All posts by BudgetEpicurean

Long-time student turned young adult with varied interests, mostly food and frugality. Pursuing wealth so I can help others pursue health.

We apologize for this interruption in our regularly scheduled programming…

 

There is some issue with GoDaddy and running out of file folders or something of the sort. Moral of the story is, I can no longer upload a single photo or update anything… BE will be down indefinitely until myself and the IT Department (aka the boy!) can solve this mystery and bring it to a hopefully joyous conclusion including continued posts. We thank you for your patience!

 

June Update : 
Called customer service and found out it’s an error with having too many folders, such that I have exceeded the limit (Which is 250,000 sooo… yeah). I cannot upload any photos or update anything because that requires a new folder to be created. They gave us a script to run to find whatever is creating so many folders, and then deleting can begin to free up space.

However, between my already-admitted biggest vice and having this forced break, I’ve been enjoying the time off from blogging. Not having to spend hours writing and researching is freeing, and I’ve also been doing a bit of a social media detox for mental health and time management reasons.

Blogging is mostly a labor of love, with little to no reward other than the community you build (which, don’t get me wrong is AWESOME). It is easy to get burnt out, and I don’t think I realized that’s where I was. So I decided to take the summer off, and to re-evaluate in the fall if this is something I am still doing because I love it and whether to continue or not.

I will be much quieter on the Twitters, though I have finally caved and joined Instagram. That food porn tho… so find me there, or I am always reachable via email. Thanks folks, that’s all for now!

<3 BE

Weekly Eating – 4/16/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

The weekend was as expected, Saturday was gorgeous and sunny, and we had a fun time grilling and sitting around the bonfire in the back yard. Sunday was wetter, with increasing chance of rain until it hit 100% by the evening. Nonetheless, we decided to get out and explore a little before the storm hit.

Umstead state park

I also meal prepped a little bit, by making a big batch of these Cauliflower Cashew Barley Bowls for lunches. I also made a batch of chocolate chip cookies with my friends’ super secret recipe! We sort of messed it up a little, but they were still really tasty. Some of the best cookie dough I’ve ever eaten haha

This week is also a grand experiment: The boy will be in charge of dinner all week! Yup, I’ve talked him into it (meaning, kept asking until he finally agreed) and every dinner will be made by him. I even offered to go grocery shopping for whatever he wanted, but he said we had enough ingredients in the freezer and pantry, so we didn’t spend any money on groceries this week. Of course that means I’ve agreed to do all dishes this week, so… I may or may not have won?

Mostly I just want to see what will happen. I have a method to my madness, and I want to see how dinner in the boy’s mind works. He might give me some new, great ideas.

Monday:

Breakfast – Leftover crepes

Lunch – Cauliflower Barley bowl & a salad

Dinner – Chicken breasts with salad and couscous

Snack – chocolate chip cookie

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Waffles with blueberries

Lunch – Cauliflower Barley bowl

Dinner – Pasta and meatballs, with green chilie sauce. The boy said he wanted a ‘different’ flavor, and we had cans of green chilies in the pantry, so that’s what happened. It was better than I expected.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – last of the crepes with strawberry jam

Lunch – Cauliflower Barley bowl

Dinner – Bacon wrapped pork chops! With rolls and a side salad

Tonight I also put together a couple freezer meals for a friend having a baby soon. They scheduled a c-section for Friday, so they know the due date in advance, which is nice. I figured 5 nights of meals they don’t have to think about would be a helpful gift.

Thursday:

Breakfast – Toast with PB & a pear

Lunch – Last of the cauliflower barley bowl, and some grilled veggies and beans leftover from the weekend grill out

Snack – Seriously STOP with the Reese eggs already! I Cannot help myself… Last one, I swear…

Dinner – Out to the Durham Co-op $3 Thursday dinner! A friend lives near there and I’ve been meaning to go. Every Thursday they host a $3 community dinner; tonight was pasta & meatballs with an option for vegan sausage.

I of course tried one of each. The meatball was delish, but the vegan sausage … I was a little let down tbh. It was like chewy salty bread. But the side salad was impressive, it was actual fancy lettuce, not just like a head of iceberg. So even though I carbo-loaded I felt like I got at least some veggies in too.

Friday:

Breakfast – Hashbrowns with bacon & eggs. We have bacon soooo rarely now, and when you haven’t had bacon in months, and then you have it… it’s salty crunchy bliss. I’m sorry.

Lunch – Chickpea salad sandwich & leftover vegan chili. Pro tip: use chickpeas you cook yourself from dried, or simmer the ones from the can a bit. I cheated and used canned for this one, and they were still very firm. It was extra hard to get them to mash.

chickpea salad sandwich and chili

Dinner – Pork roast with potato wedges and canned green beans. The boy had a ridiculously stressful day, so I took over for the last night’s dinner. He had already pulled the roast from the freezer to defrost, so I just seasoned it and put it in the oven. I adore canned green beans, but he hates them, so I legit ended up eating a whole can on my own. No regrets.

I also made a batch of pretzel bites. We were having a game night Sat and the next Food Swap is next week, so I wanted to try out a new recipe. They are SO GOOD I ate nearly the whole first batch immediately… oops. Still no regrets.

The Weekend

The weekend will be chilly but sunny, into the 60s. I may try to get a second planting of peas and beans into the ground. It is still a bit too cold to get nightshades planted, that will have to wait until mid-May.

Also we are hosting board game night on Saturday! I am suuuuuuper excited! I love hosting parties and games and making food for people so this is right up my alley. I’m hoping for a nice day too, so we can pull out corn hole and have a fire as well.

Food Total: $0!

Lessons Learned

Having the boy be in charge of dinner was a great way to use up some of the meat still in our freezers. Since trying to be mostly vegetarian this year, I’ve bought very little meat to replace what we use up, but there are still a few roasts, chicken quarters, meatballs, and various things in the freezer. It’s good to use those up. And as hard as it was, I did not go to the grocery store. And we survived! So I consider this week a great win, even if I did have far more meat than usual.

Uh, also, I really need to call our server for this site… I can no longer upload any photos. Ran out of folder space, or something? So that’s a huge problem…

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Spring Cleaning: Decluttering Clothing

 

As spring truly heats up down South (we are in a brief temp dip but soaring back to the 80s soon) and is still yearned for up North (I try really hard not to laugh at the snow in Ohio, really I do… but I moved for reasons… this is a big one!), many people begin to think about Spring Cleaning, and all that comes with it.

While I despise actual cleaning, unless the mood hits, I do love the ideas of purging, de-cluttering, and minimalism.

A clean house just feels nice. You don’t feel trapped or dirty, and it looks nice too. It can also be great for your finances.

Don’t believe me?

Ways Decluttering Can Be Financially Beneficial:
  1. You let go of the past, and accept the present – by tossing your ‘ideal skinny jeans’, or that glittery mini dress from your single days, you can let go of past expectations and focus on who and where you are now.
  2. Saves time – by narrowing down choices and better organizing them, you can more easily see what you have to work with. And by getting rid of things that don’t make you look and feel great, you know that basically any choice will work!
  3. Saves money – if you already have 4 plain white button down shirts both long and short sleeved, you don’t need to buy another. But that only works if you know you have them already!
  4. You make room for new – by purging your clutter, you create space, both literally and mentally.
  5. Could make you money – if you have nice enough items, that you have taken good care of, a little effort could turn into cash! Try taking things to a consignment store or reselling online.
  6. Bonus — not really for you, but by donating gently used items you may allow someone in a worse financial situation to buy these things at a markdown to be used again and give them a second life

I decided to tackle my personal things, focusing on clothing.

I do not honestly spend much on clothing for myself. I prefer Goodwill over department stores, and am blessed to have a mother and sister who willingly let me have first pick of their castoffs.

I have also hosted a few clothing swaps, and have benefited from several friends hand-me-downs over the years.

I would bet my 401K balance that I’ve spent less than $1000 on clothing for myself in the past 10 years. Probably less than $500.

But I still have so. much. clothing.

Mounds of free t-shirts from college days.

Hoodies and sweats also from those days.

Random items that have survived since high school.

Too tight sports bras ‘just in case’… all the other ones are dirty and it’s worth the discomfort to get a jog in right now?

A gifted sweater I ‘feel bad’ getting rid of.

Clothes I’ve outgrown physically or mentally but can’t let go of.

Bags or clothing with holes or stains but ‘still usable’.

I have so much clothing that I actually am using two closets!

The master bedroom has 2 small closets, of which hubs and I both get one. But mine overflows into the guest closet too.

I use that one as an ‘off-season’ wardrobe, with summer/short sleeved tops/dresses in one and sweaters/layers/sweater dresses in the other.

Oh, and we both have huge 8-drawer dressers.

And a coat closet downstairs too.

Do you see a problem here?

Honestly, I could probably get by with a wardrobe merely a fifth of its current size.

I need maybe 3-4 work pants, 10 or so tops, a few sweaters to layer. And then 2-3 pairs of jeans and casual pants, a couple shorts, ditto a few casual tops and layers.

Add in pajamas, bathing suit, socks and underwear. A few different weights of coat, for kind of brisk versus face hurting cold. And we are still talking maybe 100 pieces of clothing.

I ended up donating more than that number!

pile of clothing to be donated

Back when we first moved in, I had culled my wardrobe after one year. I did the trick where you hang everything with the hangars facing one direction. Then when you wear it and put it back, you flip the hangar. After one year has passed, anything that is still facing the original direction has not been worn and you can get rid of it.

The things that had not been worn in a year were put into a box, and that box was put into the attic, waiting for a trip to Goodwill.

That box contained:

  • 2 pairs of boots
  • 1 pair of tennis shoes
  • 2 pairs of flats
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 5 skirts
  • 3 sweaters
  • 5 dresses mostly too tight or short
  • 15 tops, mostly nicer work shirts
  • 7 old tshirts
  • 1 pair of pajamas no longer used
  • 1 sweater with a hole
  • 1 older jacket I no longer wear

This box had sat up in my attic for another 6 months, waiting for me to “get around to donating it”. One weekend I finally got fed up, and brought it down, along with a brand new empty box.

In this second round, I ended up with:

  • 3 skirts, mostly too short
  • 6 t-shirts, including “the bride” t-shirt from my wedding week
  • 1 pair jeans w ripped belt loop
  • 1 pair of jeans too tight
  • 1 beach bag w stains
  • 2 bags no longer in use
  • 1 winter rain jacket
  • 2 fleece zip ups
  • 1 sports bra too tight
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 4 short sleeve tops
  • 2 pairs sweatpants 
  • 3 pairs shorts
  • 11 pairs of scrubs
  • 2 hoodies 
  • 2 dresses that just don’t hang right
  • 3 string bikinis
  • 3 old bras
  • 1 belt
  • 3 scarves
  • 1 pair too small boots

This totals over 100 clothing items!

Things that I barely or never wear, had outgrown, or was stained or unable be used. Things that someone else may be able to give a second life to. Things I no longer wanted to store.

Oh, and I also finally got rid of at least a dozen pairs of socks and undies that had tears which were beyond the point of being able to mend them, or had been sitting by the dryer for over a year looking for their lost mate.

While I was on a roll, I also tackled the master and guest bathrooms.

pile of clutter from the bathrooms

Items that got the boot:

  • 1 old gross brush
  • 2 old hair sprays
  • 2 old lotions
  • broken curling iron
  • nearly empty nasal saline spray
  • tons of plastic medicine cups
  • hydrogen peroxide (I had 3?!)
  • 3 broken headbands
  • 1 broken hair clip
  • 2 bags our wedding rings came in
  • old unused makeup
  • dried out makeup wipes
  • couple hair ties
  • glasses & case – to donate
  • to sell: micro pedi kit, 2 fancy razor heads, brand new perfume

Many of these items just went straight into the trash.

The old glasses and case I hope to find a charity to donate to, because they are high quality lenses and someone somewhere can probably use them.

A few items could actually bring in some cash, so I’m going to try to list them on Craigslist or Ebay.

I also have several sets of scrubs from back when I worked in a clinic. They are solid color pants and various patterned tops. Most are like new, and all are very comfortable, I almost want to keep them around for lounge wear.

But I would prefer they go to a nurse or student or tech who can use them, and I’d love to give them away rather than donate to Goodwill to have the person have to pay for them.

Though some people don’t like hand-me-downs or may feel guilty about accepting them, as someone who adores giving things to people, I cannot think of something that would make me happier than to help someone who needs these things that I no longer do.

I listed these separately online, and hopefully will get some interest.

stacks of colored scrubs

Overall, my house now feels way less cluttered.

I can move things around in my closet, and not have to forcefully stuff things together to pull out one hangar.

I can see at a glance all the tops and skirts and blazers left. (I also color coordinate, but that’s a whole other topic…)

There is more room on the bathroom cabinet shelves, and I can see what’s all the way in the back.

Now, I do still have clothing in both the master and the guest room closet. Baby steps, people.

I definitely don’t think I will go so far as to count every single item I own with the hopes of getting under 100.

But a regular spring cleaning purge feels great!

 

 

 

Tell me! Are you a devoted minimalist? Do you purge regularly? Are you due for a spring cleaning?

Dollar Tree Meal Plan

 

It should come as no news to anyone that access to fresh produce and quality food is a good indicator of overall health. It is further not surprising that poverty and food insecurity are strongly linked.

If you do not have the financial means to pay for fresh food, it is likely your diet will consist of fast food, packaged and processed foods, and frozen meals.

If you live in a “food desert”, whether you can pay for produce or not doesn’t matter because there isn’t any for you to buy.

There is more and more evidence that this can become a vicious cycle as well. You or your family is at or below the poverty level, and the only places you can afford to live lack access to food and the money to pay for, and this contributes to poor nutrition and obesity, which in turn may stifle earning potential and opportunities further.

The issues of poverty, food insecurity, and the increasingly wide-spread and frightening rise of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other ‘lifestyle diseases’ has been on my mind more and more.

It seems we have lost our way, as a country, and things keep happening to make it seem worse and worse.

How do we fix this?

How do we keep ourselves, our family, and our children fed and healthy, without going over budget?

It is a long road, and not an issue I can tackle and solve myself. But I can try to do small things to help. Like creating as healthy of a meal plan as possible that would be relatable to the people who need it the most. So I went to my local Dollar Tree to scope out the options.

Most households in America, even if they are not near a grocery store, should be within walking or bus distance of a Dollar Tree or Dollar General or similar type store.

I figured this would be a good base to work with, and provide the best ‘bang-for-your-buck’ that most people on a very low income are looking for.

Let’s be real, even as a dual income family with more than enough room in the budget to not have to care what we spend on food, we still care a lot, and stick to a budget. We are all potentially just one disaster away from poverty.

Whether you are a single mom or dad trying to feed your growing family on a part-time income, a struggling college kid paying your way with a scholarship, part time job, and a ridiculous loan, a newly married couple just trying to figure out how money works, or a retiree on a fixed income, I hope that this information can be helpful.

 

Dollar Tree shelves frozen section

If the store has a frozen section, this can be a great place to start. Though there will be options to avoid (I’ll mention more about that next) you will be most likely to find the healthiest choices here with frozen fruits and vegetables.

Produce that is frozen is usually picked at the peak of ripeness, and then flash frozen for storage and transport. Though it isn’t right out of a field, it will still contain much of its original nutrition, and sometimes even be more nutritious than fresh, similar produce.

Frozen fruit makes a great snack, addition to smoothies, or are perfect to add in to oatmeal for a filling and healthy breakfast or anytime meal. When it comes to potatoes, just be careful about the ingredients and amount of added fat. French fries are still fries, even if you make them in your own oven.

Frozen vegetable blends are my personal favorite. They are great to heat quickly in the microwave as an easy side dish, you can mix onion and peppers into scrambled eggs, top baked potatoes with broccoli, add mixes to soup and stews and tacos, or toss into stir fry. Try to eat at least 5-7 servings of vegetables every day. A serving is about 1/2 cup frozen, or about 1/6 of a bag of frozen vegetables.

I noticed at my store that they had frozen fish filets as well. Salmon, tilapia, and flounder were on offer. I can get into all the details about how to choose sustainable fish, but at this level I think any fish is a luxury and you don’t care where it came from, as long as it’s cheap.

Fish does provide lots of lean protein, and is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. Fish is also an important protein in the Mediterranean diet, and a far better choice in general than red meats, or even lean meat like chicken or turkey. So if you are able, add one to two servings of fish per week to your diet.

dollar tree freezer

This is an example of some of the less desirable frozen food options, nutritionally speaking. Pancakes, biscuits, and waffles can be made healthy if you make it yourself from whole grain flours, but these pre-made and frozen options are likely full of preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients you don’t want.

Try instead this simple blender pancake recipe, this slightly healthier one with added banana and oats, or this one with only 3 required ingredients. Even the box of mix from the store with some milk or water would likely be healthier.

Pudding and granola bars may seem like a good ‘convenience’ item to pack in lunches and have on hand for breakfasts or snacking. But be wary of the sugar content. Some granola bars can have a sugar content equal to or greater than a candy bar!

You can easily make your own granola bars too using just oats, honey, peanut butter, and maybe some bananas or dried fruits or nuts. The best news is that oats are generally pretty cheap too, so per serving regular oatmeal for breakfast, granola bars, or plain baked granola are really affordable options.

There are a lot of packaged beverage options, especially juices. Kids in particular tend to adore juice, at breakfast, after school, with dinner, before bed… but you need to be careful of the sugar content.

Many juice types these days is only 5% actual fruit juice, if that! They are instead colored and flavored sugar water, with the vast majority of their calories coming from high fructose corn syrup.

The healthiest beverage, always, is water.

And the best part is, water is free from the tap! If you are trying to get your kids (or yourself) to drink less juice, for health or financial reasons, try diluting it with water slowly over time.

Pour one glass of juice, about 80% full, and top it off with water. Then work your way to half and half. Eventually you have a glass of water with just a splash of juice for flavor.

Another good source for fruits, if you don’t have access to fresh produce or it is not in season, is canned fruit.

I most often see canned pears and peaches, but I also saw pineapples and mandarin orange slices. These are all awesome snack or side options. It is best to choose “packed in water” or “packed in its own juices” over “canned in syrup” or heavy syrup.

It is worth glancing at the ingredients list as well, and the total sugar and calorie content.

Dollar Tree shelves canned vegetables

Canned vegetables are another good choice in lieu of fresh produce.

Cans last even longer and store better than frozen options, and better yet do not require a freezer or electricity. Canned vegetables tend to be overall pretty healthy, just check the sodium content.

Similarly with canned soups, check the salt levels. Some can contain nearly 100% of your daily recommended sodium in one serving.

Canned corn can be tossed into soups or burritos, or eaten with some butter and salt alone as a side dish. Canned green beans make a similarly easy and delicious side, can become casserole, or be tossed into minestrone or veggie soup.

Canned beets are surprisingly delightful on salads, or even eaten plain. And plain canned pumpkin is a great baking option, it can be mixed into waffles, pancake mix, cakes and pies and cookies.

Pasta, a definite frugal food favorite. At some grocery stores you can find it even cheaper, 0.95, 0.88, or even 0.50! But here, everything is a dollar. That doesn’t change the fact that when money is super tight, pasta becomes a life-saver. Maybe literally.

Pasta can be made healthier by pumping it up with extra vegetables.

It goes well with just about any frozen mix you can find, and most canned vegetables as well. Just dump the veggies right into your pot with the pasta during the last 3-4 minutes of boiling.

If you want to be sneaky healthy and have a blender, you can also blend canned or frozen veggies or beans into the sauce, and no one will even know!

And where would pasta be without its best friend, sauce!

Most people cannot fathom one without the other. The good news is that pasta sauce is relatively good for you, since tomatoes actually become more nutritious after cooking.

The bad news is, all the packaged sauces probably contain high fructose corn syrup as a cheap filler…

You’re better off just simmering a can of diced tomatoes as your sauce, and adding any spices you enjoy such as Italian seasoning, thyme, basil, garlic salt, etc.

Dried beans and rice are classic frugal favorites, and for good reason. Beans are a powerhouse of nutrition, containing lots of micronutrients, magnesium, iron, protein, and tons of great-for-your-gut fiber. One cup of dry beans plumps up to 2-3 cups once cooked, giving you even more value for your money.

The same can be said of rice, white or brown, which provides 200-250 calories per cup for roughly $0.10.

To cook beans from dry, you simply let them soak in water overnight or for 8 hours, then change the water and boil them for a few hours, until soft. Or cook them in a crock pot, if you have that luxury.

Now that you have cooked beans, layer as many different types of beans as you can find into a hearty chili, toss them into tacos and burritos and enchiladas, whirl them in a blender to make homemade hummus, or cook up some hearty red beans and rice.

Ah, rice. The food all frugal foodies sing praises to. And for good reason as well.

Rice is cheap per pound ($1/lb here, you can get it much cheaper in bulk but also sometimes you just can’t swing $15 for 25 pounds) but delivers tons of carbs (aka ENERGY) and a nice punch of nutrition in return. You can easily have a full week of meals for a dollar or two and a couple minutes of simmering.

To cook rice, simply mix rice and water in a one to two ratio (for example, 1/2 cup rice + 1 cup water) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover with a lid and simmer 20 minutes. That’s it!

It is also super easy to cook, as noted, and ridiculously versatile.

It can bulk up just about any meal to make it stretch: burritos, tacos, soups, stir fry, casseroles, curry… It is also the partner in crime to the other frugal foodie favorite, beans.

Try adding some to bulk up vegetable soups, add some simple spices and a can of tomatoes, corn, and/or beans for Spanish rice, or mix with frozen broccoli and some cheddar cheese for a delicious side dish or casserole.

Canned ravioli, Spaghetti-Os, and chili is not the best bet, they will have sky-high sodium, but if you are desperate for protein in an easy-to-open and store container, you could do worse.

I would highly recommend making actual pasta rather than go for the cans, especially for double the cost (1 box pasta + 1 can sauce vs 1 can of spaghettios). You get way more than double the food; more like 5 times as much!

As for soup stock, you can make your own for almost free! Just save vegetable scraps like potato and carrot skins, the ends of onions and celery stalks, pits of peppers and tomatoes, in a bag in the freezer. Once you have enough to fill a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for an hour or so, and strain the solids out.

That liquid is pure homemade vegetable stock! You can use it to make soups, to fry instead of oils, and to cook rice in for extra flavor.

Dollar Tree shelves canned tuna and meats

Canned fish is definitely a great low-cost protein option. When you are on a seriously-ridiculous-bare-bones budget, you cannot worry about needs as high up the chain as ethically sourced mercury-free fish. You just want cheap sources of proteins.

Canned tuna and salmon makes great sandwiches, tuna noodle casserole, or latkes. Flake it over a salad or into any pasta dish, even adding it to soups or casseroles. Canned clams can make a frugal knockoff clam chowder, clam linguini, or top a pizza with them.

Boxed mac n cheese has all kinds of additives, fake cheese-like product, preservatives, and colorants.

You are better off cooking a box of actual pasta, and adding in a block of actual cheese to make your mac n cheese. But if even $3 is out of your price range (1 box pasta + 1 block cheese + 1 bottle milk) then the boxed kind will keep your belly full for a while.

Boxed pasta salad mixes are also not really worth the “extras”, which includes anti-caking agents, dehydrated flakes, “flavoring”, etc.

Just make a box of pasta, and add a bag of frozen peppers & onion mix. If you have one more dollar, get Italian dressing and mix it in too. It will taste better and be better for you, with actual vegetable pieces.

As mentioned above, if you have enough wiggle room in the budget to add dressing, Italian is my favorite. It is very versatile, bringing flavor to pasta salads, actual lettuce salads, or roasted chicken.

The Dollar Tree does not have any fresh produce, so we won’t have any real salad to go with it… but it does perk up pasta salads well, and is great over steamed frozen veggies.

For your baking needs, they do have smaller packages of salt, sugar, flour, and even shredded coconut. If I was on a super-tight budget, shredded coconut would not top my list. But if you have room and enjoy its taste, it is a great addition to oatmeal, soups, and baking.

Flour and water together can lead to your own super-frugal tortillas for your bean and rice burritos.

You can whip up you own naan for scooping curry and chili.

And if you can get ahold of any yeast, or a fermented sourdough starter, you can be well on your way to homemade bread, biscuits, pizza dough, and rolls as well.

For $1, this is a decent size jar of jelly. It makes me cringe just a little to see the high fructose corn syrup and how much sugar per serving is in there, jam made with actual fruit would be so much better.

But, again, this is about survival.

Food that will fill bellies and keep kids happy (or yourself) while keeping the lights on and gas in the car.

So when a PB&J is the compromise, you need the J part. It can also make a great topping for biscuits, toast, or pancakes.

Dollar Tree shelves - peanut butter

And of course the PB part of a PBJ. I was a little disappointed to see how small these jars were… 10 oz compared to jelly’s 19 oz. Can you tell we subsidize corn syrup in this country and not peanuts?

Oh, and if you have peanut allergies, well, tough luck. There is nothing fancy like almond butter or sunbutter options here.

I was pleasantly surprised at the wide variety of bread options!

Obviously, making your own without sugar or preservatives is healthier. But who has time for that nonsense between jobs and childcare?

At least you can choose whole wheat bread and rolls, and they even had a really nice looking multigrain option. For $1, this is actually much cheaper than a regular grocery store.

If you’re on a very limited budget, I highly recommend you switch to water as your main, or only beverage.

Actually I recommend that in general.

Water is the healthiest liquid you could drink, and has the added benefit of being free and clean from your very own tap. 24/7.

However, sometimes a warm or sweet beverage can be a needed pick me up, and I get that.

I noticed they had pre-cooked pizza crusts, and pizza sauce and small pepperonis. Any processed meat like sausage, pepperoni, etc. is not the best. But if you are going to have pizza anyways, making your own is FAR healthier and cheaper than going out. Even a $5 hot-and-ready is $5 compared to $3 to make your own.

In the refrigerated section, you will find 8-count eggs and yogurt. If you and your family does eat dairy, a 4-pack of yogurt for $1 is a pretty good deal, and will provide calories and some protein. Eggs are a good cheap source of protein. Though sometimes you can find better deals at ‘regular stores’, we are assuming there isn’t one.

 

The Meal Plan

I designed this plan to serve 2 people with average adult appetites for 3 meals for 7 days.

This may not apply to you, and you may need to change the amounts a little if you have little kids, or hungry teens, or a large family, or more or less meals per week to provide.

Scale up or down accordingly.

It is also designed with the least amount of cooking required as possible, which is not the best financial move.

But I understand that when times are tough and time is tight, making things from scratch is not the priority.

Grocery List:
  • 1 pack of 8 eggs
  • 1lb margerine sticks or a bottle of oil
  • 1 box mac n cheese (or 1 box pasta, 1 small jug of milk, and 1 block of cheddar cheese)
  • 1 box pancake mix
  • 1 bag frozen fruit: tropical blend, strawberries, mango
  • 4 bags frozen vegetables: stir fry blend, spinach, broccoli, California blend in 10, 12, or 14 oz
  • 3 cans sliced pineapple, mangoes, oranges, peaches, or pears
  • 3 – 1 lb pasta boxes, any shape you like
  • 1 34 oz pasta sauce can
  • 1 bag of 2 lbs white rice, or 1lb brown rice
  • At least 1 bag: 1.5 lbs pinto beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas
  • 1 16oz can or bottle tomato juice
  • Bottle of chili powder
  • 10 oz peanut butter
  • 19 oz jelly
  • 2 loaves of bread
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1 can cream of mushroom
  • 1 pizza base
  • Optional beverages: tea, coffee, hot cocoa, hot cider
  • Optional snacks: granola bars, 25.4 oz jar applesauce, yogurts
  • Optional seasonings: Italian blend, garlic salt, soy sauce

Grocery total: $27 (+ depending on your optional choices)

Day One

B – 2 eggs scrambled per person, plus toast

L – PB&J sandwiches

D – Make a big pot of chili

Day Two

B – Toast with PB and/or jelly, 1/2 can fruit

L – leftover chili

D – Mac n cheese using the box, or 1 box pasta + cheese

Day Three

B – Fruit pancakes (make a big batch, and refrigerate enough for the next 2 days)

L – Chili mac! Top leftover macaroni with leftover chili. Very filling.

D – Red beans & rice

Day Four

B – Leftover pancakes – you can pop them in the toaster to reheat!

L –  Leftover red beans & rice

D – Pasta with veggies (save about 1/2 cup sauce for pizza)

Day Five

B – Leftover pancakes

L – Leftover pasta with veggies

D – Pizza night! To make it extra healthy, microwave a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and drain. Top pizza with sauce and veggies, then bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Day Six

B – 1/2 can of fruit plus toast (with PB) per person

L –  PB&J

D – Veggie stir fry

Day Seven

B – 1/2 can of fruit plus toast (with PB) per person

L – Leftover stir fry or anything else left in the fridge

D – Tuna noodle casserole

 

How Do I Make That:

Vegetarian chili: 2-3 cans different beans (or ~4 cups from dried), 1 can diced tomatoes or bottle tomato juice, chili powder = $4. Put all ingredients in a slow cooker on low 6-8 hours, or simmer on stove top for about 1 hour up to 4 hours, stirring often to prevent burning.

Macaroni and cheese: 1 box pasta, 1 block cheese, 1 small jar milk = $3. Boil pasta noodles and drain. Return noodles to the pan, add the cheese (cutting into smaller pieces or shredding will help it melt faster) and 1/2 cup milk. Stir on medium heat until cheese melts. You can also add a bag of frozen mixed veggies for extra nutrition.

Fruit pancakes: 1 bag or can fruit + 1 box pancake mix = $2
Either drain a can of fruit & chop into small pieces, or microwave 1 cup of frozen fruit and drain. Add to the pancake batter in place of some liquid. For example, if you need 1 cup of water, add 1 cup fruit and about 1/3 cup water instead. Adjust liquid to your desired batter thickness. Cook on hot pan or griddle until brown, flip and cook the other side.

Red beans & rice: Cook 2 cups rice, cook 2 cups beans (or 1 can pinto /kidney), optional 1 cup frozen pepper & onion mix = $3. The key to this one is to simmer on low for a long time. It makes the beans break down a bit and thicken, add some chili powder for extra kick.

Pasta with sauce & veggies: 1 box pasta, 1 bag frozen mixed veggies, 1 can pasta sauce = $3. Boil pasta according to directions, add frozen veggies at the last 3-5 minutes to thaw. Drain, add sauce.

Pizza: thin crust, bag pepperoni, (optional) mozzarella cheese sticks or shredded cheese, can of sauce = $4. Top crust with sauce, toppings, and cheese if using. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Stir fry: rice, frozen mixed veggies, 2 eggs = $3. Cook 2 cups of rice and set aside. Microwave or boil veggies to thaw and cook. Scramble 2 eggs, and mix into the rice. Top with veggies. Soy sauce optional.

Peanut butter & jelly: 2 slices bread, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 2 tbsp jelly = $4 (not quite, because you only use 2 slices bread not the whole loaf)

Tuna noodle casserole: 1 can tuna (drained), 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1/2 box pasta: $3. Mix together and either bake at 350 for 20 minutes or just stir together while pasta is still hot. For extra nutrition, add a thawed bag of frozen mixed vegetables.

 

And there you have it, 3 meals per day for 7 days for 2 people, or 42 meals for just $27 or just 64 cents per serving.

You can also at any point make a big pot of vegetable soup with a bag or two of frozen mixed veggies and stock or water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes to a few hours, adding whatever spices you like. This can be easily just a few cents per serving, and you can add rice and/or beans or serve with bread/rolls to bulk it up further.

Yes, it is quite carb heavy and not the healthiest ever. But you have to do what you have to do sometimes. And sneaking in some canned fruits and frozen veggies is better than pop-tarts, or nothing!

 

Please share with the class! What are your classic frugal meal ideas? Have you ever experienced hard times? Is this at all realistic and useful?

Weekly Eating – 4/9/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

 

Monday:

Breakfast – The very last sweet potato biscuit with honey, and the very last crepe with strawberry jam. This was my favorite, why wasn’t I doing jam all along?! Next batch I will know better.

strawberry crepe and sweet potato biscuit with honey

Lunch – Last of the Chana Saag and basmati rice. So healthy, so cheap, so easy, so filling. What’s not to love.

Snack – So remember the whole Starbucks points and stars thing? I had earned enough for a free food or drink item. I save these up until I really need an extra coffee or forgot lunch/breakfast, and today was a 2-coffee day (my FitBit can prove how crap my sleep was!). I saw the Hazelnut coconutmilk mocha last week and wanted it badly. But it’s a “specialty” drink and thus more expensive, so I figured this free rewards was the best way to go.

Well… turns out you cannot redeem rewards at the one near me 🙁 Which I found out, once I got up to the counter, with a huge line behind me… a more iron-willed frugalista would have said thanks and walked away. But I wanted the sugar and caffeine real bad… so I gave in and got one anyways, just the smallest size they have (a Short, btw, in case you want fewer calories! Same # espresso shots, less sugar). At least I still had money on the gift card so I didn’t pay for it per se, and now I know what it tastes like and won’t actually use my free reward on it.

Later in the afternoon I had another CLIF cherry-apple-chia bar. I am even more sad I didn’t buy more because the boy loves them too, and ate half the box! I’m NOT complaining, more fruit in the daily diet is always a good thing. Maybe I need to figure out how to make them.

Dinner – I had two health coaching clients with a time gap between which was too short to make sense to try to go home, so I got to go to my fave Indian restaurant! I got the Aloo something or other, with bell pepper and onion and cauliflower.

Indian aloo gobi cauliflower curry

IT WAS AWESOME and the garlic Naan was manna from heaven. I had to force myself to save half and not inhale it all immediately. Gave me a serious need for more cauliflower in my life.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Chickpea salad sandwich! I had a batch already made and who says lunch things can’t be breakfast things? Crazy people.

Lunch – Leftover cauliflower and rice and naan. Just as good the second time, if not better.

Snack – Handful of dried prunes. No I’m not an old person I just honestly love their taste and chewiness, what of it?

Dinner – Quinoa with stir fried veggies

Snack #2 – I put out a call for cauliflower suggestions, and Sarah from SmileandConquor reminded me that Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” are a thing! Boy am I glad she did.

roasted buffalo cauliflower 'wings'

I whipped up a batch immediately, and the boy and I proceeded to demolish a half a head of cauliflower in under 5 minutes.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Blueberry great grains and soymilk. I was a little leery of dried blueberries, because the ones I’ve had previously were really tough, but they worked in this cereal.

Lunch – 5 Bean Vegan Chili. I made a small batch yesterday and just wasn’t feeling it for dinner, so I packed up the leftovers into single serve containers for lunch for myself and the boy today.

Dinner –Falafel burgers. I had a few cups of chickpeas to use up, and a ton of breadcrumbs. I save the heels and pieces of bread we don’t eat in the freezer until I’ve got a big batch, then roast ’em into breadcrumbs. Saves food waste and means I don’t have to buy them at the store! So I added some spices and called it burgers.

falafel burger

Snack – I wanted to try out a copycat Larabar recipe, but of course ended up using whatever I had. I blitzed an apple and a half cup of dried craisins in the food processor, and then added cinnamon, salt, almonds, and some dates. Pressed into a thin bar, they were chewy and sweet and a perfect snack. I cut it into 10 bars and refrigerated the 8 I didn’t eat immediately.

Thursday:

Breakfast – Coffee & an apple date bar

Lunch – Salad with quinoa, edamame, frozen peppers and onions, and sprouts with some lemon tahini dressing.

Snack – Whoever brought Reese eggs, I hate you and I love you

Dinner – Peanut noodle stir fry with broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms

Friday:

Breakfast – PB&J toast

Lunch – Leftover miso soup from the weekend

Snack – 1 lonely leftover swiss roll, and a fruit bar

Dinner – Ravioli & a salad

The Weekend

This weekend is supposed to be sunny and warm and amazing and I am really excited about it! We are spending Saturday doing some spring cleaning and yard work, and having a little cookout. I need to find our metal kebab skewers for the zucchini and peppers and onions and mushrooms.

Then on Sunday I have a Health Coaching client follow up to start my day, and if I can convince the boy I want to take a long hike. Or, we might finish anything that we didn’t get to Saturday. Or, I could plant another set of beans and peas, or weed the front garden and plant my basil sprouts and marigolds. Maybe we will be lazy and play video games all day. Who knows!

Food Total: $70.80

Not bad for 2 different store stops. This does include the Kroger meat and cheese sales ($1.99/lb ground turkey and $0.99/lb cheese of which we got 4 each) for the boy’s burritos, along with some tofu, plain Greek yogurt that we use instead of sour cream, and oodles of veggies.

Spring mix 5oz 0.99
Brocc/cauli steam mix 12oz 1.69
Clover sprouts 0.79
Green bean, onion, mushroom mix 1.99
zucchini / squash mix 1.99
Cauliflower heads 2 for $2 4
Pitted dates 40 oz 8.99
Anjou pears 2 1.25
Bananas 3 0.86
Shelled org edamame 2 14oz 4
Spinach big box 5.99
bananas 8 1.53
avocado Haas 3 2.07

We also spent about $20 on allergy meds: Benadryl, DayQuil, eye drops. Spring allergies are no joke in the south. Cars literally turn yellow with a coat of pollen, and we stay that way for months. Oh well, I’ll take a yellow car over a white one any day!

Lessons Learned

Harris Teeter does produce markdowns on Tuesdays! Haha sort of kidding… but seriously you should consider checking out your local stores on different days of the week and at different times if you are able. You never know when things you use often will be on clearance. The caveat with produce is you have to be sure you will use it soon, or else need to freeze or otherwise preserve it.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Simple Chickpea Salad

 

Do you struggle with what to bring for lunch to work, or to eat at home, or to send with the kiddos?

Trying to incorporate more healthy food into your diet, like plant based recipes and legumes?

Need a new flavor combo after years of tuna salad sandwiches and chicken salad sandwiches?

Tired of spending $6 or more on lunch every day?

Have I got the solution for you!

Meet the magical, miracle, chickpea salad.

I cannot believe I went 3 decades without knowing what chickpea salad is, or ever eating it! This stuff is so delicious! It is:

  • salty
  • crunchy
  • creamy but with a bit of texture
  • filling – no more 3pm tummy grumbles
  • super simple to make
  • cheap af
  • ridiculously healthy for you
  • everything I’m looking for in a brown bag lunch

The cheapest option is to buy dried chickpeas and cook them yourself. Just put 1/2 pound in a bowl and cover with water. (LOTS of water, these babies plump up like nobody’s business).

After 6-8-12 hours, drain and either simmer on the stove for 4 hours or so, or put in a crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.

That’s it! Then you can store them in the fridge or freezer for whatever and whenever.

You can also totally use cans, no judgment here. Not everyone has time for that, or remembers to soak the night before, or has space on the counter or a crock pot in your house. Just drain and rinse.

However you do it, just get yourself about a cup of chickpeas, and get ready to make some magic happen.

chickpea salad sandwich ingredients

This simple base recipe makes enough for 2 good sized sandwiches or wraps, but I recommend double or tripling! And below I’ll add some ideas on how to further customize it to whatever flavor combo you’re feeling.

Ingredients:

  • 1 heaping cup cooked chickpeas, or 1/2 can drained
  • 1 small-medium pickle, chopped (or 1 tbsp relish)
  • 1/4 red onion, diced small
  • 1 tbsp mustard of your choice
  • Optional: 1 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • Optional: Green onion or celery, diced

Step 1: Soak your beans ~8 hours and cook until soft, or open and drain the can. Put about 1 heaping cup in a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher. You want it mostly crushed but with some small pieces left for texture.

chickpea salad mixing

Step 2: Add your other fillings, and mix well.

Layer on bread, in a wrap, or on top of a mixed greens salad. Put inside or on top of biscuit mix and make puffs. I haven’t tried it yet with pasta to see if it can sub as tuna noodle salad, but if you have please report back!

 

If you want it extra salty:

  • Add 1 tbsp capers
  • Layer on seaweed (nori) sheets between the salad and the bread
  • Sprinkle with sea salt or garlic salt
  • Add a tbsp powdered kelp

If you want it extra crunchy:

  • Add a few tbsp chopped cucumber
  • Add a few tbsp sliced radish
  • Add a few tbsp diced celery ribs
  • Sprinkle in some slivered almonds or walnuts

If you want it to be creamier:

  • Add 1-2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • Add 1-2 tbsp thick coconut milk cream (the top part when you open a can of cold coconut milk)
  • Add 1-2 tbsp cashew cream

If you want it a little bit spicy:

  • Add chopped jalapeno or green chilies
  • Drizzle on a tsp or 2 of hot sauce
  • Sprinkle a little cayenne on top
  • Add a tbsp horseradish or wasabi

Why Blogging Will Probably Never Make Me Any Money

 

There are basically two reasons people get into blogging: to have an online ‘journal’ of sorts, a record for themselves or a future generation, and/or to make money. It is quite true you can make money blogging, possibly a lot of money. But like most areas of life, the super successful people are the minority.

I love blogging, clearly, as I’ve been doing it for coming up on 7 years.

However, blogging can also be tough, and time consuming, and even the best of us get burnt out sometimes. That’s why I’m even more impressed by those who have the grit, talent, and determination to make a real income from blogging, perhaps even enough to retire and live off of.

Sadly, I have come to terms with the fact that that is simply not me.

I will not publish blogging income reports, because I don’t have any.

And I’m okay with that. Want to know why?

I’m bad at niches

As any long-time reader can tell you, I write about a LOT of different things. I’ve written posts about why asparagus makes your pee smell, all about breastfeeding, delayed onset muscle sorenesshow to make a $10 holiday wreath, affordable destination wedding planning, and so much more.

But the internet tells new bloggers “the riches are in the niches”

This essentially means that the best way to make a profitable blog or webpage is to find an underutilized niche and target it relentlessly.

That way you know the people reading are interested enough to probably buy from you (or your sponsors/affiliates).

But I don’t do focus.

I don’t do boxes.

I cannot fully call myself a “food blogger”, nor can I really call myself a “FIRE blogger”.

I’m not a “food blogger” because I don’t have a fancy camera with zoom and ‘soft focus lenses’, hundreds of dollars worth of pretty props, I don’t use Instagram, and I suck at Pinterest so far.

I just like food. And writing about it.

variety of vegetables

I’m not a “FIRE blogger” because I write about a lot more than just how to make or how to save money, I don’t have a budget, or an FI number, or obsessively track and/or share my net worth.

I just like money. And writing about it.

And I’m okay with that.

Because this blog is definitely for all you guys, I want to share my lessons, meal plans, money saving tips, and life story. And I want to hear your comments, ideas, and stories too! We have some great discussion points in the comments and offline.

But, this blog is also for me. It is fun. It is a creative outlet. It is a recipe book and record of my life for posterity.

And it’s mine.

So I’mma write about whatever I want to, and you can’t stop me!

I hate advertisements

Most sites that make money, are not making money on the content itself. The top sources of income are paid courses / items (like cookbooks), and advertisements / affiliate programs.

I personally get very annoyed at a site cluttered with ads.

To be honest, several old favorites of mine I have completely stopped going to, because they sold out and put up tons of ads.

If I can’t read an article on my phone because there are so many ads loading it slows it waaaaay down, we are done.

If I get more than one popup per page, we are done.

If I try to click the little X to close the ad and it somehow takes me to a video of a new car Honda is trying to sell me, we are done.

So, if it annoys me so much, why would I do that to my own readers?

laptop reflection on white desk

I have only a few loyal readers, and I want to keep you guys happy! So to me, a couple bucks a month is not worth it.

Bye bye, blog income!

I refuse to plug goods/services I don’t use

Sponsored posts or affiliate programs is another way to make money blogging. Basically a company pays the writer some amount of money to write about how awesome their product or service is.

I have done a few of these, for example the Keurig cold brew, or Walmart Grocery To Go.

I do honest reviews all the time, and these are usually not paid.

But I will not make big money, because I will only do honest reviews of things, places, or products I actually have and use and like (for example the Tea Spot Steep & Go. Love that thing).

I tried to do Amazon Affiliates.

Apparently averaging 700 daily page views isn’t enough to get clicks and purchases, because I think I made a total of $4 before they kicked me out.

Yup, if you don’t make them enough money and/or have enough clicks per year, they can terminate your agreement and kick you out.

Oh well.

I’ve been approached by a few places to be a “brand ambassador”.

But I have some pretty strong opinions when it comes to food, and I’m not just going to write about how awesome your sausage or cheese or fancy sauces are. Not even for hundreds of dollars.

Our ‘food system’ is misleading enough, I don’t want to influence people to eat and drink things I honestly think are terrible for you.

I think the more whole foods and fewer labels in your life, the better your health will be.

And companies won’t pay me to say that.

 

 

What do you think, is it worth the trouble and potential dishonesty to make money as a blogger? Do you make money blogging in a better way that any of these?

Weekly Eating – 4/2/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Easter weekend was filled with relaxing and outdoor adventures! Friday was a day off, which was awesome, and I got to take a 5 mile hike, resulting in a new high score for daily steps this year. Then on Saturday we were all about gardening. I got broccoli, spinach, and romaine sprouts in the ground, as well as some beans and peas.

We also are trying berries this year, with 4 blueberry and 4 blackberry bushes. The back yard is super shady (thanks to a million trees) but we are planning on taking several down this summer, and hopefully there will be enough light that the bushes can at least survive and establish themselves. It would be amazing to have pounds of free organic berries every year!

And on Easter Sunday, I decided we should at least do a little something to celebrate. We have no kids and no family nearby, so your typical church or egg hunt or Easter baskets or brunch were not happening. Instead, I made some French toast, and cut a piece in half to make bunny ears! Then I used colored white chocolate and sprinkles to make a cute face. It was tasty, and we hadn’t had French toast in a long time so we both enjoyed it.

bunny rabbit french toast

Oh, and back to Lowes we headed, because the boy wanted to complete a project we had talked about several times: building a stone fire pit! We had a small plain metal fire pit that sister in law gave us for our housewarming gift, but we wanted to spruce it up and make it look more permanent. So we got a big pile of stones (thank goodness they were on sale, why are literal rocks so expensive?!) and he built up a lovely fire pit ring.

And while the boy was playing with rocks and building that, I was playing with tortillas and building some enchiladas. I consider that a fair trade. For Sunday dinner we had turkey or black bean enchiladas with Spanish rice and  watermelon mojitos I’d found in the freezer from last summer. Then we hung out outside during sunset & into the night to enjoy it. I’m looking forward to many bonfire nights.

Monday:

Breakfast – Coffee with protein powder, & an energy bar

Lunch – Frozen lamb stew, & a salad. Over the weekend I also did a quick freezer inventory, which happens a few times a year. This way we find ‘lost’ food and hopefully waste less. I pulled out a few things to thaw and eat up this week.

Snack – I had a meeting after work, and was planning to go to dinner afterwards. But I was also pretty hungry by 5:30pm, so I stopped real quick at a Walmart, and they had a snack box on sale 1/2 price. So I grabbed it, and enjoyed the apples and grapes and cheese. I ate about half, and gave the rest to the boy at home later.

Dinner – Chicken fajitas! It’s always so fun when they bring out that sizzling plate, and I feel like an artist crafting my tacos. I also always end up with leftovers, which is like a 2-for-1 meal deal.

chicken fajitas

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Blender crepes with Lemon yogurt filling! I followed the recipe almost exactly (I know, gasp) but also added in a spoonful of cottage cheese to the filling, because I honestly forgot I had it and needed to use it up. I also microwaved a cup of blueberries to put on top. SO GOOD.

blender crepes with lemon filling and blueberry topping

Lunch – Leftover black bean enchilada and Spanish rice

Snack – If you are my friend on Twitter you know I succumbed to the sugar demon… someone at work is having a baby, so there were tiny cute cupcakes in the office! I ended up having 2, 2 days in a row…

Dinner – Lemon garlic asparagus pasta, a recipe Kroger sent me in the mail with my ‘super shopper’ coupons. For the boy I cooked some chicken quarters too.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Skinny vanilla latte and pumpkin bread. I have a Starbucks gold card (I don’t know how that happened either, but it has my name on it so it’s not a mistake…) and today was super double star day! That means I get 4 stars per $1 I spend. Starbucks is a rare treat for me, and I hoard giftcards just for these days.

Lunch – Chickpea salad sandwich with some carrots. Y’all. This has seriously changed my life. I added a sheet of nori seaweed in the morning when I made the sandwich, so the bread wasn’t soggy and the seaweed was soft by lunch time. This is mindblowing, it is seriously better than tuna salad. I’m in love.

chickpea salad sandwich

Snack – a cherry yogurt

Dinner – Chana Saag and brown basmati rice

I’m so excited its spring, because Farmers market Wednesday is back! I didn’t know and as I walked by the tables I was drooling over all the gorgeous in season greens. I dug through my pockets and came up with 3 dollar bills, and don’tcha know, that was the price for a big bundle of collard greens!! My lucky day.

Thursday:

Breakfast – More crepes with lemon yogurt and blueberries

Lunch – Chickpea salad sandwich with carrots and clementine. I ate the CLIF cherry-chia-apple bar as a snack around 4pm. It was really tasty, and I’m so sad I didn’t buy every single clearance box.

Dinner – I needed to do something creative with the gorgeous leafy Swiss chard I bought yesterday, so I made some spring rolls!

Swiss chard spring rolls

I used this recipe (mostly because I have a childish sense of humor and liked the site name) and even remembered to cut the veins out, but totally forgot to steam them… oops! The leaves were tender enough though, and they were really good. And actually really filling.

Swiss chard spring rolls with peanut sauce

Even the boy said they didn’t suck. He said the peanut butter sauce made him nervous, but it was surprisingly good.

Friday:

Breakfast – Crepes filled with peanut butter and banana and drizzled with honey

Lunch – Leftover Chana Saag

Dinner – I finished off the Swiss rolls. And then went out for some drinks with friends, which was so fun! But, also, led to Taco Bell on the way home… What can I say, sometimes a rice and bean burrito and cinnamon twists just has to happen.

 

The Weekend

There’s a slight chance I’ll hit the stores again Saturday, because Kroger is running some really good sales. But I told myself I’m not allowed to go unless I take the boy with me, so he can keep me from browsing and over spending!

I’m actually really happy it’s raining this weekend, it should help the berry bushes and garden plants we planted last weekend get more established (and let’s be real, I can be lazy and not water!). But it does put a damper on my hopes of hiking a lot… probably will be a very chill weekend.

I definitely need to do some laundry, I think it has been almost a month! I re-wear heavier things that don’t get dirty, like blazers and jeans, and the only things that automatically go into the wash pile are undies, socks, and workout clothes when I actually sweat in them… so… since I’m nearly out of all of them I guess it’s time!

 

Food Total: $26.93 + $3 cash

Woo hoo for low grocery totals!

I meal planned a bunch of things that were already in the pantry, and cleaned/inventoried the freezer. So the majority of our meals this week were ‘free’, or pre-paid basically. Then I made a quick stop to a WalMart while in the area, because we were nearly out of yogurt and that makes the boy sad.

Dairy $6.48 Staples $4.46 Fruit/Veg $7.17 Extras $8.82
4-pk Greek yogurts 2 4.48 Ravioli frz 3lb 2.58 Bananas 8 (0.52/lb) 1.42 Bistro snack box 1.9
4pk reg yogurts 2 2 Cucumber 0.54 Softsoap refil 64oz 3.84
A H DEO 1.88 Sweet potato 3 (.88/lb) 2.21 Mascara 2
CLIF fruit bars 4 3 Tax 1.08

And this total includes mascara and soap, which aren’t even food! So really it’s more like $20 total, plus $3 cash for Swiss chard.

Lessons Learned

I definitely need to keep up with eating from the freezer and pantry. I come from a family that is borderline Hoarders, never wanting to throw things out and always maximizing sales. I definitely think if you have the initial cash that stocking up will save money over time… but only if you then use the items!

At this point my pantry is full to bursting and it’s getting ridiculous. I need to work pantry items into the meal plan each week, not only to use things up before they expire but also to keep our future grocery totals low. So the focus will be on using up staples with interspersed seasonal produce, until my pantry is as sleek and gorgeous as Dr. McFrugals! #goals

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Sweet Potato & Kale Breakfast Hash

Sometimes all you have time for in the morning is a bowl of cold cereal before you rush out the door. But sometimes, you want something warm, hearty, and filling. And also healthy. And also pretty quick to make… Seems like a tall order right?

Well, this is one of my best kept not-secrets! It is hands down one of my favorite hot breakfasts, and I talk about it all the time when people ask for super healthy, but also cheap, and also fast, recipes.

With a power duo of sweet potatoes and kale, you have a whole slew of vitamins and nutrients and fiber running around your body, and it’s not even 9am yet!

Or, you could easily make this a breakfast-for dinner situation, or serve it over brown rice for an even more filling anytime meal. Sweet potatoes are scandalously cheap for how nutritious they are, and you can use whatever green is on sale, kale, collards, swiss chard, spinach all work great here.

sweet potato and kale breakfast egg bowl

It is simple and perfect just the way it is, with only 3 ingredients. However, you could also top it any way you choose. I’ve enjoyed hot sauce, salsa, avocados, or adding black beans or chickpeas (in addition to or in place of the egg).

The best part? You can turn it to simmer, put on a lid, and walk away for 15-20 minutes. That gives you time to shower, dress, do some yoga, or find the kids’ shoes, and still have a hot and fresh breakfast ready when you are.

Protip: you can also make one big batch of this at the beginning of the week or on the weekend. Just roast a big pan of sweet potato, or heck any type of squash too, and steam some greens and keep it in the refrigerator. The all you do is heat it up and toss on an egg and you’re ready to take on the world.

Ingredients:

  • 1 sm-med sweet potato
  • 4-6 stems kale, stems removed
  • 1 egg (cage free/pastured if you can)
  • Optional: lemon juice, garlic salt, hot sauce

sweet potato and kale breakfast hash

Step 1: Dice your sweet potato, the smaller the faster it cooks. I usually don’t peel mine, I want all those lovely vitamins. Spray a pan with cooking oil, brush with olive oil, or add a tbsp broth or water. Add the sweet potato, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until soft when poked with a fork.

sweet potato and kale breakfast hash with egg

Step 2: Rinse the kale, and remove the stems. Tear into bite sized pieces. Once the sweet potato is soft, add the kale and cover again for another 5-7 minutes. The kale should wilt and become soft. If you like, add a squirt of lemon or lime juice and some garlic salt here.

sweet potato and kale breakfast hash with egg

Step 3: Remove the sweet potato and kale to a plate, and crack in an egg. Or, you can just cook it right into the greens! Once the egg is cooked to your liking, top your plate, and dig in. I usually leave it just a touch runny, to swirl the potatoes around in the yolk. You could also add in some toast for dipping.

 

Best Ever Sweet Potato Biscuits (And They’re Vegan!)

 

Sweet potatoes are a beloved vegetable here in the South, where they star in everything from sweet potato pie to sweet potato fries. They are in the same family as morning glories, and grow best in warm climates. They are only distantly related to the white baking potato. They are also distinct from the species Dioscorea which is a genuine yam (source).

Sweet potatoes have been named the most efficient staple food to produce, yielding the most nutrition per acre of land (source). They provide simple starches (carbohydrates) as all root crops do, but they also are rich in dietary fiber, of which nearly 95% of Americans do not eat enough! (source 1 and source 2)

Dietary fiber is so important for gut health, lowering your risk of colon cancers, and maintaining a healthy weight. Fiber helps you feel full, decreases risk of diverticulitis and IBS, helps stabilize blood sugar, and lowers cholesterol levels. The American Dietetic Association recommends 20-35 grams per day, but the majority of people don’t even come close to that. And a truly healthy diet would actually be more like 70-90 grams per day!

The good news is, adding more plant foods into foods you already eat is a super simple way to increase your fiber intake painlessly. Adding sweet potatoes into delicious, flaky biscuits sneaks all kinds of fiber, vitamins, and beta carotene into your breakfast or dinner side dish, and brings a fun vibrant orange color to the table.

Baking your own biscuits may seem scary, but the process is very simple. It does take some time, about 3 hours total start to finish, which makes it a good weekend or day off project. But you can scale up to make a huge batch, and freeze the extras! It would be a great way to introduce kids to the kitchen as well.

Based loosely on this recipe (doubled) from Genius Kitchen. Makes approximately 22 biscuits.

This recipe is designed to be vegan, but you can easily use dairy milk, and/or butter instead of coconut oil, if that’s what you have.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups baked mashed sweet potato (about 2 medium sized sweet potatoes)
  • 2/3 cup soymilk or almond milk
  • 2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 8 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2ish tsp salt

peeled microwaved sweet potato

Step 1: Either roast your sweet potatoes at 350 for 45 minutes wrapped in foil, or microwave for 10-12 minutes wrapped in a wet paper towel. The skin should peel right off, leaving you with soft, cooked sweet potato flesh.

mashed sweet potato and soymilk

Step 2: In a bowl, combine the mashed sweet potato, the milk, and the apple cider vinegar. Mix together to combine.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 3: In a different bowl, mix your dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar, baking powder.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 4: Add the coconut oil, a little colder than room temperature. Use a fork, mixer, or potato masher to mix the coconut oil into the dry ingredients.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

You should end up with a crumb-like texture.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 5: Add the wet potato mash into the dry ingredients, and mix just well enough to combine. You don’t want to over-mix. Refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 6: Spread flour over a solid surface, this is where you will roll and cut your dough. Take it out of the refrigerator, and cut it into four equally sized pieces.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 7: Press the dough flat with your hands, then use a rolling pin to roll it out to about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. They puff up a little while baking, but not much. Then use a glass or cookie cutter to cut the dough into rounds.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

You can re-roll the dough and cut it again up to about 3 times. Then it becomes harder to work with.

Step 8: Bake on a foil-lined pan or glass pan at 425 for 8-10 minutes, until they begin to brown on the top. I rotated the pans between the top and bottom rack at 5 minutes.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Let cool on a wire rack, or just tear into them with your bare hands!

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Delicious with jelly, butter, or honey, or just plain right out of the oven. They are just a tiny bit sweet on their own, and can easily compliment savory meals like chili as well.