It helps make it into a fine powder.



Once it’s finely chopped, toss it into your container and continue until all of the soap is chopped/grated.  This is what it looks like in the food processor bowl:


Now it’s time to add the other ingredients.  Add the 1 cup of washing soda,



the 1 cup of borax,



a small box of baking soda (if desired), and enlist the help of the photographer to do the stirring.


This is what the final product looks like, a finely ground mixture.



If you choose to add an essential oil, now is the time.  I used lavender this time.  Just add a few drops (however strong smelling you like) and stir.


You are now ready to do some laundry!



So let’s do something fun….calculate the cost!  Yep, I’m nerdy like that.  Obviously your cost will differ at least slightly from mine unless you live in my exact area and shop at the exact same places as I do.  It will also vary depending on what brand of bar soap you use.

Bar soap     .50 each

Washing soda     .41 per cup

Borax     .42 per cup

Baking soda     .40 per box

Total for 1 batch = 1.73 (I always make a double batch so this would be $3.46 for a double.)

I have a 2-tablespoon scoop that I keep on top of the container to use for measuring.  I use half of the scoop ( 1 tablespoon) for almost all loads and a full scoop (2 tablespoons) for really dirty stuff like my husband’s work clothes and the dog’s blanket.  A double batch makes 37 scoops, which is 74 tablespoons.  Theoretically, I could get 74 loads from this double batch, but more likely I will get about 55 loads.

Cost of laundry soap for my double batch is $3.46 divided by 55 loads = .06 per load.

What a great deal!


Honey-baked chicken

I saw this recipe on the Living on a Dime Facebook page and tried it the same day I found it because I had chicken thighs in the fridge defrosted.  It was super yummy and even my husband, a devout chicken loather, said it was “really good.”  It’s the perfect trio of yummy, easy and affordable.  I’m sure this could be put in the slow cooker as well, but I doubt it will brown up as nicely.

I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and turned them once during the cooking time because my oven has strangely placed rack holders and there isn’t a perfect middle (either closer to heating coils on top or bottom).  I also used Dijon mustard instead of the regular mustard and real butter, as I don’t buy margarine.  Plan to cook something else in the oven alongside and get it started early enough because it does stay in the oven for quite a bit.

Honey-Baked Chicken

6 pieces of chicken

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup honey

2 Tablespoons mustard

1 teaspoon salt

Place chicken in baking dish, skin side up.  Combine rest of ingredients and pour over chicken.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting every 15 minutes, until chicken is tender and brown.

Serves 4-6

Need some money-saving ideas?

bread loafI love the Money Saving Mom website.  Crystal and her team do such an amazing job of providing useful content for stretching your family’s dollars.  The 52 Different Ways to Save at Least $100 This Year is a wonderful series they did last year.  I’m on a breadmaking kick lately so revisited the post on baking your own bread.  Check out her site and find at least one idea to implement to help control your family’s expenses!  Scroll to the bottom of the breadmaking page to see more of the 52 ideas.

Grab a free pair of glasses! Coupon Applicable Glasses is offering a free pair of glasses to first time customers.  Read the fine print and browse through the frames you can get free.  There were hundreds for me to choose from, and I liked so many of them it was hard to choose just one!  Enter code FIRSTPAIRFREE at checkout to receive the discount.

You do have to pay shipping and required shipping insurance.  My total was $14.85, which is a steal compared to the last time I purchased a pair!

Free Sample of Maxwell House International Coffee

Get a free sample of Maxwell House International Coffee delivered to your mailbox.

Yummy, I’m excited to get this one!

Creamy Corn Chowder

I have a go-to corn chowder recipe so almost passed up this one.  However, this one is lower in fat and calories and a bit quicker to fix so went ahead and gave it a try.  It’s really yummy!  I didn’t want to use up the rest of my half-and-half so I substituted a 12-ounce can of fat-free evaporated milk I had in the pantry; you could also substitute any other milk product.  For convenience, I chopped the onion, celery and red pepper in the food processor.  Try the Herb Bread with this soup!

Creamy Corn Chowder

  • 6 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 medium potatoes, diced
  • 1 pound frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup half-and-half (or substitute)

Cook bacon over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.  Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat.  Add onion, celery and bell pepper; cook 5 minutes.  Add potatoes, corn, thyme, salt and pepper.  Sprinkle flour over; stir until thick, about 3 minutes.  Stir in broth and bay leaf; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, then simmer 25 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.  Stir in half-and-half or substitute.  Cook until warmed through.