Our 3YO grandson calls Pete and I "Ugma" and "Umpa" - names he gave us before he could really talk. And of course, they've stuck.

Anyway, here is my recipe for Special Hot Cocoa:

2c half-n-half (I would use 1c ea. of heavy cream and 1c water, except that heavy cream is too expensive for our budget!)
1/3c cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 drops stevia + 7 drops EZSweetz (or your choice/amount of sweeteners)
dash salt

Combine in saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until steaming and just starting to get little bubbles around the edge. Serve.
Turns out we couldn't get to the city for a big shopping this month after all, due to illness (mine). So we have to make do, yet again, with local buying. Plus, since I was too sick to shop, hubby did some of it, which means he bought differently than I do, so the bill is a little higher...but I'm not complaining, he has been taking over a lot of things around the house while I've been sick or otherwise unable to do some things these last couple of weeks - he's a heck of a wonderful husband!

So, here are the receipts from the last week or so.

From Walmart, $36.46, which included olive oil, half'n'half, 2# of mozzarella, cabbages, onions, shrimp, and peanuts. (Hubby loves peanuts, and goes through a pound or 2 per week. At $2/lb that's pricey. Need to find cheaper source soon!)

From Sav-a-Lot, $38.33 for food, which included coffee, salad dressing, mayo, dairy, frozen dinners (hubby buys for his lunches for work sometimes), pop, and more peanuts.

I did make it to our meat market last week at least! Spent a total of $71.44 for 29.5# of meat (pork roast, pork steaks, bacon, chuck roasts, ground beef, frozen fish) plus a couple of acorn squash and a couple of sweet potatoes, @2.69 for granulated garlic from the bulk section, and some cough drops for a buck. Meat alone was right around $65, or about $2.20/lb. Pretty good for this day and age, especially for really fresh tasty meat - Steve's is the best meat! (Although Ebel's is great too but harder to get to than Steve's so I rarely go.)

So when I add these receipts onto the $138.74 balance, this month's total grocery bill is $283.97 - which is almost exactly my monthly average for groceries this time last year! In spite of the fact that the cost of food has risen so much, and that my husband did some of the shopping :), it remained the same, that's pretty darned good!

Meanwhile, hubby still needs radiographs done down in Saginaw (home of Aldi's and Meijer and Kroger!) so next month I'll be able to stock up on some things anyway. What we have now will last into March, mostly, but I can't ask him to wait for his Xrays just so I can time my shopping trip...oh if only I hadn't gotten sick! But, it is what it is...

I don't really like these months when I can't do a big shopping, and have to go to the store so often for little things. I always end up spending more! But we will be going to Saginaw (hubby has doctor stuff down there) later this week, and I can go to Aldi's, Meijer, and/or GFS while there if I want to. Will see what we need when the day comes. We do have enough meat for a couple more weeks, so will probably make a trip to my favorite meat place, Steve's, after the 1st of the month. This month I've been buying meats here in town, when I see them with the big red clearance stickers on them, and that's gotten us through just fine - but I still like to open my freezer and see stacks of meat (and vegetables!) in it, just waiting to be used :).

Anyway - I spent $43.35 at Sav-a-Lot on the 17th which included some half'n'half, some cheese, almost 16# of meat and fish, and some frozen foods. It was a good shopping trip!

This brought my food grocery receipts for the month to $138.74.
Hubby just went to the store to pick up some more ground beef. He also got himself some peanuts and a loaf of "light" bread for his sandwiches at work. (I am presently out of ingredients to make his bread...need to put in a Netrition order, plus one from Honeyville Grain.) The total was $13.86, bringing this month's grocery receipts so far to $95.39.
So excited about the bargains we got tonight! At Merchandise Mart I got the best bargain EVER! Cans of yellow squash with onions for only 3¢/can!!! I stocked up! Also got some onion chutney (kind of carby but just a spoonful goes a long way in adding flavor to other dishes!) @ 59c/jar, some FiberOne PB&J bars for hubby's lunches @ $1.29/box of 6, some sourdough rye crispbreads (my 2 favorite flavors, and 4gN per slice - a cream cheese sandwich with these is lunch!) for a buck a box, and some pomegranite vinaigrette dressing for a buck a bottle (great marinade!). THEN they took off another 10% because Monday is senior day! The food total of my bill was just $16.89 - for FIVE bags of stuff!

So now my total on groceries for the month so far is $81.53.

We were given a big hunk (felt like over a pound!) of plain, unseasoned, ground pork at church today. I hadn't decided what to do for supper, and someone offered it to me. I was up for the challenge :).

I put the pork into a medium mixing bowl and added seasoning salt, quite a bit of chili powder, some cinnamon, some onion powder, and a generous amount of brown sugar sub; then I mixed it together well with my hands, thoroughly incorporating the seasonings. I was going to roast some broccoli anyway, so after dividing the meat into 4 BIG patties I put them into a baking pan on the middle shelf, with the broccoli (tossed with olive oil and sea salt) on the top shelf with the oven set at 375.

After about 20 minutes I gave the broccoli a toss and shredded some cheddar cheese on top of it, and also flipped the pork patties. Another 20 minutes and supper was finished.

EXCELLENT meat! Very tender and good! I brushed a little sweet spicy thai sauce on mine, it's carby at 9g per Tbsp but the flavor is strong enough that just a thin layer brushed on is plenty for me. And, of course, the broccoli was as delicious as always!

Just another cheap'n'easy meal idea for low carbers!
This was a GREAT supper! What you see here is creamed spinach, cheesy caulimash, half of a NY strip steak, and sauteed onion!

For the spinach, it's simply chopped frozen spinach, cooked, with butter, sea salt, and then onion chip dip mixed in. (I am using chip dip instead of sour cream a LOT lately - so much more flavor! And Kent Altena recently recorded a video about how make your own!)

The caulimash is kind of pink because I added ham which I chopped in the food processor and it turned it all pink. But who cares, it was SO GOOD! I also added butter and LOTS of shredded Monterey Jack cheese...I have some left over which I'm looking forward to digging into for a snack later! (As you can see I added a big hunk of butter on my plate, as well as to the spinach. Everything is better with butter!)

The onions I just put in the electric fryer, sliced, with some olive oil over medium low, covered them, and let them cook until soft, stirring occasionally. When they were soft and starting to brown I moved them to the side and cooked the steak in there; by then the onions were started to get really dark (like we like them!). I of course took the fatty half of the steak!

This was a dinner that wasn't as cheap as most but I wanted to make something special, and this was definitely it!

Last year I kept track of every penny I spent on groceries throughout the first 6 months of the year. This year I will do the same, although I probably won't go into as much detail about each receipt since that is time-consuming and I am busier this year than I was last year. But I will highlight special deals, and at least describe what I bought.

The first receipt of the year was on 1/2, and I bought (3) guarts of half'n'half from Walmart for $1.68 each, or $5.04 total.

At Sav-a-Lot also on the 2nd of the month I spent $23.38, of which about $11 was meat (bacon, pork steak, hamburger) that was on sale or marked down...3.88# in all.

One evening we had a half hour to kill, so hubby and I went to Merchandise Mart; I often find marinades or sauces, and snack foods to pack in his lunchbox for work for a good price there. We spent $4.03 there.

Today we went to Walmart for some miscellaneous things. The total bill was $32.19; highlights were (4) quarts of Half'n'Half, 250 packets of saccharin, popcorn, 2# of butter, a big bag of shredded cheese, and a couple boxes of Dreamfield's spaghetti with a can of Hunt's sauce.

So far this month I've spent $64.64 on food. We are fairly well stocked right now, but within the next week or 2 we will be making a trip to Saginaw, where there is an Aldi's. So I will definitely be buying more of anything I can get cheaper there, even if we don't need it yet. We don't get near an Aldi's very often.

SUCH a good meal! SO cheap! So easy!

I had some leftover roasted cauliflower. It was already seasoned with garlic and sea salt, and had been browned with parmesan on it, although after 2 days in the fridge it wasn't crispy of course. So here is what I did with it:

I browned some ground beef and half of a diced onion in a little bacon fat, then chopped the cauliflower up a little (so we wouldn't be getting a big bite of only cauliflower on our fork), and tossed it with the meat and onion, plus a cup of shredded cheddar cheese, a dash of worchestershire sauce and a dash of chili powder. After these were mixed well, I pressed them down into an 8x8 pyrex baking dish and topped with more cheddar and parmesan.

Then I spread about a pound (because we LOVE these!) of whole green beans on a baking sheet with 1" sides, and tossed them with olive oil, sea salt, and a sprinkle of onion powder.

Then both dishes went into a 375* oven, with the green beans on the very top rack and the casserole on the middle rack for about 25 minutes. I removed the casserole, tossed the beans around a bit, and turned the oven up to 475, letting the casserole set for about 7-8 minutes so it would hold together well when I cut into it.

By this time the beans were done. Here is an important note about these beans: You want them brown and crispy (although a few of them will stubbornly stay green and softer), but once they reach this stage THEY WILL BURN QUICKLY! So you really have to keep your eye on them.

My husband loved the casserole just as it was. I love my ketchup so much that I had to spoon some on top of mine!

I'm getting hungry just thinking about this great meal!

I started the day with some cheese melted in butter with bacon, so naturally I wasn't hungry for many hours. Later this afternoon I nibbled on some ham slathered with full fat mayo.

Tonight I didn't want a huge supper so this was it. Tuna salad (just canned tuna, mayo, and some chopped onion) on a slice of store-bought low carb bread (which I hardly EVER eat!), with some slices of swiss on top, put under the broiler. And some frozen cauliflower chunks, tossed with olive oil and sea salt, put on the top shelf of the oven @ 400; tossed when starting to brown with parmesan (from the can) and garlic powder, then left until golden brown with crispy bits.

A lot of food on my plate, too much for me actually, but have plenty of leftover cauliflower to reheat for snacking tomorrow.

Sometimes the simplest meals are the best!