Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday Bargains

Well, I ended up going to Aldi again today after a trip to Food Town and HEB earlier this morning. My plan was to make Eggplant Lasagna tomorrow but there was no eggplant to be had at HEB and Food Town had four badly shriveled ones. So, I decided to see if by any chance Aldi had any. I figured that I might as well go there and pick up milk and eggs so the trip wouldn't be wasted if they didn't have any eggplant, which they didn't. It's a shame because I bought the mozzarella and parmesan cheese for the recipe last week but they will keep. I know that I already made them earlier this month but I've decided to make Sloppy Joe Stuffed Peppers instead of the Eggplant Lasagna. I think it's probably best if from now on I don't actually put Egpplant Lasagna on my menu in advance and only make it as a spur-of-the-moment treat when eggplant is on sale. Food Town quite frequently has them 2/$1.00 so I'll just keep an eye out. One nice thing about that recipe is that I can easily keep all of the other ingredients on hand so that I'm prepared when eggplant is available.

My decision to switch from Eggplant Lasagna to stuffed peppers was due to Food Town having ground beef marked down to 99-cents per pound, getting a free bag of shredded cheddar cheese at HEB and the fact that Aldi had packages of three green peppers for only 79-cents. I bought six peppers so my plan is to brown three pounds of the cheap hamburger and mix in a double batch of my Favorite Sloppy Joe sauce. I've got half of a 16-ounce bag of shredded cheddar cheese left from something I made the other day and if I need more cheese I've got the free bag of shredded cheddar that I got today to add to it. I always have cans of tomato sauce in my pantry. I stock up on 8-ounce cans when Food Town has them five or six for a dollar.

So, here are my deals for today...

At Food Town I got six pounds of ground beef marked down to 99-cents per pound. Not food, but I also got a good deal on 50-ounce bottles of Fab laundry detergent for $1.77 each.

HEB had a deal where you got a free 8-ounce bag of shredded cheese if you bought two rolls of their store brand pork sausage at 2/$5.00. I got one regular pork sausage and one roll of Italian sausage. While digging through their clearance bin, I found a jar of Bacon Salt marked down to $1.50. I have tried it before and I'm pretty sure that it usually sells for well over $3.00. I recall that it doesn't taste anything like bacon but the flavor reminded me of the seasoning on BBQ potato chips. I might sprinkle it on my pork rinds or cheese crisps. It does contain maltodextrin but no other sugar. I just noticed that the one I got is the "Natural" variety. I see that it also says "Gluten Free - Low Sodium". I looked up their "Original" flavor and it contains corn syrup and flour and a whole long list of additional ingredients that my jar doesn't have.

Besides picking up milk and eggs at Aldi, I got the green peppers that I mentioned. I also found 14-ounce packages of jalapeño & cheddar smoked sausage links marked down to $1.69. They have 2 carbs each, which isn't terrible. I also bought 8-ounce packages of both sliced and chunk Swiss cheese for $1.79 each. Oh, and I picked up a bag of their mild roast Breakfast Blend coffee to try. That was $3.99 for 12 ounces.

While I was at Food Town, I noticed that they had Nathan's hot dogs. I don't think I've seen them there before. Nathan's used to be one of the few brands of hot dogs that were low in carbs and not loaded with a lot of extra junk. Hebrew National was another brand. Well, it looks like both brands have changed since the last time I bought them several years ago. I've heard that there are now twice as many carbs in Hebrew National's hot dogs as there used to be (they haven't updated the nutritional info on their site with the new counts yet) and now Nathan's contain hydrolyzed corn protein. Actually, it's even worse than I thought. There is soy, corn and wheat in them. I found the ingredient list for Nathan's Skinless Beef Franks on the Walmart website and this is what's in them:

Nathan's Hot Dogs: Beef, Water, Contains Less Than 2% of Salt, Sorbitol, Sodium Lactate, Hydrolyzed Soy, Corn and Wheat Gluten Protein, Paprika, Natural Flavorings, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite, Contains: Soy and Wheat

At least there is no sugar in them but I'm not crazy about sorbitol either. I think it's high enough in the ingredient list to cause gastric distress if you're sensitive to sugar alcohols. Hebrew National doesn't put any sweetener in theirs but they do add soy:

Hebrew National Hot Dogs: Beef, Water, Contains 2% Or Less of Flavorings, Garlic Powder, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Paprika, Potassium And Sodium Lactate, Salt, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite, Spice. Contains: Soy

Goodness knows how the Hebrew National website can claim "No Fillers" at the top of their web page when they are stretching the beef with hydrolyzed soy protein which is a filler if I ever saw one.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Favorite Recipe: Barbo's Dark Onion Rye Bread

One thing that I honestly don't miss on my low carb diet is bread. However, I do sometimes miss the usefullness of bread; that you can use it to hold other foods. Since I had some Trader Joe's unblanched almond flour in the freezer, I decided to make a loaf of this tasty bread that was created by my friend, Barbo. Check out her Barbo's Low Carb Kitchen forum. There is also a long thread about her bread recipe at Low Carb Friends. It's very simple to make and doesn't use any unusual ingredients. It reminds me of the dense German rye bread I used to eat at my Grandma's house when I was young. If you don't like caraway seeds, this recipe might not work well for you. I think it's the seeds that fool you into thinking this is rye bread.

For my lunch today, I made a little sandwich with this bread and some chicken salad that I made with the canned chicken that I bought at Aldi's. I probably won't buy the chicken again. It's edible but doesn't have much flavor and it bothers me that there is starch added. This was a 12 1/2 ounce can but there were only 7 1/2 ounces of actual meat after I drained off the water. I guess they're figuring that you'll be drinking the liquid when they put on the label that there are six 2-ounce servings per can. Although the sandwich looks large in the photo, it was actually a mini sandwich because the slices of bread are only about 3 1/2" x 2" and I sliced the loaf very thin. I get more slices that way and just enough bread to hold the chicken salad or some other filling.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Favorite Recipe: Spinach Lasagna - Variation

Spinach Lasagna

Now that the Mushroom Chicken and Sausage Casserole is gone, it was time to make another one of my favorites; Spinach Lasagna today. This time I made the variation at the bottom of the page. It makes more servings by adding a pound of Italian sausage to the pound of ground beef. I didn't tweak anything this time except to put in a bit more sauce. I made a double batch of Amy's Marinara and just went ahead and used all of it rather than freeze half a cup.

I forgot to mention that on Tuesday I got a great deal on some marked down ground beef at Food Town. They had two packages (a total of about 7 pounds) marked 99-cents per pound. This time I made it into patties and froze them raw. I arranged them on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and froze them until they were solid. Then, I stacked them, with the wax paper in between each patty, in plastic storage bags and put them in the freezer. When I want to make burgers for the family, I can cook them straight from the freezer in my NuWave oven.

I spotted some new and/or interesting items at Walmart and Kroger today. Walmart now has Bob's Red Mill almond flour in a 1-pound bag for $9.98. You'll find it in the gluten-free section where they also had Bob's Red Mill flax meal for $2.97. However, it wasn't the golden kind and that's the only kind I will buy anymore.

Walmart also had some new Atkins frozen meals in stock in case anyone is interested in those. They now have Chili Con Carne, Chicken Marsala, Italian-Style Pasta Bake and Sesame Chicken. I don't remember what they used to cost but they were tagged "Price roll-back" and were $3.48.

I've seen these before at Walmart but thought I'd mention them here. In the deli department they sell Kitchen Table Bakers, which are cheese crisps in fancy packaging. I tried them once many years ago and they were pretty good but VERY expensive. They're $4.98 at Walmart for 3 ounces of the Aged Parmesan Crisps. Their website appears to be kaput but you can also get them at Netrition for a penny more than Walmart. They come in other flavors but Walmart only has that one kind. Netrition has a few flavors.

It looks like Kroger has a couple new flavors of their CARBmaster yogurt; Pumpkin Pie and Blueberry Muffin. There wasn't any of either one in stock today so I couldn't try them. I noticed that they seem to be phasing out there "lite" yogurt in favor of the CARBmaster, which suits me just fine. They only had maybe five or six flavors in the lite yogurt and I remember that they had loads of them back when I used to eat that kind several years ago. Back then the CARBmaster yogurt was new and not very good. It was very chalky and watery and only came in four or five flavors. They've since added some fat to it and reformulated the recipe and it comes in lots of tasty flavors. My favorites are the Caramel Spice Cake and Cherry. I also like the White Chocolate Raspberry but I have to drive to a different Kroger for that one because my regular store no longer stocks that flavor.

UPDATE: While talking about the CARBmaster yogurt, I forgot to mention that I had a coupon for 50-cents off three containers, which is why I was looking at it in the first place. I bought two containers of Caramel Spice Cake and one container of Cherry. They're 40-cents each where I shop so I paid 58¢ for all three after the coupon and the senior discount. That's only 19-cents each!

I was pleased to see that Kroger has finally corrected the nutritional label on their brand of pork sausage now. For many years the label has listed 2 carbs per 2 ounces of sausage which would work out to 16 carbs per one pound roll. That was obviously wrong because no other brand has that many carbs for the same basic ingredients. The new label states zero carbs per 2 ounces now and the ingredients are still the same as always. I knew that 16 carbs was wrong so I never hesitated to buy that brand.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cheap Eats: Pork Trimmings

One of the stores that I go to every week often has what they call "pork trimmings" for sale. For not much money, you get a package of mostly pork fat with some bits of meat still attached to it. I've been told that these are the trimmings from pork shoulder/Boston butt roasts and Food Town is the only store where I've ever seen them for sale. The price per pound varies from week to week so when I see them for .59 to .69 cents per pound, I usually pick up a package or two. This week they were .89 cents per pound but I had two packages of them in the freezer from when they were only .59 per pound and decided to cook them today.
The way they pile them into the package, you really can't tell what you're going to get. There are occasionally small bones, but not usually. There is also often a fair amount of meat connected to the slabs of fat. This time there was less meat than usual but still enough to use in a recipe.
What I do is separate the meaty bits from the large pieces of fat and save the meat to use in a stir-fry. I roast the fatty bits to get them brown and crispy. They make a nice snack but I can even make a meal of them. They're great right out of the fridge (similar to eating cold fried chicken) and dipped in BBQ sauce. The two packages that I roasted today contained a total of just over 6 1/2 pounds and cost me just under $4.00. I got slightly more than a pound of meat cubes to use for a recipe sometime and the rest I roasted. They shrink like crazy by the time they're done and you'll end up with a huge pool of pork fat. I estimate that I've got about 2 cups of fat left in the pan. I sometimes save the fat for cooking but not when I let it get as browned as I did today. When I want to render fat for cooking, I slowly pan-fry the fat pieces and remove them from the fat before they start to brown.
I cut the pieces of fat into a somewhat larger than bite-size pieces (remember, they're going to shrink a LOT) and spread them in a large, foil-lined roasting pan. I lightly sprinkle them with salt or seasoned salt. You want to go easy on salt at this point or you'll end up with VERY salty cracklings once they shrink down. Roast them at 300-325º for about 2 hours or until they're evenly browned and crispy. After the first hour, I rearrange the pieces so that they cook evenly on all sides. This also helps to keep them from sticking to the foil. When they're done, I take them out of the pan with tongs and lightly sprinkle them with salt. They crisp up as they cool. As you can see, even though they shrunk by more than half, I still ended up with a huge pile of cracklings. My whole family enjoys snacking on these. In fact, my son just went to the fridge and got a plate of "piggy bits" to snack on with his breakfast. Has anyone else seen pork trimmings for sale where you shop? I suspect that you're most likely to find them in ethnic grocery stores.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Favorite Recipe: Mushroom Chicken and Sausage Casserole

I've only got one more serving left of Dottie's Burger Scramble Florentine for tomorrow. I checked my menu and was surprised to see that I made that last Friday. So, it fed me every day for a week since I'm the only one here who had any of it. That's the beauty of making casseroles; cook once and eat for several days.

 Today I'll be making another one of my all-time favorite casseroles: Mushroom Chicken and Sausage Casserole. I've made it countless times over the years. The whole family will be sharing it so I don't think it will last more than about three or four days. I've only got a 12-ounce package of frozen cauliflower, and the recipe calls for 16 ounces, so I bought two containers of fresh mushrooms to put in it to add more bulk. They were so cheap at Aldi that it would have been silly to pass them up and you can't have too many mushrooms. That's the only tweak I'll be making to the recipe this time but I should mention that this is also very good with some broccoli added. Has anyone else tried this recipe? I think that I will post here on my blog whenever I make any tried-and-true recipes so that everyone can comment on them, ask questions or tell about any tweaks you've made that you'd like to share.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Aldi, the sequel...

I needed to get some milk for the "boys", and some mushrooms for the Mushroom Chicken and Sausage Casserole that I'll be making on Thursday, so I decided to make another drive down to Aldi this morning. I would have waited until Thursday, when I do my regular grocery shopping, but I wasn't sure if the mushrooms would still be on sale for .69¢ after today.

I thought about getting another container of the fancy lettuce that I bought last week but they had a note on the door explaining that due to the high demand they haven't been able to keep it stocked. So, instead they were selling the iceberg lettuce for only .69¢ instead of .99¢. We're not lettuce snobs in our house so iceberg would do just fine, especially for that price.
While I was there, I decided to get some more of the cheeses that I got last week. I got the last package of sliced smoked cheese that they had, which was cheddar this time. They had plenty of the blocks of flavored cheese left and this time I got the Pepperoni Marinara flavor. I also splurged and got a pint of their heavy cream. I'd meant to buy a quart while I was at HEB earlier this morning but totally forgot about it until I got home. Lastly, I bought some pork rinds that I hadn't noticed last week. Maybe I didn't see them because I had my "blinders" on while going down that gauntlet of chips, cookies and candy on entering the store last time. They were only .99¢ per 3.5-ounce bag. I usually pay $1.50 per 5-ounce bag at HEB so Aldi beats the HEB price by .02¢ per ounce. I'm hoping that they will taste as good as HEB's, which are the best tasting ones I've found to date. Goodness knows how some brands make their pork rinds taste different than other brands but they do. I'm talking about the plain ones which are just pork skin, oil and salt. 

Speaking of HEB, while I was there early this morning, I noticed a brand of coffee that I hadn't seen there before. I noticed it because the price was under $4.00 per 11-ounce bag. It didn't appear to be a special or sale so maybe it will always be that price. I've set a limit of $4.00 as the most I will pay for a bag of coffee. The brand is Un Momento and the price was $3.78. I bought some decaf Breakfast Blend and a bag of regular Vanilla Creme. This afternoon I tried the Vanilla Creme and I like it a lot. It almost tastes sweet even though they don't list sugar on the label (please tell me that they can't put sugar in coffee and not tell anyone). It seems to have almost a mild chocolate flavor which is quite pleasant. Here's a link to the site for the company that makes the coffee: Coffee Bean International. I will definitely buy that coffee again if the price remains the same. Hopefully the Breakfast Blend will be just as good.  

My husband's eye surgery went very well yesterday and today he went back to the doctor to have his eye checked and the patch removed. Jerry was amazed that he can actually see normally with that eye now. The doctor removed the lens from that side of his glasses because he'll no longer need them for that eye. Although his other eye does have the start of a cataract, his vision is still 20/20 in that eye with his glasses on. It will be a several weeks before he can get new glasses. His eye needs to heal first and then a new prescription will be written for his glasses.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Exploring Aldi

Although I did enjoy exploring Aldi yesterday, I'm not sure how often I will go back. I wasn't able to go to four different stores all in one trip because I couldn't keep the cold stuff in my trunk for that long, even in a cooler. I maxed out my cooler's capacity just going to Aldi because I bought a gallon of milk and that took up most of the space. Although they do have some very good prices on select items, I can sometimes get about the same prices at Kroger when those things are on sale there or at least close enough if I factor in the extra gas to drive to Aldi.
My impression of Aldi is that it's very similar to Trader Joe's, just not as fancy. I think it's sort of a family version of Trader Joe's with TJ's being a more "gourmet" type store with more of an emphasis on "healthy" foods than Aldi. Aldi seems to focus on packaged processed foods with a few fresh items thrown in. It was interesting that you have to go down the aisle of cookies and candies on first entering the store. How evil is that??? Is that standard for all Aldi stores?

Having said that, I did manage to spend over $20 there and got some good deals. I'm not familiar with the store enough yet to know if those were every day low prices or special weekly sales. If I can get fresh mushrooms for only 69-cents and grape tomatoes for 59-cents all the time, the occasional trip down there might be worthwhile. Here is what I got (I'll spare you the details on any high carb items that I bought):
  • 1 dozen large eggs - .79
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes - .59
  • 3 8-ounce containers fresh mushrooms - .69 each (I got 2 white and 1 crimini)
  • 16 ounce bag frozen thin green beads - $1.49 (not quite as good a deal as Trader Joe's 24 ounces for $1.99)
  • 2 kinds of 8-ounce sliced smoked cheeses - $2.69 each
  • 8 ounces Roasted Garlic with Tomato & Basil cheese - $2.99
  • Fancy lettuce - .99
  • 1 pound unsalted butter - $1.39 (cheaper than the salted for some reason)
  • 12.5 ounce can chicken breast - $1.79
I don't normally buy canned chicken but the price seemed reasonable and I thought it might be a nice change from canned tuna. The price was about what I'd pay for a couple of cans of cheap tuna at Kroger. Unfortunately, the chicken does have carbs from added modified food starch. There are 6 carbs per can, which they claim contains 6 servings. Yeah, right. I'm thinking there might be 3 servings at most so that's 2 carbs per serving.  I made Chile Chicken Monterey for supper last night and I doubled the amount of mushrooms for the topping because I got them so cheap. Yum. I thought about using some of the smoked pepper-jack cheese to top the chicken but decided against it after tasting it. I used regular pepper-jack instead and will keep the smoked cheese for snacking. I plan to use the container of crimini mushrooms in the Burger Scramble Florentine that I'm making today.  Here's a list of some other items that seemed reasonably priced at Aldi:

  • 30 ounce mayonnaise - $1.99 (reg. $2.69 @ Kroger)
  • 15 ounce canned pumpkin - $.99 (same price at Kroger)
  • Assorted basic spices (large jars) - $1.00
  • Canned diced tomatoes, 14.5 ounce - .59 (.68 @ Kroger)
  • Iceberg lettuce - .99
  • 5 ounce canned tuna - .62 (.76 @ Kroger)
  • 7 ounces sliced pepperoni - $1.99 (6 ounces $1.98 @ Walmart)
  • 8 ounce blocks cheese - $1.79 (sometimes cheaper than that at Kroger on sale and Aldi charges more for pre-shredded cheese, $1.99, I think)
  • 16 ounces Deluxe American cheese - $2.99 ($3.99 @ Kroger)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese - $1.19 (I can often buy on sale elsewhere for .99)
  • 16 ounce roll pork sausage - $2.49 (usually at least $3.00 elsewhere unless on sale)
  • 16 ounces natural sour cream - $1.29 (usually .99 at Kroger for 8 ounces)
  • 24 ounces full fat cottage cheese - $2.29 (cheaper at Kroger on sale - it was $1.67 this week there)
  • 1 pound salted butter - $1.89 (good price - usually about $2.99 elsewhere)
  • 16 ounces heavy cream - $1.99 (cheaper at Walmart and HEB @ 3.57 per quart but Aldi's doesn't have milk added)
I haven't tried the other two cheeses that I bought and I will let you know what I think of them later in another post.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I just want to mention that tomorrow I plan to finally check out the new Aldi store down the road from me. I'll post again tomorrow about any bargains that I find there. In the meantime, feel free to post in the comments about what you like to buy at Aldi or other stores, such as Trader Joe's, Kroger, Walmart, HEB, etc. It will be a busy shopping day for me tomorrow if I go to HEB, Aldi, Walmart and Kroger. I'd better head out as early as possible before it gets too hot. They're predicting 97º for Thursday here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Burger Bonanza!

Sloppy Joe Stuffed Peppers
I had to go to the post office this morning so I did my bargain shopping today instead of on Tuesday like I usually do. Good thing because I struck gold on marked down ground beef at Food Town. This time it was only .99¢ per pound vs. the $1.29 I paid for it last week. I got a little over 14 pounds this time and put it all away in the freezer in one pound portions.
I also got a pretty good price on green peppers for tomorrow's stuffed peppers. They were 2/$1.00. They also had onions on sale for .39¢ pound so I stocked up on those. I bought some boneless/skinless chicken breasts for $1.88 pound to make the Chile Chicken Monterey on Thursday too.
Food Town always has a weekly coupon in their ad for something either free or a dollar off if you spend at least $10. This week it was Kraft mayonnaise which they had on sale for $2.33. With the dollar off, I got a jar for $1.33. Food Town is also one of the few stores that sells Mt. Olive sugar free pickle products so I picked up a jar of the sugar free sweet relish, which I had a .75¢ off coupon for. It wasn't on sale but I still like to stock up on it when I've got a coupon.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

This week's menu

Chile Chicken Monterey
I've got four of my favorite low carb meals planned for this week. I've already got most of the ingredients on hand because I stocked up when the price was right. I'll only need to pick up the necessary veggies just before I make them. Today I'll be making my Pizza Toppings Casserole. On Tuesday I will make Sloppy Joe Stuffed Peppers. I just hope that they've got nice peppers in stock when I shop tomorrow. Thursday it's Chile Chicken Monterey and on Friday I'll make Dottie's Burger Scramble Florentine. I got cream cheese for 99-cents a couple weeks ago so I just need to get a box of frozen spinach when I shop on Thursday. For this week at least, my family will have mainly low carb meal options except on Saturday when I will cook some frozen ravioli for them. They've also got leftover roast chicken, a little bit Asian pork stir-fry (served on rice), which is based on my Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps recipe, and spaghetti to choose from. 

I almost forgot about the Ham & Cheese Quiche that I baked this morning for my husband's breakfasts. He likes my low carb quiches and they keep him from eating carby foods for breakfast.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

This week's shopping bargains

I found out the hard way that you do not want to do your grocery shopping on the 4th of July! It's my normal shopping day and I foolishly assumed that most people had done their holiday food shopping on Wednesday. Wrong! Everyone in Spring was at Walmart and Kroger this morning.
I was out of frozen fish filets so I bought one of those 4 pound bags of individually wrapped tilapia filets at Walmart. Although it wasn't on my shopping list, I bought some because the price was only $10.98. I figured that if I waited another week or two, the price would go up to $12.00 or more. It has been that high in the past and Walmart's prices seem to go up and down from week to week. Anyway, I bought the fish and I'll get at least four or five meals out of it.
Pizza Toppings Casserole

I got some bad news at Walmart today about their Great Value heavy whipping cream. Now that it comes with their new label on it, they've also changed the formula. It used to be simply heavy cream and some preservatives but now they're watering it down with milk like some other brands do. The label used to say zero carbs per serving and now it says one carb. Of course the zero carb count was never correct. It was simply that they had rounded a fraction of a carb to zero. The odd thing is that none of the other counts have changed. There are still 5 grams of fat per serving and 50 calories per tablespoon. Again, that's probably due to numbers being rounded up or down to the nearest whole number. I'm not going to worry about it too much because it's unusual to find heavy cream anymore that doesn't have milk added. I can't afford to buy a brand name cream so I'll just make do with the Walmart cream or HEB's which is the same price per quart as Walmart's.
I found a new product at Walmart. I was going to buy some Armour pepperoni which is $1.98 for 6 ounces there. That's been the cheapest brand they've sold there for a while now and it tastes just as good as Hormel's which costs more. Now they have Tyson brand in a 7 ounce bag for $2.00. I bought some but I haven't tasted it yet to see if it's any good. The interesting thing is that they also sell the Tyson pepperoni diced in tiny cubes for using in recipes. I picked up a bag of that to try too. You also get 7 ounces for $2.00 of that kind. I might throw a handful into my Italian Casserole or Spinach Lasagna just for fun. I'm planning to make my Pizza Toppings Casserole next week but I won't use it for that. I like having large pieces of pepperoni and mushrooms, etc. in that dish.