Category Archives: Breakfast

The Perfect Breakfast: Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal

 

As we all well know, the way to lose weight is to make the amount taken in (calories you eat) less than the amount taken out (exercise). In a similar way, the way to save money is to make the amount taken in (job, passive income, business) MORE than the amount taken out (expenses like house, utilities, clothes, car, and food).

While there are many ways to increase the amount of money you bring in, like negotiating you salary, job hopping for a higher salary, or creating a side business, there are also many ways to reduce the amount of money you spend. Like realizing you need less house than you thought, driving older used cars or forgoing cars entirely, cutting or negotiating your utility bills, or other weird things that work for your lifestyle.

A big expense that literally everyone has control over and could bring down is one which we also require to keep living: food.

Food is a broad category, which could include eating out, happy hours, lunch with coworkers, home cooked meals, potlucks, delivery and take out, or monthly cooking subscription boxes like Blue Apron, Plated, or Hello Fresh. Everyone has different ways of managing these expenses, from whipping out the credit card and never thinking about it, to detailed line items in a budget spreadsheet.

Now, as the Budget Epicurean, I obviously will never advocate for eating only cardboard-flavored clearance items for the rest of your life. I LOVE FOOD. This entire website is proof of that fact.

However.

We also don’t eat like kings every single day. In fact, we very rarely eat outside the house at all. Luckily, I naturally enjoy cooking, the hubs also likes (most of) what I cook, and we both love leftovers. So our food spending is pretty low compared to most people’s. But even we have some room to “cut the fat”.

One of the best ways to decrease overall spending is to find staple meals that both are cheap, and you actually enjoy. If the thought of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich makes you nauseated (or you’re allergic to peanuts…) then that is probably not a good choice for your frugal food budget arsenal. There are literally infinite articles in the world on frugal/cheap meal ideas. Google a bit, and note down a few that sound good. Then make them, and see how you like it.

This recipe has become my absolute favorite breakfast go-to meal: Cinnamon Sugar Raisin Oatmeal.

Oatmeal is very filling, due to its high level of soluble fiber. It is fantastic for your heart and digestion, and contains many minerals needed for overall health. It is a blank canvas on which you can paint a rainbow of textures and mix-ins. From seeds and nuts to dried and frozen fruits, white sugar, brown sugar, or maple syrup, oatmeal variations are endless.

It is also dirt cheap.

Bought in bulk, online, or in canisters from the store, oats are one of the cheapest per-calorie whole grain options out there. If you can handle the flavor of plain cooked oats, man, your heart and wallet will thank you!

But I have to have at least a little flavor. My “fancy-pants” oatmeal involves raisins, cinnamon, salt and sugar and tastes divine. It also costs two quarters per serving!

Every day I choose to eat this rather than buy a breakfast sandwich, bagel, or any other kind of fast food alternative, I’m saving more quarters to add to my investment accounts or put towards big life goals.

Here’s how the costs break down:

  • Oats: 2.39 for 42 oz
    • Per serving: 8 oz = 0.45
  • Raisins: 1.49 for 16 oz
    • Per serving: 1 oz = 0.09
  • Cinnamon: $1 for 2.5 oz
    • Per serving: 0.25 oz = 0.10
  • White sugar: $1.89 for 4 pounds
    • Per serving: .5 oz = 0.01
  • Salt: 0.54 for 26 oz
    • Per serving: .25 oz = 0.005

Total per serving = $0.56

The easiest way to prep this is to make a big batch every other week in a mason jar. I fill it 3/4 of the way with oats, pour in some raisins, cinnamon, sugar and salt. I put the cap on, and shake-shake-shake!

Then I take it to work, stick it in my desk drawer, and it is waiting for me every morning. Sometimes I do make breakfast at home, like a smoothie or a granola bar or some microwave eggs benedict. But when I don’t have the time or energy, I know I will still have a nice warm bowl of oatmeal just the press of a “hot water” button away.

 

How about you guys, any good low-cost-per-serving recipes you want to share??

Weekly Eating – 10/2

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 – raisin oatmeal

Lunch – Faux pho! We had tons of leftover shrimp fettuccini with broccoli and carrots from last week, so I decided to remix the leftovers. I put about a cup of pasta in a mason jar with some of the veg and shrimp, and added a little bit of purple cabbage, a tbsp of white miso paste and tsp of chicken bouillon powder.

Don’t you just adore this little lunch box?! Get yours: http://amzn.to/2y7wXms

When it was lunch time, I just added hot water from our keurig machine at work, and shook it up. Side note, make very sure your lid is tightened prior to shaking! 😉 This was SO GOOD, and was a great way to make leftovers fresh. I could easily add other toppings too like fresh basil, chopped green onion, crushed peanuts, etc.

Dinner – leftovers! Shrimp fettuccini, just as is with some garlic powder. Fortunately I love this stuff, so I’m not tired of it yet. I also went grocery shopping and processed a huge volume of fresh veg into bags for the freezer, a GIANT pot of cabbage soup, and a jar of purple cabbage to become sauerkraut.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – coconut almond yogurt

Lunch – The other half of the hamandegger burger from Cowfish last week, plus a salad in a jar. This is my version of balance.

Dinner – Since it was National Taco Day, obvs we had tacos! I mixed some chicken breasts with cranberry juice and homemade Pepper Jelly in a crock pot, plus some rice, pinto beans, lettuce, hot sauce and plain Greek yogurt

Wednesday:

Breakfast – KIND bar

Lunch – free pizza at a work meeting!

Dinner – Ham & Scalloped Potatoes (but with a surprise layer of green cabbage! Because I have a lot, it is good for you, and I like it. Hubs was less than thrilled but ate it, bless his heart.)

Snack – fresh veg & blender hummus

Thursday:

Breakfast – made a new batch of the Chocolate Peanut Butter granola bars! These will be appearing a lot the next few weeks.

Lunch – Cabbage & Veggie Soup: chock full of all kinds of veggies, tomato juice, and nutrition

Dinner – I harvested the last of my basil plant to make a big batch of blender pesto. I served it over the last of the massive vat of Shrimp Fettuccini with Carrots & Broccoli to make it feel totally new. With a side of warm garlic bread, it really hit the spot!

Plus I had an extra cup of pesto leftover, which I popped in the freezer for later. At some point during the winter, I can pull it out for a nice warm taste of summer.

Friday:

Breakfast – homemade chocolate PB pretzel bar

Lunch – Mason jar salad

Dinner – I splurged a bit and met a friend for wine and apps after work. We went to a place called Town Hall Grill, and it was so cute! We just had a nice glass of wine to unwind from the week and catch up a bit, before she headed to dinner with her in-laws and I headed home to make a beef stir fry.

I used a bag of veggies I froze from Monday, a chunk of steak from an on-sale roast, and the remainder of the cooked pasta from last week’s Shrimp Fettuccini. Combined with some soy sauce, jalapeno hot sauce, and YumYum Sauce, it was by far the most delicious, frugal Stir Friday yet!

Snack – someone at work brought in M&Ms and peanut butter crackers. I gave in and had some, and it was actually a pretty great combo of sweet and salty

The Weekend

This weekend is the first weekend in like a month 1/2 that we aren’t going somewhere! We are excited to relax, but also have a lot of adulting to do, and some fun house projects we plan to start on. We want to build a nice trellis walkway in the backyard, and line the trail from fence to door to garden with gravel.

Also, we will be building a raised bed garden, for perhaps some fall planting and definitely prep for next spring. Cleaning out the gutters, if the ladder + hubs is tall enough. And if I get very motivated, I want to make several corn tacos with my Maseca, and make black bean breakfast tacos to freeze for the coming weeks.

 

Total: $58.78

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

This week I was quite proud of myself! I found several bags of clearance produce, where they sell for 0.99 regardless of what is in the bag. I got 3 bell peppers, 6 zucchini, and 4 yellow squash for $3. Between that and the dirt-cheap cabbage heads, we had TONS of fresh produce for barely $5.

I also finally got the motivation to make another batch of granola bars, which I desperately love the taste of. They are the perfect grab-and-go breakfasts, for when I don’t have time to make smoothies in a jar ahead, or a hot egg something. Plus a surplus of leftovers, all combined to make this a very frugal food week.

Lessons Learned

As much as I love going place and having people over, sometimes you need a no-plans weekend. Adulting is hard, and if you don’t stay on top of all the random chores and to-dos, then you will end up having to pay others to do your work and maintenance.

And as much as I’d love to have someone just show up and suddenly the laundry is done, the grass is cut, the landscaping is immaculate, and there are no dust bunnies to be found, I would much rather watch my savings account balance creep up, and dividends pile up in my investment accounts.

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How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Weekly Eating – 9/11 & 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!

 

Well, this post is a surprise double feature, because last weekend we had a wonderful family wedding in Boston, but then nature conspired to strand us there Sunday night. It’s not a good excuse for not posting, but it’s the one I’m using.  🙂

The past 2 weeks have been an interesting see-saw of super frugal food choices and then accidental or on purpose food splurges. I did some creative re-purposing of leftovers too. The meal plan was sort of made up on the fly, but overall I think it was a total win. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Monday 9/11:

Breakfast – Brown sugar cinnamon raisin oatmeal.

I put together a little mason jar which I brought into work. I just add 1/2 cup or so of the mixture, and use the Keurig for hot water to make it in my coffee mug. Now I have oatmeal waiting for me in my desk drawer whenever I want!

Lunch – Leftover hibachi from the weekend before. My dad had been in town, and we explored a little near Cary and found a cute Chinese restaurant in a plaza that had delish hibachi. Of course I only ate half, and the other half was lunch.

Dinner – Chicken stir fry (even though it’s not Friday!) to use up the rest of the shredded cooked chicken and some rice we had. I also found packs of pre-sliced veggies on sale for $1 so this was perfect.

Tuesday 9/12:

Breakfast – raisin oatmeal (see above)

Lunch – Veggie soup & edamame. This was the last of a bag of edamame from last week, plus all the leftover bits of veggies simmered with some lentils. It’s more filling than you may think, and nice on a cold and dreary day.

Dinner – Salmon salad! I finally had to just post the recipe so I can refer to it (when I use it every other week in the future).

Wednesday 9/13:

Breakfast – raisin oatmeal

Lunch – salmon salad

Dinner – pasta with pesto, using basil from the front yard. It is going to seed and about done, so I harvested the most I could and made a big batch of pesto.

Combined with some tortellini, and meatballs with 1/2 pound ground turkey I had in the fridge, it was super tasty. Never would have thought pesto + meatballs, but it works.

Snack – half a can of pineapple

Thursday 9/14:

Breakfast – raisin oatmeal

Lunch – salmon salad!

Dinner – had dinner at a friend’s house, where we had wings and an assortment of cheeses and bread. It was so good, and we found a few new cheeses we like! Also I made a blueberry pie to contribute.

Friday 9/15:

Breakfast – I had some leftover milk that was about to go bad, and we were leaving town, so I made some yogurt! It makes the milk last longer that way.

For breakfast, of course I had fresh yogurt and some tropical granola.

Lunch – you’ll never guess…. salmon salad! Yes, I actually did eat this 4 days in a row. And loved it every single time.

Dinner – we were en route to the wedding, so we had Five Guys in the airport. Not the healthiest, but it was the first time I’d had fast food in… several months. Their burgers are pretty darn good.

The Weekend

This weekend was yet another wedding, this time in Maine! It was right on the water, and the fog cleared for about 5 glorious hours. It was an absolutely beautiful ceremony, and a joy to watch this family I have lucked into and chosen to join expand to encompass the bride and her wonderful family too.

I met new people, re-connected with a few we hadn’t seen since our own wedding last year, and danced my face off! Doing the electric slide with several fabulous people more than triple my age was one of the many highlights of the weekend. Another highlight: eating lobster twice in one day!

We went to what claimed to have the “best lobster roll on the East Coast”, and not gonna lie it was pretty great. Their clam chowder was also amazing. And then at the wedding, we each got our own personal lobster! I know, it’s decadent. The perks of coastal living ya know? But then, they also have to deal with winter… so… #notworth

On Sunday they had a lovely brunch, with mimosas and 4 kinds of quiche. Everyone said their goodbyes and we headed into Boston. We carpooled with several people who all had staggered flight times. But we did get a few hours of wandering with my in-laws, since we had the latest scheduled flights. We got some tasty pizza at a place in Charlestown, and then wandered around Faneuil Hall.

Monday 9/18:

Breakfast – well, since we were stuck in Boston, and the hotel had a free breakfast, we obviously took advantage of that. English muffins with jelly, coffee and juice, and tiny yogurts, plus a bagel for the road.

Lunch – Now in Boston Logan International Airport for several hours, I splurged on a big hot meal. I ate about half of it, then stuck it in my carry on. I ate the rest when I got hungry again on the plane.

Dinner – I finally got home exhausted around 7pm, so I basically just unpacked a bit, got the pups, and went straight to bed…

It was so nice to see these faces again  🙂

Tuesday 9/19:

Breakfast – brown sugar raisin oatmeal!

Lunch – peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was too tired from traveling to bother making, like, real food. I didn’t even get a picture

Dinner – I went out to a new sushi place with a friend called RockinRolls. It is a conveyor belt style, where you just grab the things you want as they go by! It was very cool, even if the nigiri were a little small. They made up for it in choices. And the miso soup dispenser was absolutely fascinating.

As a HUGE fan of sushi and also not paying a lot, a $12 all-you-can-eat option that’s only 10 minutes from my house is the best/worst thing ever. I will definitely be back.

Wednesday 9/20:

Breakfast – oatmeal! Yup, this is a boring breakfast week. Sorry not sorry, this stuff costs like 10 cents per serving.

Lunch – black beans & rice with salsa. I made a package of minute rice in the microwave and added a half can of black beans, topped with some salsa from a food swap. The other half I saved for tomorrow. This is becoming a staple work lunch.

Dinner – I used the rest of the pesto from last week and a can of tomatoes to make a tomato-basil soup, and some grilled cheese. I love simple meals, and even moreso when I’m just cooking for myself. Hubs was on a work trip in CT this week.

Snack – a handful of pretzels and some gummy bears… yeah I don’t know, it’s just what I had at my desk 🙂

Thursday 9/21:

Breakfast – more oatmeal

Lunch – Black beans & rice with salsa. This is just so oddly fulfilling to me. Pretty sure this will be a frequent occurrence in my life.

Dinner – I took the pups over to a friend’s house, and we had a vegetarian and a vegan present. I introduced them all to lentils, and we had veggie tacos. I’m not sure what kind of “meat” they had but it was really good!

Snack – There was a retirement party at work today, and I snagged a cup full of raw veggies to snack on all afternoon. Love free food that is also healthy!

Friday 9/22:

Breakfast – oatmeal

Lunch – ravioli from my last food swap (I put it in the freezer for an occasion like now), with some frozen veggies, the last of the pesto-soup and some leftover feta. It was actually really good! Hooray for frugal wins.

Dinner – We kicked off the weekend with dinner at The Pit, a very well-known BBQ joint in downtown Durham. We got the Big Boy to split, it’s all of their meats in one tray! The biscuits were AMAZING, and the ribs were probably my favorite. Or maybe the brisket.

Personally, I’d skip the grilled chicken, and the sauces are all Carolina style (very vinegary and not thick) so we weren’t blown away impressed, but if that’s your thing then this is the place for you!

The Weekend

This weekend, my aunt and grandmother are in town, visiting from Ohio! I’m so excited, it will be the first time either of them have been down to see our new house (the first one I OWN) and all the things I’m falling in love with in Durham and Chapel Hill.

We have plans to stuff ourselves at the all you can eat Rockin Rolls sushi, check out the 5th Annual Bull City Burgers & Brewery Oktoberfest, and the 10th Annual Abundance NC Pepper Festival.  It should be a good time! And I may need to buy new pants in a size up afterwards…

Total: $55 (or $515, depending what you count)

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Well… we were really good about eating from the freezer/pantry the past 2 weeks while at home. But the $55 is from various airport foods while traveling. If you add in the extra things (hotel, uber rides, tickets to festivals, etc). then the true cost of travel wrinkles is much higher. I’m going to stick with the actual food costs though.

Lessons Learned

Always be prepared! I am already obsessive about taking snacks with me everywhere, but evidently I should double my efforts. Because you just never know.

I also learned that eating super frugal meals doesn’t really bother me much at all. I’m perfectly happy with my rice and beans, PB&J, and grilled cheese, especially when hubs is away for work. I just don’t have the motivation to cook fancy things for myself alone.

This is a great thing, financially! The lower I can get the cost per meal, the lower our overall grocery bill each week / month / year. And then we have more wiggle room for the occasional travel issues or to treat visitor from out of town. That’s a win in my book!

 

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Weekly Eating: 8/28

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!

 

This week, the whole nation has Texas on our minds and hearts. With the crazy amount of flooding and destruction from Hurricane Harvey, I hope our readers and family/friends are safe, dry, and warm. We will rally together as we always do after tragic events, and will rebuild to rise stronger, y’all! If you feel the desire to donate to help those affected, please see one of the charities HERE.

On Sunday, I made my typical whole chicken in a crock pot, and then broth overnight. I had some fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme so I added that, as well as some bay leaves hanging out in the spice cabinet. This is one of my favorite smells ever to wake up to. Plus it makes several quarts of high quality stock to use to cook things like beans and quinoa the rest of the week, along with the pieces of the chicken for use in various dinners.

Monday:

Breakfast – Mixed berry smoothies (that I remembered to take a picture of!). 8oz frozen berries + banana + yogurt + protein powder + pomegranate juice = YUM

Lunch – turkey wrap & grapes. This is an easy peasy lunch option to throw together, plus it’s portable in case I’m away from my desk at lunch time (i.e. in clinic).

Dinner – Shredded chicken quesadillas with quinoa & black beans. I made a big batch of both quinoa (with the stock of course) and black beans to eat throughout the week. Some of the chicken meat from Sunday was shredded and turned into these delish quesadillas.

Snack – white bean rosemary hummus & 1/2 cucumber

Tuesday:

Breakfast – tropical mango smoothie. I used frozen mango and peaches, canned pineapple and bananas. Plus some pomegranate juice and plain Greek yogurt. SO GOOD! And it made enough for like 4 smoothies, which makes hubby happy.

Lunch – quinoa & black beans – I brought a big container full of both to work, to keep for easy lunches. I added some avocado and salsa to round it out and for flavor.

Dinner – Chicken Paprikush! This recipe tastes like a warm hug from the inside out. It’s salty, creamy, and absolutely perfect. I used plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to lighten it up a bit, and to justify eating at least 2 bowls at a time.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – egg & cheese Bagel Thin sammich. This is so dang easy, just scramble an egg in a cup and microwave it, put it on the bagel with cheese and zap the whole thing for 15 seconds. Done.

Lunch – quinoa & beans. I love bringing in a big container of something on Monday, and having lunch ready for several days in a row. This is a super easy option. I got extra fancy and also added a quarter of an avocado and some salsa.

Dinner – Whole wheat penne pasta with the bratwurst from last week’s Food Swap, peas & broccoli. I love one-pot meals! And the bratwurst was SO DELICIOUS!

Snack – 5 Susannah Smiles cookies & peppermint tea. This is a new lemon cookie from Girl Scouts, and someone at work brought in a box. Since I was making tea, I decided this would be the perfect accompaniment. They were tart, and quite hard, but when dipped in the tea it was perfect.

Plus my other snack option was an apple… today, I chose sugar 🙂

Thursday 

Breakfast – Tropical granola & milk

Lunch – chicken paprikush, with more left for tomorrow! I just love this stuff. Tastes like my childhood.

Dinner – Chicken Broccoli Cheddar Rice. This was a change-up from our planned Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake because I had a really long day at work, and got home exhausted and starving. I didn’t have the patience to wait for the oven to bake the things for over an hour, but we already had a baked chicken breast from Sunday and some leftover rice (I always make an extra big batch), plus I always have frozen broccoli. So pulling this together just required a little microwaving and we had dinner ready in 10 minutes.

 

Friday

Breakfast – Oatmeal with Apples, Raisins & Maple Syrup. Now that fall is setting in, and you can feel the chill in the air, I fall back on my favorite cold weather breakfast, hot oatmeal! Oats are very cheap, and filling, so they are an awesome frugal breakfast choice. And there are so many ways to dress them up, from Chai Apple & Brown Sugar to Peach Kefir to Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana.

Lunch – more leftover chicken paprikush! Hubby is not a big fan of soups, which normally frustrates me because I make a lot and can’t eat it all… but this one, I’m not mad about keeping all to myself!

Dinner – Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts. I saw some variation of this somewhere, and when I mentioned it to hubby his eyes got huge and I could practically see the drool…

So since I had some breasts in the freezer, I just quick-thawed them in hot water and we pulled this together in about 10 minutes (plus 40 bake time). With some fettuccini on the side, it really was super delicious! I would make it again for sure. But with fresh chicken, so it’s easier to pound flat.

The Weekend

Labor Day Weekend is a long one, but we don’t have any big plans as both the things we were going to do fell through. It’s all for the best though, as hubby has a project to work on and a trip back to CT for work things soon, and I can now attend a friends’ wedding on Sunday! Then take Monday as a bonus relaxation day. Ahhhh.

Total: $26.06

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

As you can see, we had a little rearrangement of the meal plan. I am really digging this whiteboard on the wall from our kitchen update, my hubby is the best! But I kept to the plan pretty well, with the exception of the late work night. Which brings up the point of convenience… a lot of people don’t want to or can’t cook every night due to their job and or life schedules.

I get it, when you are wiped out tired and hungry NOW, sometimes the last thing you want to do it spend an hour in the kitchen. That’s why it’s so important to have 3-5 meals you know you can pull together quickly and easily, with things you always have around!

Lessons Learned

We did really well this week! I tried to plan more based around what I already have stocked in the pantry and freezer. This is why I love stocking up on great sales, like $0.98/lb chicken breasts, or whole chickens on clearance. You pay more up front, but less per unit so that when you do use the food, the price per meal is lower than if I’d had to run to the store the week I need it.

 

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Tropical Granola

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Do you buy your granola at the grocery store, because you think it’s too expensive to make at home, or too hard to do it, or that it will take too long to make?

Let me assure you, it it none of those things!

Granola can be as expensive as you want it to be, based on the mix ins. Sure, if you want goji berries and golden raisins and other expensive dried fruits, you may be looking at $20 per batch. But if you buy your dried fruit when its on sale or from bulk bins so you get only as much as you need, it is easy to get the total price down to well under $5 per batch.

This recipe is also super easy. Can you measure? Do you own at least one bowl, one spoon, and one pan that can go in the oven? Are you able to stir? Then you have all the skills and accessories necessary to make granola at home!

And though the total time is about an hour, the “active time” is merely a few minutes to measure and stir together all the ingredients. Then you toss it in the oven, and go watch some Netflix or take a shower or do whatever you do for half an hour. Then your house starts smelling amazing, and you come back to a hot fresh batch of granola! And as a bonus you get that warm fuzzy Martha-Stewart like badass feeling.

A final bonus of granola is that it is HUGELY customizable when you make it yourself! Do you always find yourself picking out the raisins because you hate them? Simple, don’t use raisins! Do you really love banana chips, but store bought granola never has enough? Add an extra half cup to your recipe! The world is your oyster my friend.

Ideas for mix-ins include:

  • Seeds: chia seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas), sunflower seeds, quinoa
  • Nuts: almonds, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, macademia nuts
  • Fruits: banana chips, apricots, papaya, mango, pineapple, apple chips, raisins, craisins

This recipe makes a HUGE volume, about 6 cups worth. You can store it at room temp in an airtight container in the pantry, or for longer shelf life you can store in the refrigerator or freezer. You can also cut the recipe in half or fourths to make smaller batches.

Ingredients:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Measure all the dry ingredients into a big bowl, except for the fruit.

Step 2: Add in the oil and the sweetener you’re using, mix really well to coat everything in gooey goodness.

Step 3: Pour onto a baking pan, lined with wax paper if you desire. Spread it flat with a spatula.

Step 4: Bake for 20-25 minutes, mix well, and then bake another 20-25 minutes. When it is turning brown and toasty, and you house smells fabulous, it is done!

Step 5: Mix in the dried fruits, and pour into your storage containers. Right now, hot out the oven, is also the best time to sneak a taste! Or have yourself a bowl full with milk or yogurt. Trust me.

Click below to print the recipe!

Tropical Granola

Yield: 10 1/2 cup servings

Tropical Granola

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of raw oats
  • 1 - 1.5 cups raw nuts and/or seeds
  • 2/3 - 1 cup dried fruits
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup sweetener
  • 1 tsp optional flavorings: cinnamon, vanilla, almond flavoring, nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Measure all the dry ingredients into a big bowl, except for the fruit, and mix.
  2. Add in the oil and the sweetener you're using, mix really well to coat everything in gooey goodness.
  3. Pour onto a baking pan, lined with wax paper if you desire. Spread it flat with a spatula.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, mix well, and then bake another 20-25 minutes. When it is turning brown and toasty, and you house smells fabulous, it is done!
  5. Mix in the dried fruits, and pour into your storage containers. Right now, hot out the oven, is also the best time to sneak a taste!
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Have you ever made granola at home? Was it easy? Do you have any favorite recipes to share?

Weekly Eating: Eclipse Week 8/21

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!

 

This week was action-packed at the start, and then slowed down as the week wore on. Ready for some rest this weekend! Speaking of weekends, the last one was quite productive. I finally got the kitchen wall constructed just the way I wanted it! I think it looks great, and I’m loving having a whiteboard to meal plan and keep track of what’s going on each week now.

Monday:

Breakfast – strawberry cherry smoothie: I’m learning that I’m really bad at remembering to take photos of smoothies. Maybe it’s just too early, or I drink them too fast before I remember…

Lunch – AWESOME SOLAR ECLIPSE POTLUCK! We had a huge salad bar (because the sun makes things grow) and a Sun-dae bar!

I had like four Capri suns and felt like a 12-year-old again. No regrets.

Dinner – pesto pasta, and playing with hubby’s new toy. He finally, after almost a year of waiting, got a Switch, and was really excited about it. We got to play with a close friend that moved to Iowa and we haven’t seen since our wedding! That was really nice. I may yet come around to liking console games.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – granola bar; this recipe is AMAZING, and makes like a zillion (or 18…) so a batch lasts quite a while in the fridge. You’ll see these a lot. No regrets.

Lunch – well, I got pretty sick in the a.m., it was a weird nausea/upset stomach feeling, so I ended up going home and sleeping through lunch  🙁

Dinner – my stomach finally started to feel ok around 4:30, so by 5:30 I managed to eat a can of Progresso chicken & dumplings and a small roast beef sandwich to dunk in it.

I’m so thankful it was a short stomach bug, because I really had doubts I’d be able to make it to the Bull City Food Swap. But, make it I did! It was a smaller gathering, but since it was at Fullsteam Brewery, one of the bartenders was there and he had some GOOD stuff! Thus, less competition.

So it worked out great, I got a pound of his homemade breakfast sausage, and a few ounces of chicken of the woods mushrooms from his property. I’ve never had it, so I’m pretty excited! Also picked up some homemade ricotta and sausage ravioli, a “spiced beer sauce”, and some family recipe brownies. A good night, in my opinion.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – yogurt with homemade granola, grapes. I made a big batch of tropical granola for the food swap, and since there were so few people I only traded about half. Which is fine with me, because I didn’t know homemade granola was so easy, and delicious!

Lunch – leftover stuffed cabbage casserole. Another thing that makes a CRAP-TON and becomes leftovers for days. I’m fine with it because I think it’s delicious, and it costs like $0.20 per serving.

Dinner – salmon & quinoa salad. This is a recipe from my sister in law that I have taken as my own, because I absolutely ADORE how delicious all the parts are as a whole. I could eat this like all the time. It is so fresh and light but yet so filling.

Snack – salad & tea. Since the potluck was a salad bar, we had oodles of leftover salad mixes. So I figured why not get some extra greens in

Thursday 

Breakfast – granola bar

Lunch – salmon salad again, and still had some salmon left!

Dinner – chickpea curry & tricolor rice (turmeric, tomato paste, and spinach to create red, yellow, and green rice)

Snack – HOT FUDGE BROWNIE SUNDAE. 5 minutes of pure, sugary bliss. I got the brownies from the food swap (and they were a family recipe that was GD amazing), added some chocolate cherry ice cream, caramel sauce and hot fudge. Lord have mercy…

Friday

Breakfast – microwave poached egg on toast, my new favorite super quick breakfast option

Lunch – salmon salad; you may notice I had a lot of this! I made 2 huge filets for dinner, and it ended up being enough to break into 3 smaller meals for me. I only eat about 2-3 oz at a time.

Dinner – world’s most delicious steaks, onions/mushrooms/peppers and leftover rice. I seared the steaks in butter, and slow cooked sliced up peppers, onion, and oyster & chicken of the woods mushrooms in white wine and soy sauce and garlic.

Holy. Crap. Y’all. This was seriously amazing.

The Weekend

Plans include Saturday morning yoga and the Durham Farmers Market, perhaps followed by some hiking and or kayaking (if I can convince the hubby to brave the humidity!). Sunday will hopefully be a day of just resting. Reading, video games, movies…

Total: $74.12

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Whooo, pretty much nailed it! This included a big pork roast because I’d kept some leftover giant rolls from the potluck and wanted to make BBQ pulled pork, a big beef roast that was on sale (which I turned into 2 outstanding steaks plus another pound of stew meat for the freezer), but the bulk of it was like 10 pounds of frozen fruit, for more smoothies.

We have almost zero fruit left in the freezer, and Kroger was running a good sale, so now we’re restocked on strawberries, blueberries, mango, and peaches! Yay. Maybe I will actually remember to take some pictures of upcoming smoothies… not that they make terribly exciting photos anyways  🙂  If you have any favorite recipes to share in the comments, I’m all ears!

Lessons Learned

Once again I learned the importance of being flexible with your meal planning! I think a big reason why people are intimidated by meal planning and cooking is because we are not taught how to improvise to avoid food waste. It is a skill that takes time and experimentation, and a willingness to be wrong sometimes.

I also found this interesting experiment at the grocery store. If you can’t tell, the 2% milk was 1.69, the 1% milk was ten cents cheaper, and the skim milk was cheapest at $1.49. And yet, the 2% milk was still the one that had been almost bought out.

I think it’s interesting that the store is trying to influence shopper decisions to make “healthier” choices (skim milk vs whole milk as a health thing is a whole big discussion for another time and place) by using economics. Assuming the stores actually DO want consumers to be healthier (a shaky assumption) this could be a good way to gently nudge people in the right direction.

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Microwave Eggs Benedict For One

 

So you’re rushed for time, you’re a total zombie in the morning, you just don’t feel like it, you don’t have time to sit and eat. Think that means you should skip breakfast?

Think again!

In only 45 seconds, you can have a healthy, wholesome, delicious, and totally portable breakfast. All you need is:

  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1 piece of bread or toast
  • A cup full of water
  • optional: handful spinach, onion, mushroom, peppers, etc.

Step 1: Fill a cup with at least 3-4 inches of water. Dump an egg into the water whole.

Step 2: Microwave the egg! The water will boil, poaching it to perfection. Microwaves vary in strength, mine was cooked at about 35 seconds, and the yolk solidified around 50 seconds. Experiment until you find your perfect balance.

Step 3: While the egg is in the microwave, put the bread in the toaster or onto a plate. Once the egg is done, carefully dump out the water, it will be hot, and plop the egg onto the toast. Done!

I sprinkled mine with some garlic salt & paprika, and it was positively delish! This would work equally well with an English muffin. If you have some spare time after all, you can make a simple Hollandaise sauce:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • sea salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender or with a fork. Pour over eggs.

Weekly Eating – 7/31

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!

 

Excuse me while I have an existential crisis real quick…

{OMG WHAT ITS AUGUST!? It was January like 2 seconds ago, we just moved to a new state, started a new job, had no furniture but an air mattress and knew not a darn soul… now we’ve been here TEN WHOLE MONTHS and have, like, a real adult home?!? And friends?? WHOA. Pretty sure this is where I should insert “hashtag blessed” or something..}

Okay, thanks for hanging in there readers, on to the deets of this week’s noms!

I had made a big ol’ pot of crockpot chili on Sunday night, which is one of my favorite things to do. I take all the kinds of dried beans in the house, and soak them in water overnight. In the morning, I pour out the water, refill it, and add the extra tomato juice, veggies, meat, and spices. Then you just let it rock and roll all day.

It is insanely cheap, because dried beans. It is also insanely versatile, use up the ends and bits of whatever, lentils, bell peppers, onions, black beans. So it is a little different every time. This became lunches several days, kept the work-from-home hubs from starving, and also chili cheese dogs and chili baked potatoes! <3

Monday:

Breakfast – bagel with almond butter & apple. This has become one of my favorite to-go breakfasts, so fast and easy, yet healthy!

Lunch – stuffed poblano peppers from last week’s food swap

Dinner – eggplant parm & pasta. I have tried multiple times, I just cannot like eggplant! This saddens me, because it is so good for you, and people very often want to give it away. But I just cannot.

Snack – white bean rosemary hummus with raw veggies. Y’all, if you have not tried this yet you are missing out! Get out the blender, go read the recipe right now, and make it!

Tuesday:

Breakfast – 2 egg veggie omelet. Had some onions, peppers, and mushrooms so I stir fried them and wrapped them in eggs!

Lunch – tuna noodle casserole. This is giving it a bit more credit than I probably should. I just took some leftover cooked pasta salad that already had bits of peppers and onion and mayo, and added a can of tuna to it to give it protein. Then I called that lunch!

Dinner – baked blue cheese & spinach chicken rolls with oven-roasted potato wedges & garlic aioli. Sounds super fancy, I know, but honestly it is literally 3 ingredients! Just thin chicken breasts, a pinch of blue cheese and handful of spinach, roll up and secure with cooking twine or toothpicks and bake!

The garlic aioli is 1-2 garlic cloves diced small, 2 tbsp. lemon juice, and 1/2 cup mayonnaise, mixed well. This is an excellent dip for chicken and potato wedges. Feel free to pull out this recipe anytime you need to impress someone but have seriously 5 minutes to focus on making the food.

Oh, and I also got a little crafty this week! I had seen a YouTube video for a bathing suit wrap that’s almost no-sew, and just had to try it. Of course, I didn’t get to it in time for the beach last weekend, but that’s ok.

It really was so easy! Just cut it to the right width to wrap around you, cut arm holes, and braid 3 strips of fabric for the shoulder straps. The straps were the only sewing part, and it took like 10 minutes total! I can’t wait to go somewhere that I can use it!

Wednesday:

Breakfast – homemade pretzel PB choc chip granola bars using THIS RECIPE from Tiffany @ Don’t Waste the Crumbs

This recipe was so easy to follow, and I LOVE pretzels, so how could it possibly go wrong? Well, I think using JIF added more oil than it needed, what with the extra coconut oil, so it was pretty greasy… but the flavor was out of this world delish, so this recipe is a keeper! I will definitely tweak it and make these again.

Lunch – crock pot turkey chili, I brought in a big enough container that I could only finish half! Good thing we have work refrigerators

Dinner – slow cooker pulled beef sandwiches with steamed broccoli and pinto beans. I literally just stuck a pound of beef roast in the crock pot before work, came home and shredded it. Could not ask for a simpler, but seriously tasty, dinner!

Snack – white bean hummus with raw veggies

Thursday 

Breakfast – pepper & onion omelet for me, cherry vanilla smoothie for the man. I think we’ve found a new favorite! 1/2 cup frozen cherries, 1/2 cup cherry juice, 1/2 cup yogurt, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder. It is GOOD!

Lunch – the rest of the turkey chili & more white bean hummus! See how making big batches of things early in the week can mean less work the rest of the week?

Dinner – turkey burritos! Because burritos are the kings of food.

I also had a great batch-prep night because this is when I went grocery shopping for the weekend parties (see below). I cooked up like 6 pounds of ground turkey and beef and packed it in 1lb zip locks to freeze, got a great deal on marked-down overripe bananas that I froze to make smoothies and bread in the future, and washed and cut up and bagged grapes, cherries, and strawberries for snacks.

Friday

Breakfast – vanilla Greek yogurt with strawberries, chia seeds, & walnuts. I made a grave error at the store, and grabbed flavored Greek rather than plain. I do make my own yogurt, but haven’t mastered the making it thicker like Greek yogurt part. So I got some for the hubs to put on burritos… oops. Well, now we will have smoothies and yogurt for breakfasts.

Lunch – Beef & veggie leftover soup. I took my small crock pot to work, and used up the little bit of leftover pulled beef, beans, broccoli, and some kale. I added a bit of barley, and let it go on my desk all morning. The office smelled great, and I had a cheap hot lunch!

Dinner – One pan roasted chicken, potatoes, and cauliflower with a side salad. I know this dinner is so “white” i.e. not much color. And also, not stir fry. But the below mentioned cheap chickens were around, so I roasted one, and Kroger also had a 5lb bag of potatoes for 0.99, so…

Hence the side salad, for at least a little greenery in our diet.

Snack – granola bar nomnomnom

The Weekend

Saturday is a neighborhood potluck, for which I plan on making some potato salad and ham sandwiches. I also got whole chicken on sale this week for 0.79 / pound!! Can you even believe it! Yeah I stocked my freezer, as you’ll see below in the total…

And then Sunday we are hosting  a wine tasting by Unique Pairings! I’m super pumped because it means an excuse to eat all the cheese and sweets and try lots of wines! This also helped to inflate the food budget a little, but totally worth. I adore hosting parties.

Total: $177.86

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Lessons Learned

Uh, yeah, so we overshot by $100. BUT. As noted above, we are going to 2 different parties this weekend, and most of the extra food was for appetizers/foods to share. Also, as hosts, we will frequently wind up with tons of leftover food, which will likely feature in a lot of next week’s meals.

Plus, SEVENTY NINE CENTS A POUND for chicken!! Come on. Tell me you wouldn’t buy like ten if you had the freezer space for that. A lot of this was stocking up on good sales, so that in future weeks we won’t have to spend as much on meats/etc.

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Chocolatey Banana Coffee Milkshake

 

Who loves a meal solution that is easy, healthy, and super fast??

I know my hand is raised. While I do love the occasional intricate breakfast (after all, what are weekends for if not a strata, homemade crepes, cinnamon rolls, or banana pancakes?) that is just not feasible for every day. Most mornings have between 2 and 10 minutes to devote to making sure I’m fed.

Now I know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, trust me. That’s why I simply cannot go with having nothing at all. But man, it is just really hard sometimes to make a hot, solid food at 7 am! And I hate to admit the number of time I’ve eaten pop-tarts this year is not zero…

C’mon people, I know I’m not alone here.

Why do you think there’s a Starbucks on every corner, along with Dunkin Donnuts, Tim Hortons, and all the local coffee and donut joints nationwide? And they all always seem to have a line.

Boy, have I found the perfect solution! I like a healthy breakfast, which includes protein, fiber, and nutrients. And I need coffee. Why not combine them into one easily drinkable drink!

I find it’s hard to get solid food down sometimes when it’s so early my stomach hasn’t woken up yet. But a shake or smoothie is always possible. Now I finally understand protein shakes; for so many years I was mystified how people could replace solid food with liquids. Now I know.

This shake is chocolatey because of the flavored protein powder, but you could also use non-flavored protein and simply add a tbsp of cocoa powder for the same effect. Use a plant-based milk instead of regular milk, and a plant-based protein instead of whey for a vegetarian option.

The banana is also optional, but I like knowing that I got a serving of fruit with my caffeinated milkshake (which is what this tastes like).

Ingredients:

  • 1 sm-med banana
  • 8-10 oz coffee
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1/4 cup milk (optional)
  • Handful of ice cubes (optional)

Step 1: Blend everything well, until smooth. The longer you blend it, the creamier and ‘fluffier’ it becomes because of the whey. Other protein blends may not cause this, experiment until you find the type and amount you like best.

Now go conquer your day, caffeinated and protein-powered!

Venison Breakfast Hash

 

It is no secret that as a culture, we are now so far removed from where “food” comes from. Many millions of people, in America especially, but all over the world, grow up never seeing food grown or processed with their own eyes. The only way they ever interact with edibles is at the very end of a long chain. At a restaurant, or as packaged, refrigerated, cling-wrap, boxed up “food like product”.

Seven percent may not seem large, until you realize that is how many American adults think chocolate milk comes from brown cows. Yup, the Innovation Center of American Dairy did an actual survey on it. Let us just hope the vast majority of these people were kidding… after all, what about strawberry milk?

As the number of people who live on farms or identify as farmers shrinks, and the average size of a “farm” balloons with huge corporations, it is healthy to get back to the roots (literally) of food production. Google a local farm, and just go visit. I guarantee the farmer will be glad to tell you all about his chickens, corn crops, the weather, and government subsidies. Or try out a local farmers market or CSA, to support those in your community supplying you with fresh, local, healthful edibles.

I am lucky enough to have at least 2 friends now to whom I can turn for fresh venison whenever my stash runs low! Ideally some day I want to try hunting, so that I can see the whole process. I’ve gardened a lot in the past, and am still working on convincing hubby that chickens and/or goats are a good idea…

I’ve already tried a venison pot pie, which was amazing. This breakfast hash used the other 1/2 pound I had in the refrigerator. It was well-seasoned, the hubby couldn’t even tell it was venison. And he does not like gamey meats, so I consider that a success!

Makes enough for 2 servings, or 1 really hearty breakfast
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound venison ground
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 sm-med sweet potato
  • 1 cup spinach or mixed greens

Step 1: Cook the venison in a frying pan with some cooking spray until no longer pink. Dice up the sweet potato. You can either microwave the pieces for 5-8 minutes to speed the cooking process, or cook them in a frying pan on medium heat with a lid for 15-17 minutes.

Step 2: Once the potatoes are soft when poked with a fork, add the spinach and a tbsp of water, cover to let it steam for a minute. Stir it around, add the venison, then add the eggs and cover again. Cook for 5-6 minutes.

And that’s it! Serve alone, or with toast for dipping. The longer you cook, the harder the yolk will become. I like just a little bit of runny yellow left, that takes about 4 minutes. You can also make this with scrambled eggs or poached eggs instead.

 

Tell me! Have you ever been hunting? Kept chickens? Gardened?