Happy New Year! Resolutions and Recipes

1 Jan

Time to get a new day planner!

Today is January 1, 2012, the first day of the new year.  On this day each year, so many people make New Year’s Resolutions, do you?

I personally find New Year’s Resolutions to be an odd thing. I think it is because to me, January seems to be the middle of the year, not the start of the year. I have lived an entire lifetime on a school schedule:  I was a student and then I was a teacher, my husband is a school principal and my kids are all in school. Therefore, when I set goals for myself it tends to be in at the beginning of a school year, not at the beginning of a new year and to me a new year really seems to start in September, not January. For example, this year was the first year that my children were all in school all day long after 12 years of having kids at home, so September was a big goal-setting time for me this year. Creating this blog and maintaining it faithfully was just one of my goals.

However, I will share this with you. Several years ago, right before Christmas my husband and I decided that we had used our credit cards for the last time. We decided that we needed to make some real changes in how we managed our money because the economy was changing and not for the better. My home-based business was not bringing in the mortgage-paying money that it used to, and it was essentially like losing my job, even though people don’t often consider home-based businesses to be jobs, this one provided a huge contribution to our family budget and it was now gone. With careful budgeting and frugal living, we were going to pay off all our debt in less than five years instead of taking more than five decades.

I carry a calculator in my purse for when we're shopping.

The commitment to change came at a time when everything in the economy was going downhill and the expenses were all going up between the cost of gas (nearly $5 per gallon at the time,) food and utilities. It meant that we had to (and still have to, we have 18 months left) make a lot of sacrifices such as not eating out EVER unless we had a gift card (or even better, a gift card AND a coupon,) not taking big vacations, and most importantly, not spending what we didn’t have. We pay cash for everything and if we don’t have the cash we don’t buy it, which is very difficult.

One thing we won’t sacrifice however, is our taste for delicious, healthy, home-cooked meals. We both love to cook and (who doesn’t love to eat, right?) but almost immediately we found that we had to change the way we shopped. We used to shop at some of the larger stores, spending several hundred dollars per shopping trip each week (Stop and Shop, Shaws and BJ’s Wholesale store are the ones near us) but at the urging of our cousin and a close friend, that September we decided to try out some of the smaller, bargain stores. We are lucky because not only do we have a Price Rite near us, but we have Aldi’s as well, which I love. Just by making that one change in where we shopped, we saved literally hundreds of dollars per month on food, which is the same food we were purchasing in the larger stores, without sacrificing what we loved to cook and eat. We can shop for our family of five for every meal for about $225 every TWO weeks–the same money were spending once a week at the big stores. We shop as soon as we get paid and other than picking up milk and maybe more fresh fruit at the second week, we don’t do another big shopping again until we get paid again two weeks later. So for five people, three meals a day every day, we spend approximately $500 a month on groceries or less.

In honor of the start of this new year I will be sharing with you some of the tips, and of course recipes, that we have found to help us stick to our grocery budget without sacrificing healthy, delicious meals. I’m sure we’re not the only ones who have “saving money” as our goal each year, no matter what month the year begins, and hopefully you’ll find something that helps you with your goals and resolutions as well.

Additionally, in honor of the New Year’s holiday I am sharing my grandmother’s French Meat Pie recipe today. It’s a recipe she has made for the new year each year since I can remember and last year she was featured in the newspaper for it. At time I shared it with my Facebook friends, and now I am sharing it with you today.

Grandma Grello and the girls

Grandma Grello makes French Meat Pies for everyone, a dozen of them, every new year.

GRAM GRELLO’S FRENCH MEAT PIE

Posted in the Providence Journal – Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Crust for two 9-inch pies (4 sheets of Pillsbury Pie Crust)

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1/4 cup butter, unsalted

1 small onion chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon sage

1/4 teaspoon parsley

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon mace

2 cups water

2 teaspoons cornstarch diluted with water

1 stack of unsalted Saltine Crackers, crushed

Milk for brushing crust

Sauté meat in butter and cook until no longer pink. Add onion, seasonings and water and cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Add cornstarch and cook a little longer; then add crackers.

Let cool.

Spoon meat mix into 2 crust-lined 9-inch pie plates. Divide mixture between the two; about three cups each.

Top each with second crust. Press edges together to seal and seal with fork.

Brush top crust with milk. Pierce holes in crust with fork and bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. Lower heat to 375 degrees and bake for 35 minutes or until baked on top.

Makes two pies.

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