Category Archives: Finances

Articles concerning finances. This is the “budget” Epicurean after all.

Weekly Eating – 8/13/18

 

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!

 

This was an overall quiet week, but it felt like it went by so fast. That’s one of the things I hate the most about getting older, time just keeps speeding up! When you’re 16 you can’t wait for 18, then you can’t wait for 21, then 25, then what? You blink and you’re 30, just knocking on the door of 40.

We did get to enjoy a work-hard-play-hard Saturday, in which we (meaning the boy) did a ton of yard work, and also (me) sat in a hammock and read a book for an hour. The boy chopped down a few more smaller trees, which we didn’t need taken down by the pros with the big guys. Now the yard is SO huge and open feeling and I love it! There are just enough trees left to hang a hammock.

budget epicurean hammock time
Relaxing hammock time with the doggo

Even with a couple plants lost to disease because of all the rain, the garden itself is looking green, with the sweet potato vines out of control all over the place, several enormous green tomatoes coming along (I got a late start planting this year), beans nearly done, and the cantaloupe/ melon getting bigger everyday. You can eat sweet potato leaves, they taste like spinach.

budget epicurean garden sweet potato vines
Outta control sweet potato vines! This is one of four from one main plant.

I harvested my first real edible, a lovely acorn squash! The big compost pile is doing it’s thing, and the compost bin is nearly ready to be spread over the garden in the fall. My homestead dreams are coming true. Now to just convince him that we should get chickens…

And then on Sunday we went over a friends’ house for some grillin and chillin and pool time. I brought a big kale and chickpea salad and a rustic panzanella, and both were a big hit. I love that my friends are at least veggie friendly! I did indulge in a few bacon wrapped cheese stuffed jalapenos because, duh. And they were amazing. I did get a bruise from playing frisbee, which baffled the boy. He still gets surprised with how fra-gee-lay I am.

budget epicurean frisbee bruise

 

Monday:

Breakfast – breakfast stir fry with kale, pinto beans, and veggies

Lunch – leftover salads from the weekend, kale and chickpea and a panzanella with my homemade bread

Dinner – clean the fridge meal of loaded baked potatoes and roasted veggies

Tuesday:

Breakfast – peaches & cream overnight oatmeal

budget epicurean peach oatmeal

Lunch – gazpacho: I took the panzanella from the weekend, which had gotten too soggy to eat, and added some water and olive oil and pureed it into a nice summer soup! Traditional gazpacho started as a bread and oil soup anyhow, the veggies got added in later over time. Turns out it’s not great cold though, I prefer it hot.

budget epicurean gazpacho

Dinner – Sweet potato chili with some homemade wheat rolls. I took the leftover loaded sweet potato from last week’s Co-op dinner (yeah they are huge, the size of your face, so I brought plenty home) and mashed it in a crock pot with an extra can of diced tomatoes and about 2 cups of pinto beans. It turned out pretty darn tasty and filling. The boy even liked it.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – lentils with potato, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms in a whole grain wrap.

budget epicurean lentil wrap

Lunch – red beans and rice with some salsa. I usually batch cook a bunch of one kind of bean each week, for use throughout the week. Then at some point, the beans really need used, and I’ll have them with some rice and salsa. It never disappoints.

Snack – hummus & raw veggies

I also stopped by a community garden on a lunchtime walk, and discovered a new thing: lipstick peppers! I thought the name was adorable, so I had to take one home. All the peppers were bumpin, so I grabbed a few kinds for salsas and sauces, along with some stevia leaves for afternoon tea.

budget epicurean foraging

Dinner – open-face balsamic and soy sauce marinated portobello sandwich with lettuce, purple sauerkraut, and pickles, and a cucumber/tomato side salad

budget epicurean portolbellos

Thursday:

Breakfast – was feeling kinda nauseated, I think I just had some oatmeal and ginger tea

Lunch – leftover summer ratatouille &  a salad. I used a mandoline to thin slice some potatoes, zucchini, and squash, and layered it with tomatoes and bell peppers and baked at 350 for about an hour. So dang delicious!

budget epicurean ratatouille

Snack – mixed berry almond energy bar from a food swap

budget epicurean energy bar

Dinner – Tonight I got weeknight fancy. I had some smoked salmon souvenirs from my trip to Alaska in the pantry, and wanted to do something with them. So I mixed one filet with mashed potatoes, and fried until crispy on both sides to make a salmon latke.

budget epicurean salmon latkes

While those were cooking, I blistered some fresh green beans and grape tomatoes and baby peppers in a pan with some lemon juice, and boiled a few ears of corn. At the last minute I stirred together some plain greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic salt, and cucumber for a quick tzatziki. All together, it took less than 30 minutes and we had a super delicious, very profesh looking dinner for a micro-date night.

Friday:

Breakfast – there are a few bananas that are getting verrry brown so it’s time to bake. I mashed one up into pancake batter. Then I chopped up 2 fresh peaches and microwaved them with some lemon juice and maple syrup. A quick blitz with the immersion blender, and we had some fresh peach sauce to put on top.

budget epicurean banana pancake with peach sauce

Lunch – leftover salmon latkes, corn, and green bean salad

Snack – an apple &  yogurt

Dinner – Since I was fancy yesterday I went easy mode tonight, and boiled up a pound of pasta with my homemade tomato sauce.

budget epicurean pasta

I did get industrious in the kitchen, and made a huge batch of apple cider vinegar. I had an old gallon of cider from last fall that we never got around to drinking. I won’t waste that local apple goodness, so I boiled it to kill anything questionable, and poured it into a bunch of glass jars.

budget epicurean apple cider vinegar

Once cool I added some ACV I already had that has the mother in it, and hopefully in a month or 2 will have a bunch of fresh ACV for cleaning and cooking. Perfect timing, since I’m almost out right now. Making your own pantry staples is so empowering, and fun!

I also shelled the half pound or so of black beans that I’ve been harvesting a handful at a time all summer. These beans were handed down from a neighbor in Connecticut, who originally brought them over from Italy I believe. This is the beauty of heirloom seeds and seed swapping, these plants have a story and a history, and one tiny seed can grow over time to produce enough food to feed you for days. It’s honestly a miracle I can never get enough of.

budget epicurean black beans

The Weekend

This weekend I have a friends’ 30th birthday, which is a sleepover! I’m excited to hang out with friends, and do a bunch of silly things like manicures and face masks, watch chick flicks and eat popcorn.

Food Total: $39.68 + 30.75

Another good week for food, the box delivery was amazing for the price. It included a pound of local green beans, bell peppers, more potatoes, sweet potatoes, an onion, hydroponic lettuce, peaches, apples,  corn, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes.

$39.68
Meats $6.98 Dairy $8.36 Staples $15.08 Fruit/Veg $8.48 Extras $0.78
1lb turkey 5.99 Greek yogurt 6.37 Canned beans 6 romaine salad 2.5
1/2 lb bologna 0.99 sliced provolone 1.99 Canned tomatoes 6 pint mushrooms 2.49
french bread loaf 0.59 bella caps 2 3.49 tax 0.78
almond milk 2.49

I did one trip to the grocery store last Sunday, because canned goods were on stock-up sale, and after working hard outside the boy needed some serious fuel. So I got a big loaf of fresh bread and layered on nearly 2 pounds of deli meat, pickled jalapenos, and condiments for him. It hit the spot. 🙂

Lessons Learned

It feels really good to make progress on creating your dream life every day. We had been wanting to take down trees since moving in almost two years ago, and now we finally did it. The big, threatening ones were taken down professionally, so I no longer worry about storms knocking trees into our kitchen or living room. And the boy got to play lumberjack and take down the smaller ones, giving him a great workout and now we have a big ol pile of wood for bonfires all fall and winter long.

And making things is always fun! Even if it doesn’t turn out exactly like you think it will or want it to, you still feel a sense of accomplishment, like, yeah I made a thing. It just feels so great to be a producer and not a consumer sometimes.

 

 

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

 

One Small Thing: Handkerchiefs

 

As you may have noticed, this blog is all about being frugal, since I’m the Budget Epicurean and all.  But not to the exclusion of new experiences and food, of course, hence the Epicurean part.

You probably also already know that one great way to save money is by not spending it.

And a great way to not spend money is to incorporate habits and products in your life that can be reused multiple times or in multiple ways. This keeps you from having to buy more than one product for the same need. Handily, not throwing things away also is great for the environment.

The process of incorporating more Zero Waste habits into your everyday life should be pretty easy at the beginning.

There are so many simple habits we can change: using real straws or refusing plastic ones, bringing your own metal or bamboo silverware, using actual hand towels or cloth napkins rather than paper towels.

If you think this is too big of a leap, I will show you in this series how you can help save the planet with One Small Thing at a time.

The One Thing we will talk about today: Handkerchiefs.

Warning: detailed descriptions of snot ahead. Proceed to click the x in the corner if you don’t want to read about it or are squeamish.

budget epicurean zero waste changes one thing
Also check out that amazing 1960s packaging

Handkerchiefs can be beautiful, utilitarian, or tell the story of a place and time in history. They can be hand-sewn cotton, or crafted of the finest quality silk. If they are meant only for decoration and not for use, they can be called pocket squares.

The word originated from “kerchief“, meaning a head covering. Their use became more widespread, and their purpose became moreso to wipe your face or hands, thus “hand” was added to create handkerchief.

Handkerchiefs are also differentiated from cloth napkins in that they are typically not of quite as heavy fabric, and are carried around all day, not just for use at the dinner table.

Fun fact: everyone produces about 1 to 1.5 L of snot every day.

The purpose of all this mucus is to:

  1. Protect your sinuses and lungs from dirt, dust, and other particles in the air we breathe
  2. Act as a defensive barrier to foreign bacteria
  3. Keep your cells lining your airways lubricated

Things that can increase mucus production includes cold weather, allergies, spicy foods, emotional upset, and illness or infections. Healthy mucus is thin and clear, and is typically swallowed or absorbed and we don’t even notice it. When it thickens or becomes discolored, that’s usually a sign of infection.

Since I recently inherited a large collection of gorgeous heirloom handkerchiefs from my great grandmother, I have become a total convert. Yes, I had all the same questions and fears you probably do, and let me dispel a few myths for those still on the fence.

budget epicurean zero waste changes one thing

Your pockets will not get wet

Yes, mucus is 80-90% water. But how much volume do you produce on average? I’d wager not much more than a teaspoon. Most hankies can handle it, especially if you fold it multiple times. If you happen to have a runny faucet, just bring multiple hankies and switch out halfway through the day.

They will not ruin your washing machine or clothes

Unless you are ill, and producing an abnormally large volume or, forgive me, viscous snot, your hankies will do just fine in a normal washing machine. I have a bin where used ones go, and when its full I just toss them in with the next load of towels. It is best to wash them on high heat, but even that is not totally required.

Women who use reusable menstrual pads or cloth diapers can tell you that a washing machine is perfectly capable of sterilizing bodily fluids. You wash your bathing suits and undies/boxers in the same washing machine with your other clothes don’t you? Enough said.

You should use a new one each day (or more often)

Some people seem to be under the mistaken impression that if you use a handkerchief, you only have one and you use it over and over and over. That is not true. Dried on snot is not great, no matter how crunchy-granola you are. If you only have one hankie, you better be washing that bad boy daily.

They have *so many* uses

Of course the main use we are discussing is for blowing your nose or wiping a runny nose. But that is only one small part of the usefulness of carrying a handkerchief.

You can wipe sweat off your brow on a scorching summer day.
You can wrap small items in it such as baked goods when no other bag or wrapper option is avaialble
It can be a fashionable head wrap in a windy convertible while driving up the Amalfi coast
It can wipe up small spills, muddy paws, sticky hands, or wipe your mouth after eating
You can dry your hands after washing them instead of using paper towels that kill millions of trees per year
Y
ou can cover your mouth & nose if there is particularly dusty/ dirty air situation or an offensive smell
It can be a substitute bandage for a small injury
It can be a grand gesture to someone who is teary-eyed to hand them your hankie
They can be used to polish shoes or clean glasses
They can be used for some kinds of dances to enhance arm movements
It can become and emergency sling for an arm or baby
It can stand in as a potholder to grab hot objects

Anything else I forgot? Feel free to tell me in the comments!

Hand washing and air drying is best, but not required

The gentler you are with your hankies the longer the fabric will last, this is true of all fabrics. Sure, if you can pre-soak them, and then gently hand wash them, and then pin them up on a line to dry out in the great outdoors, and then press each one to mint condition, that is the ideal.

But I can tell you from experience so far, they will survive a spin through the washer and tumble dry in the dryer. They may be a bit wrinkly on the other side, but who cares when I’m just putting them in my pocket?

They do not have to be expensive, and they will save you money in the long run

Sure you can buy 3 handkerchiefs for $65. Or, you could buy 100 for $10. Or you could even just make them yourself from old sheets, pillow cases, or tshirts. A handkerchief does not have to be fancy and expensive, it just needs to be a piece of cloth you can re-use after blowing your nose or wiping up spills.

And shoot, why not just ask grandma or grandpa? They might have some hanging around and be happy to hand them down for free!

You can also re-use a handkerchief for literal years. Just having a stack of 7 could prevent you from ever having to drop $3 on a box of tissues ever again! I know we used to go through a roll of paper towels and a box of kleenex at least every other week.

Now, with a bin of clean and a bin of dirty towels and hankies, we haven’t had to buy any of either in over a month. And probably won’t have to for a long time, at least until flu season*. This switch will probably save us hundreds over the next 6 decades or so. I may even get to pass these on to further generations some day, for even more savings!

budget epicurean zero waste changes one thing

*Important note: Disposable tissues are by far the better option when you are legitimately sick and/or in public. When you have a viral infection, and blow your nose, virus particles are in there. If you use a hankie, and re-use it, you risk infecting those around you with everything you touch. Better by far to use disposable, toss the germs right into the trash, and wash your hands afterwards.

So, yes, there are certain situations where something disposable is definitely called for. New babies, sickness, allergies, come to mind. But for every day general use, consider trying out a hankie. You never know, it could end up saving you thousands, and saving the future of the planet as well.

 

 

 

More posts about hankies for your reading pleasure:

Zero Waste Alternatives: The Ultimate List

Tissues vs. Handkerchiefs (Zero-Waste Journey)

Handkerchiefs Save Money: Men’s or Women’s, Cotton or Silk, Embroidered or Plain

Handkerchief History

Every Man Should Carry a Handkerchief

“There is an inverse relationship between the handkerchief’s popularity and the rise of our germa-phobe culture. A society that sprays the air with disinfectant to rid it of those pesky bacterium and totes hand sanitizer on key chains looks eschew at the reusable tissue. I think hankie ignorance is partly to blame. Having not grown up around handkerchief-carrying men, it seems some people are under the impression that a hankie is used over and over again, all week long. But a man should take a clean handkerchief each day, and launder them weekly. It should go without saying that when offering a lady your handkerchief, it should always be an unused, clean one. You should probably tell her that when you hand it over, as to allay any fears she might have about what’s lurking in its folds.”

Weekly Eating – 8/6/18

 

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, I survived my long drive last weekend to Ohio, and turns out it was pretty worth it. The bridal shower was beautiful, they did a great job of decorating and making the hall magical. And it was so nice to see family, I hadn’t been to town in about 2 years.

weekly eating budget epicurean

We caught up on life and things, and just being around the people who raised you is always comfortable. I also benefited, as there were several items I brought home that I previously hadn’t been able to get because I flew rather than drove. I inherited an Instant Pot my mom used once and didn’t like (hello, canning in my future!), a cast iron griddle that was too heavy for my grandma to use, a box full of mason jars, and handkerchiefs from my great grandmother.

weekly eating budget epicurean

I’m pretty excited to use some family heirlooms in my Zero Waste journey. It goes to show you that you should always ask around, old folks lived in times where zero waste was just a way of life, and they know things that we as a society have forgotten.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – potatoes, eggs, and pancakes

Lunch – chili at work. It was a crazy busy day, so I would not have been able to eat at all if a co-worker hadn’t brought chili and pretty much forced me to eat a bowl. The cornbread muffin was really good

Dinner – Chipotle! I know that’s 2 weeks in a row. I’m not mad. Does derail the diet plans a bit…

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Leftover pancake, with bacon and candied walnuts

Lunch – Baked sweet potato, black beans, avocado, and salsa

weekly eating budget epicurean

Dinner – Rest of the Chipotle

weekly eating budget epicurean

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Corn tortillas with fried potatoes, peppers & onions, and sweet potato leaves! Turns out they taste just like spinach when cooked, and we have an abundance of them right now.

weekly eating budget epicurean

Lunch – baked sweet potato with black beans, avocado, and salsa

Dinner – Slow cooker tofu masala. I chopped up onions and bell peppers, mixed garlic, ginger, tons of spices, tofu, and coconut milk and let it simmer on low all day at work. When I came home, the house smelled amazing and as soon as the rice cooker was done our dinner was ready. Ridiculously healthy, tasty, and satisfying.

weekly eating budget epicurean

I made a big batch of blueberry banana muffins using this recipe from Amazing Paleo because I want to experiment with more gluten free recipes (so I have things for next time my sister visits). I used local NC blueberries instead of nuts.

weekly eating budget epicurean

I also made 2 more loaves of my favorite white bread because we were out. It was getting late, so I decided to let it rise overnight and go to bed rather than rush it or stay up too late baking. In the morning it turned out they had risen into monster blobs!

budget epicurean weekly eating

Haha still tasty, and actually the loaves were extra light and fluffy due to the overnight rise time. I bet I could turn this dough into 3 loaves with the extra rise time.

Thursday:

Breakfast – Paleo blueberry muffins

Snack – hummus & raw veggies

weekly eating budget epicurean

Lunch – tofu tikka masala

weekly eating budget epicurean

Snack – my favorite chocolate PB bars, and a salad because they had a potluck at work for someone’s retirement

Dinner – Thursday night Co-op $3 dinner! Loaded baked sweet potatoes with black bean and corn salsa, vegan butter and sour cream, and cinnamon sugar & raisins.

It was a blast, and I also finally made the leap and became an owner… It’s a one time fee of $100 and you get discounts and deals all year long. This was also my first Zero Waste grocery shopping adventure!

weekly eating budget epicurean bulk grocery shopping

Bringing jars and tare-ing was a little awkward at first but the cashier clearly is familiar with the process. And the per pound deals are pretty great. Sadly I did smash my biggest pickle jar, so I was quite sad about that…

weekly eating budget epicurean bulk grocery shopping

Friday:

Breakfast – PBFit on fresh bread

weekly eating budget epicurean

Lunch – lunch out with a friend. I did half great with this. I remembered to bring my towel as a napkin, and even brought my own real fork for the salad. But I did not have a container, so I was stuck with a huge plastic clamshell. Baby steps, this is still progress.

weekly eating budget epicurean

Snack – fresh fruit! I cut up a TON of fruits last night, so we have a wall of containers in the fridge with local NC fruit now.

Dinner – Last of some leftover beef n vegetable soup with my homemade bread.

The Weekend

This will hopefully be a pretty chill weekend. We don’t have any real plans yet, besides several potential friend hangouts, weather permitting. I will probably do some sort of baking or sewing project, like trying a batch of tortillas or crepes, maybe some gnocchi. We are still slowly sifting through the freezer and pantry and cleaning it out, so I’m trying to come up with recipes to use what I have that the boy will also actually like and eat.

We also have a lot of yard work to do, and various housekeeping and cleaning. Vacuum, sweep, laundry, clean the bathrooms… you know, adulting things. I may make some time for relaxing, a new sewing project I have in mind, and/or taking my books back to the library too.

Food Total: $44.12 + $146.27

This is extra high because it includes the $100 membership fee to become an owner in the Durham Co-op. It is a one time fee, and without it I still only spent $90 on food this week! Yay!

Lessons Learned

Bulk shopping is super cheap, and not as hard as you may think. Any glass, or even plastic, container will do. I did learn that a wide-mouth jar is best, as the pour spouts for the bulk containers are very wide, and if your jar you’re pouring into is too narrow, you will fling pinto beans and dried rice all over the place. Don’t be that guy. Luckily my store had a handy wide mouth cup to use, to pour from the container into and then pour from the cup into my smaller containers. It’s like they’ve done this once or twice.

 

 

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

Weekly Eating – 7/30/18

 

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!

 

Last week I got a big ol box of tomatoes from Whitaker Farms. This weekend I finally got the time to make a huge batch of my easy peasy blender sauce, and canned 2 huge quarts and several pints. I LOVE homemade tomato sauce so much! The sweetness and complex flavors of locally grown organic tomatoes just can’t be beat.

budget epicurean weekly eating

And since I’m visiting my sister this weekend (more about that below) and she recently learned she has an intolerance for gluten, soy, and corn, I am bringing her a jar of sauce (because I know exactly what is in it) and tried my hand at a new gluten-free noodles recipe using almond flour and tapioca flour. I have no idea if these noodles will hold together or taste good, but at least I tried!

budget epicurean weekly eating

 

Monday:

Breakfast – fruit smoothie with watermelon, local peaches, banana, and blueberries + flax & amla

Lunch – half batch of tuna salad as lettuce wraps, plus some raw veggies and hummus

budget epicurean weekly eating

Snack – cut up fruits

Dinner – I did a crazy clean-out-the-fridge veggie burger with a Turkish twist. I had some roasted beets, leftover cooked potatoes, pinto beans and brown rice. So I tossed it all in the blender with spices and some flax to bind it, and make it into 8 patties, which I lightly fried in coconut oil.

budget epicurean weekly eating

I had some leftover pita bread and tzatziki sauce, and stewed some fresh veggies and cashews in Za’atar and curry powder. It turned out AMAZING all together! Cleaning out the fridge is a great frugal strategy, veggie meals can be truly outstanding, and it prevents food waste, all things that I love.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Peaches & Cream oatmeal. 1/ cup oats, 1 cut up peach, 3 diced dried apricots, 1 cup almond milk, handful of walnuts. The walnuts added a bit too many calories, so I won’t use them again.

budget epicurean weekly eating

Lunch – leftover shrimp and broccoli fettuccini

Snack – more fruit!

Dinner – Wheat penne with the homemade sauce <3 I steamed some broccoli and cauliflower on the side.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – another round of Peaches & Cream oatmeal, sans walnuts

Lunch – the rest of the curry vegetables and brown rice. Cauliflower, bell pepper, onions, garlic, and fresh tomato. YUM.

budget epicurean weekly eating

Dinner – Chipotle was giving away free guac today only, so of course we had to jump on that! Chipotle is definitely both of our favorite ‘eat-out’ places. The flavor cannot be beat, and I’ve tried to make the chicken and the rice. It is never quite right.

budget epicurean weekly eating

Thursday:

Breakfast – cheerios, because sometimes I just don’t wanna

Lunch – leftover Chipotle. Another reason I love them is because it is almost always enough for 2 meals for me, so basically like half price and I get to eat it twice in a row.

budget epicurean weekly eating

Snack – no way, more fruit?!? 🙂

Dinner – The boy had a tiny bit of ground beef left from making himself burritoes for lunch, and I was craving some warm soup to go with the icky rain. So I tossed together a cup of rice, some stock from the fridge, frozen mixed veggies, and the beef. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Boom, easy peasy and super cheap comfort food.

budget epicurean weekly eating

Friday:

Breakfast – fruit smoothie with watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, and cherry juice, plus frozen blueberries and banana

budget epicurean weekly eating

Lunch – canned soup from my desk at work, because I didn’t have any pre-made leftovers today.

Dinner – on the road!

The Weekend

I’m driving to Ohio this weekend for a wedding shower.

Yup. I agree with you, I am crazy.

It’s about a 10 hours drive both ways. But family. Ya know.

I packed a cooler with some road snacks, granola bars, PBJs, bottled water (re-useable bottles, don’t worry). Hopefully I can make it without giving into temptation for fast food, but who knows. I’m going to give myself grace and roll with whatever happens this weekend. Plus my mom doesn’t know, so it will be a total surprise to her. I can’t wait to see her face. 🙂

Food Total: $27.03

This week I did not go to the grocery store at all! It went by in a blur actually. I meant to go Wednesday but then it was monsooning. Then I was going to go Thursday, but the rain was even worse. So we scrounged and figured it out and it worked out. The produce delivery box was more than enough to get us by combined with what’s in the pantry.

Lessons Learned

Apparently I have far more food in the house than I even realized. We didn’t go to the grocery store this week and barely even noticed. I may be able to spread out grocery shopping to every other week soon, and just stock up on enough yogurt and bananas to get the boy through to the next trip.

Also I need to get back to batch cooking on the weekends again. I’ve been lax on planning and prepping, as summer is just plain crazy. We are definitely gone more weekends than we are here, and weekends are when I have the time, energy, and mental space to do these things. So I’ve been scrounging for lunch and snacks lately, and had a few ‘what the heck do I make for dinner’ moments. Those prepped “food, fast” meals are definitely required.

 

 

 

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

Weekly Eating – 7/23/18

 

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!

 

Having the in-laws in town was really great. I’m lucky that they are awesome and we enjoy spending time together. We explored the area, did some shopping, went for walks, cooked good food and went out a few times, and they helped us fix our fence that got smashed in a storm a few weeks ago.

budget epicurean fence fix
The big ol tree that did the smashing is still there next to the fence on the right.

I’ve also decided that I need to get back to my pre-cruise diet habits. I’ve gotten quite lazy about working out (i.e. I don’t…) and more generous in portion sizes, and it’s showing on the scale and in the fit of my pants lately. I hate it.

But it’s all my own doing.

Since I’m tracking other things anyways (like our trash) I started tracking calories on my Fitbit app again. And have been consistently over-shooting my target range by 300-500 calories… whoops. That explains a lot.

So, after we work our way through the silly amounts of leftovers (am I the only one that ends up with infinite leftovers when family comes to visit?) meals will get more boring for me.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – a peach Almond milk yogurt

Lunch – leftovers from the weekend

Dinner – shrimp garlic fettuccini with broccoli & cauliflower

Tuesday:

Breakfast – homemade wheat toast with raspberry jam

Lunch – leftover turkey gyro & fries

Snack – 1 peach, 2 matcha energy balls from a previous food trade

budget epicurean weekly eating

Dinner – Leftover sopas from the weekend. Sopas are a super easy corn pancake basically, then you top with whatever toppings you like. I had pinto beans, guac, tomato, a tiny bit of pulled pork, and lettuce.

Tonight was also a Bull City Food Swap, to which I took my pickled watermelon rind, and some fresh rosemary garlic bread.

In exchange, I brought home Cherry Rum Jam, 6 oz fresh smoked bacon, spicy and garlic dill pickles, gingersnaps, “British flapjacks” and the happy feeling of making several new friends. 🙂

budget epicurean weekly eating

Wednesday:

Breakfast – 2 slices of homemade wheat bread with 1 tbsp PB & jelly

Lunch – Big salad with avocado, cucumber, and tomato

budget epicurean weekly eating

Dinner – we went out with a couple from work to a Mexican place, and got some delicious fried things with beans and rice and all the fixings. I swear, my diet starts tomorrow…

Snack – a peach

Thursday:

Breakfast – fruit smoothie with watermelon, mango, banana, flax, and amla powder

budget epicurean weekly eating

Lunch – tuna salad sandwich and peach & tomato salsa

Dinner – pinto beans & brown rice with steamed cauliflower, broccoli, and corn on the cob

budget epicurean weekly eating

Friday:

Breakfast – green tea matcha latte

Lunch – leftover tofu alfredo. Seriously some of the best alfredo I’ve ever had, ridiculously healthy, and tons of protein. This needs to be a staple in our meals. Also you can see the hand towel I brought to work peeking into the corner of the photo 🙂 This has been awesome to wipe my fingers after lunch, and dry my hands after washing.

budget epicurean weekly eating

Dinner – we had some people over for games, bonfire, and fun. I didn’t have time to eat dinner beforehand, so food ended up being all the snacks: pepper jelly cheese dip, chili cheese dip, raw veggies and hummus, and chips and my soon-to-be-famous Carolina Reaper Salsa! I made a new triple batch with fresh peppers, and a whole pint disappeared easily.

budget epicurean weekly eating

The Weekend

This weekend was supposed to have a food tour, but it ended up getting cancelled. That’s okay by me. We have a huuuuuuuge pile of mulch from cutting down some trees that we need to spread all around the various gardens, some weeding to do, watering, and hopefully some harvesting. And of course a big dose of relaxing.

Food Total: $34.73 + $27.51 = $62.24

This week we got our second delivery of a local produce box, and supplemented it with a trip to ALDI. I’m going to give it a few more weeks, and then I’ll tell you all about this service.

$27.51
Dairy $4.18 Staples $10.93 Fruit/Veg $12.40
Almond milk 1.89 Tortillas 4 4.66 Watermelon 2.69
organic hummus 2.29 pita chips 1.99 Pineapple 1.65
blue tortilla chips 1.89 Mini bell peppers 2.39
gallon vinegar 2.39 Mango 0.59
Celery 0.89
Bananas 2.06
Cherries 2.13

I adore ALDI so much for their low prices and no-frills shopping experience, but boy do they love packaging. The produce especially makes me sad now, all the things are individually wrapped.

I get that people want a sanitary food shopping experience, but why do I need peppers wrapped in plastic, apples in plastic, plastic boxes for the fruits and lettuce, styrofoam under my mushrooms and zucchini and jalapenos with more plastic wrapped around it?

I don’t.

Give me my produce naked! The way god intended.

Take that however you like.

Lessons Learned

The process of cutting down on grocery shopping waste is going to be a long one. Tortillas are a not-optional meal staple here, as the boy will wrap literally anything in one and call it dinner. And though I have made my own tortillas, both corn and flour, it is not an easy process. And without a tortilla press, I can’t get them thin enough without breaking or sticking to my counters.

Another part of the process will be having ‘convenience’ foods on hand at all times. We decided to have people over pretty last minute (like, barely 24 hours in advance last minute) so I did not have time to make things that require forethought, like homemade hummus which requires overnight soaking.

So perhaps I need to rethink the freezer situation. Once we work our way through all the things still waiting inside and empty it out more, I’m thinking a big batch cooking day is in order. That way I can stock it with pre-prepped things like rice, beans of all sorts, waffles, breads, cookies, granola bars, etc.

 

 

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

Tracking My Trash

 

So after my big declaration of wanting to move more towards a zero waste lifestyle, I approached it the same way people wanting to make big money changes should: tracking all your expenses so you get an accurate picture of your current situation.

I decided to track all my trash for one week.

At work, at home, on the go.

Every cup, wrapper, paper, bag, container, and paper towel.

And this is what I had after 7 straight days:

tracking your trash budget epicurean zero waste lifestyle

Minus a few things from our travels:

  • a Starbucks to go cup and sleeve
  • an empty water bottle
  • a paper bag and to go container
  • wrapping from a Torchys taco
  • a paper plate and 2 napkins
  • a paper plate and tin foil
  • a synthetic wine cork

I’m not going to lie, I was a little surprised. I thought we already did a pretty great job of recycling and not buying a whole lot. But this was quite eye opening. This is only 7 days worth of trash!

The empty box of ziplocks is evidence that I have or had at least 50 more plastic bags somewhere in my house. A plastic takeout container that I had been reusing for work lunches got smashed to pieces. A styrofoam container from portobello mushroom caps. A plastic wrapper from a stick of butter. Some non-recyclable plastic windows from mail envelopes. We run through sunscreen and bug spray like water in the summertime.

With the obvious exception of toilet paper, anything I normally would trash at work got put into a plastic bag. Things that I might normally toss that could be composted, I brought home instead to toss in my compost bin. Like a banana peel, or some yellowing leaves from my lunchtime salad.

And this is the bag I kept at work:

tracking your trash budget epicurean zero waste lifestyle

And you can see it is much less heavily food-focused and more weighted towards snacks and paper products. I have always brought my own lunches to work in reusable plastic or glass containers, and have a set of silverware and cups there that I wash daily. This helps cut down on my overall waste at work.

I honestly do not think I could, nor do I really want, to get my household waste to less than a mason jar full per year. But this definitely showed me that there is more room for improvement.

I love the aptly named “Near-O Waste“, which more accurately describes the lifestyle I’m shooting for. I still want to enjoy modern conveniences and not live like it’s the 1800s. But I also want to be gentler to Mother Earth.

Lesson #1

I use a lot of paper products! Like, a silly number of kleenex and paper towels throughout the day. Obviously to blow my nose, but also to wipe up small spills around my desk, to blot grease or lipstick, after washing my hands or my lunch containers. And every single time I use the restroom at work, I use 2-3 paper towels.

Paper takes a lot of energy, water, and deforestation to create. And we waste a LOT of paper products as a species. Toilet paper, paper towels, actual printer paper, magazines, books, newspapers, paper plates… the list goes on.

With how much paper waste we produce yearly, we could build a 12 foot high wall from New York to California. Not that we should. Paper also gives off a lot of methane when it rots in a landfill, rather than being composted. And taking away trees means decreasing oxygen production, and less protection against climate change.

What can I do about it?

Well, I’m going to bring an actual kitchen towel to work. When you wash your hands after using the bathroom, they are clean, right? You just need a towel to dry them. Lets see how long it takes to get comments or weird looks 😉

I’m also going to try to remember to bring home any paper towels that I use (because you know I’m not going to remember or bring a towel every time). At least once a day I’d toss the towels in the trash and just as I walk out the door think shoot! I meant to keep that to compost… so clearly this will take some re-training.

Lesson #2

Even the Budget Epicurean, who revels in homemade goodies and snacks like energy balls, KIND barsgranola bars, and homemade granola, has emergency packaged snacks, and uses them. Sometimes it’s a crazy day, or the afternoon munchies hit, and for the good of my co-workers I must keep the hangry at bay.

What can I do about it?

Stock my desk and pockets with homemade, no waste goodies. This includes things like my homemade bars and balls, but also whole fruits and bags of nuts or trail mix. If you have any great zero waste snacks you love, please share in the comments!

There is a balance between tasty yummies that can sit at room temperature for days at a time without getting gross. Perhaps I will try bringing weekly batches, which will require more memory muscles. Or else get comfortable with being hungry until I get home.

Lesson #3

We go through a lot more packaged food than I realized. When I think of “packaged food” I think junk food. Which is a big part of the SAD (Standard American Diet) and a general no-no in my house.

However. ‘Healthy’ foods can also come in packages.

See above: edamame, sliced cheese, granola bars, frozen mixed veggies, frozen berries, radishes, carrots. All healthy, whole foods… yet all are also wrapped in plastic that gets thrown away. Not great.

What can I do about it?

I am now moving more towards ‘zero waste’ principles when grocery shopping. I will be scoping out the options in all my usual shopping haunts, as well as branching out more into my Durham co-op market and Farmers Market.

Ethnic grocery stores are also usually pretty good options for things like cheap produce, baked goods, and I’ve found a place I can buy seafood and whole fish right off the ice. I will start preparing better for shopping trips, asking more questions, and seeking out package free food options. And next year, we may get a CSA.

 

Is There Any Good News?

This week also made me much more aware of not just my own habits and consumption but also those around me. Waste and plastic packaging has become so convenient, normalized, and ubiquitous.

We don’t even think twice about using multiple plastic cups, straws, utensils, and bottles. Daily.

I think we should think.

The good news is, we are starting to catch on. More stores are offering bulk food sections, package free produce, local produce, discounts for bringing your own bags or mugs. The Zero Waste lifestyle is spreading, as awareness of the plight of and concern for the environment becomes more mainstream.

And I had several small wins throughout the week:

  • A friend asked to meet up for afternoon tea at Starbucks to catch up. It was spur of the moment, but I had brought coffee from home in a to-go mug. So I rinsed it out and took it, rather than use a Starbucks cup. Bonus, I got 10 cents off! And, maybe, planted a small seed in my friends’ head to bring her own cup in the future.
  • While walking to my office, I saw 2 paper napkins on the ground that must have blown off someone’s lunch or breakfast. I usually would at least pick it up and toss it in the trash. This time I took it to my desk to put in the ‘take home to compost’ bag.
  • One day there were 2 plastic bins with broken lids sitting by the recycle bins. Clearly they were no longer usable for their original purpose, but they could be perfect for another idea I’ve got brewing… so I snagged them and took them home to perhaps give them a second life.
  • When collecting mail from the week, I realized… it is super easy to make paper from old paper scraps. So I pulled out the little plastic windows, and got crafty. I even sprinkled wild flower seeds into it so the paper can be planted when I’m done with it! I think I’m going to use it to create a nice wedding shower card.
  • I saw an awesome bag that said “I used to be a plastic bottle“, and asked about it. That led to a fun conversation about plastic and waste and how we can all do better.

So there you have it, week one of my Near-O waste initiative, and lessons learned. I’m sure this will be a very long process, with a lot of ups and downs. Much like everything else in life. 🙂

 

Want to join me??

I’d love that! Just keep all your non-compostable and non-recyclable items, for one day, one week, one month. And then come back here to comment, or post about it on social media (maybe we can make #TrackYourTrash a trending phrase on Twitter?) and tell me what you learned.

 

Have you done a trash tracking week? Where do you struggle with low or no waste options? Do you have any zero waste snack ideas besides nuts or raw veggies??

Weekly Eating – 7/16/18

 

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!

 

Monday was our travel home day from a family funeral. We were smart, and prepared a batch of blueberry muffins ahead of time, so we would have something on the plane. I had also packed a bag full of healthy granola bars, energy bars, and fruit snacks.

It was nice to get home, and check in on the gardens. Turns out 4 days of no watering isn’t enough to get these plants down!

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

The zucchini finally has oodles of little baby squash coming.
I CANNOT WAIT TO DROWN IN ZUCCHINI. I’m weird and I know it. #sorrynotsorry

The tomatoes are also starting to produce fruit, there are several dozen tiny green globes. Not quite large enough to pick for fried green tomatoes, but I am so antsy. I’m dying for a taste of home grown tomato sauce on pasta. I’m also stoked that the volunteer cucumber is doing so well, since the ones I planted on purpose never came up.

Oh, and since our fence got smashed by a tree in a storm a few weeks ago, we’ve caught deer in the yard a few times. I absolutely hate this, as they are very destructive towards those things I love so much, my plants. And, the poo in my yard. Which is apparently infinitely interesting to our dogs. To the point that they want to wear it as a fragrance.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan
He knows what he did.

Yeah, green, stinky deer poop. The dog rolled in it. His face says it all.

Monday:

Breakfast – Blueberry muffins

Snack – Granola bars

Lunch – Leftover frozen burrito fixings

Dinner – White bean & pork soup. I pulled a frozen package of pork out of the refrigerator when we got home for burritos, then used some more of it to make a quick soup for dinner.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

White beans are a favorite of mine, so simple and delicious. I added some onion and carrot and radishes that were wilting in the produce drawer. Simmered on the stove for a few hours, it was a delightful just-got-home meal.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – thawed pancakes with raspberry jam

Lunch – Leftover soup from yesterday

Dinner – Quesadillas: pulled pork & BBQ for the boy, thawed black beans and cheddar for myself. With avocado, salsa, and plain Greek yogurt as toppings.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Snack – someone at work brought walnut brownies and was kind enough to share, so I had two of those

The brownies made me think Hey self, you have tons of black beans still, why not make black bean brownies?? They count as breakfast, snacks, dessert… so I did, and used this recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

They came out a little gooey, but that’s how I like my brownies. They were almost like chocolate-chip-dotted fudge. That I don’t have to feel at all guilty about eating!

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Cherry Vanilla overnight oatmeal. I layered the last of my steel cut oats in a jar with some ground flaxseed, vanilla soymilk, and frozen cherries and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

Lunch – Leftover black beans & rice with salsa

Dinner – I pulled out some chicken from the freezer, and threw it in the crock pot with a jar of my sweet pepper jam for the boy, and thawed a black bean burger for myself with steamed fresh broccoli and white corn to go with it.

Snack – an amazing black bean brownie

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Thursday:

Breakfast – cherry vanilla smoothie: I had some oatmeal left that I didn’t finish, so I tossed it in the blender with some cranberry juice, extra frozen cherries, and a banana

Lunch – Chickpea sweet potato curry with brown rice, thawed from the freezer

Snack – you’ll never guess…. yup, brownies!

Dinner – Vegan alfredo on wheat pasta, made with silken tofu.  Recipe from Saving the Crumbs.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Sounds crazy but I promise it was actually really amazing. The sauce was thick and creamy and the flavors complex thanks to a dash of nutmeg and cayenne. Even the boy said it was some of the best alfredo he’s ever had. Except it had “too much chunky stuff” LOL (that’d be zucchini & squash)

Friday:

Breakfast – smoothie with cantaloupe, frozen berries, banana, amla powder, cherry juice, and flaxseed

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Lunch – Leftover veggie alfredo

Snack – fresh fruits: pineapple, pears, blueberries

Dinner – Leftovers, or else out somewhere with the parents

The Weekend

The boy’s parents are in town this weekend, bringing us some things we’ve inherited. So we will be finding places to put things and use what we picked out, and will get to spend a little less stressful downtime together. This also means the ‘eating out’ costs will likely be high this weekend, and I probably won’t cook at home as much. I’m okay with that.

Food Total: $27.60 + $27.03 = $54.63

We used up a bunch of things from the freezer, which is awesome. The chest freezer is getting a little out of control, so it might be time for a deep clean and defrost soon.

I still have tons of bags of frozen vegetables, pork chops, various seafood, several types of ice cream and frozen treats. We will slowly work our way through these things and then I will only re-stock with pre-cooked items like rice and beans and veggie patties.

Fruit/Veg $27.09
forelle pears 2 1.77
avocados 2 4
yellow peaches 2 1.65
black plums 3 1.49
zucchini 2 yellow squash 1 2.94
kale 1 bunch 0.99
broccoli 2 4.58
mango 1 1
cauliflower 1 1.99
pineapple 1 2.99
yellow corn 5 2.5
bananas 6 1.19

Lessons Learned

I had my first attempt at Zero Waste shopping, at Harris Teeter. It wasn’t even pre-planned, which I am a little embarrassed about, but I did a great job of not needed plastic bags and bringing home very little waste, which I am thrilled about.

I bought solely fresh produce, so there were of course bar code stickers, and the cauliflower in particular I was sad about, since they were all individually wrapped in plastic.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan
All the produce in the cover photo above fit in these 2 bags

However, this is plenty of produce for the week & weekend, in addition to another service which I will tell you more about soon! #Spoilers… The true test will come when I need to go re-stock pantry staples like pasta, rice, and oats. Oh, and there was 0.51 in tax on the groceries… but I thought food wasn’t taxed? Color me confused.

 

 

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

Weekly Eating – 7/09/18

 

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!

 

Gosh, it feels good to be back y’all!

This summer has been a lil crazy, and we haven’t been great about meal planning with being gone or hosting family pretty much every weekend. But that’s ok, sometimes life is like that.

Over the weekend I made a huge ol pork roast and a big batch of ground turkey, because the boy was sad about how long it had been since we had burritos. So… lots of meat in the fridge. He was pleased. I also made a giant crock pot full of black beans which became my best black bean soup and black bean burgers.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

While my sister was in town last weekend, we also went shopping and picked up a ginormous box of honey cheerios on sale, because she has discovered that she has a gluten, soy, and corn intolerances. As you can imagine, that significantly limits ones food choices. Turns out cheerios is one cereal that has no HFCS or soy or wheat in it.

And, we also made a batch of macarons! Because almond flour is just fine. And I’ve always wanted to make them! They turned out pretty darn good looking too. I added a few fresh strawberries to the filling and we put cocoa in the batter for some chocolate strawberry flavors going on. Delish.

Oh I also got a big-a$$ watermelon, and turned it into all kinds of goodies! I pickled a big batch of rinds for a Food Swap next week, we ate tons of it fresh, it became a watermelon-feta-mint salad, and several smoothies.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Monday:

Breakfast – Honey cheerios + a banana + soymilk

Lunch – Black bean soup!

Dinner – Enchilada casserole. This used up some small corn tortillas, black and pinto beans, pulled pork, corn, and tomatoes. Topped with pickled jalapenos, cheddar, guac, and salsa. SO DANG GOOD.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Snack – a macaron

Tuesday:

Breakfast – same cereal, bc I’m boring!

Lunch – leftover enchilada and a salad that happened to match the skirt I was wearing that day, haha

Dinner – portobello stir fry

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smoothie with watermelon, pineapple, frozen blueberries, blueberry kefir, and greens

Lunch – leftover stir fry, and a Greek salad

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Dinner – Leftovers! We are going out of town again for the weekend, so I’m busy using up or freezing all the perishables

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Thursday:

Breakfast – smoothie with watermelon, pineapple, frozen blueberries, blueberry kefir, and amla powder

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Lunch – uhhh it was a bit of a crazy day, so I didn’t get a lunch per se. I did sneak a maple bacon donut that was brought in to work. #noregrets

Snack – a cranberry yogurt

Dinner –we were tired of all the leftovers, so we decided on a spontaneous date night to AYCE sushi at RocknRolls!!

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan
In case it was unclear, I REALLY love salmon sushi. Also I ate three teenage boys next to us under the table!

Friday:

Breakfast – I finally successfully used up all the watermelon, so today’s smoothie was frozen blueberries and cherries, pineapple and flaxseed powder

Lunch – Black beans & rice

Dinner – whatever we can scrounge up before heading to the airport. Everything else will get frozen while we’re gone.

The Weekend

We had a death in the family, so we are out of town for the weekend. It will definitely be interesting seeing how expensive and wasteful traveling is. I am going to try to plan ahead and pack at least some nuts or trail mix to take so I don’t give into temptation to buy things at the airport.

Y’all are in for something BIG on Monday, so stay tuned!

Food Total: $5.92

All the major expenses happened last week or earlier, so I’m not counting them for this week. When we return though I’ll have to do a stock up trip. If you really want me to fess up, that pic at the top was an ALDI stock up last week that cost us $68.79.

The only things purchased were on a whim, a stop-in at Walmart on my way to work. I desperately needed Ibuprofen (one to keep in my car) and some cold sore medication (BOO cold sores, the worst) and while there I grabbed some bananas and avocados.

Luckily, I remembered to grab one of my reusable canvas bags from the car! So no plastic bag, yay!

Lessons Learned

So, the boy actually eat way less meat than I think he does. Especially now as I am borderline vegetarian and am not very helpful in eating it. And I think… that… I may have actually burnt him out on burritoes! I did not know that was possible. But he said he actually got tired of the ground turkey and pork (I guess that’s what happens when that is all there is to eat for lunch and dinner for a week straight…)

 

 

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

5 Freezer Meals for 1 or 2 in 30 minutes

 

I know that’s a lot of numbers in the title, but what do you expect from a finance & food blog? 😉 There are many ways to save money on one of most people’s biggest budget categories (after housing): food.

  1. Eat at your parents house
  2. Eat only Ramen noodles
  3. One meal per day
  4. Intermittent fasting
  5. Freeganism
  6. Vegetable garden/farming
  7. Bulk buying
  8. Couponing
  9. Meal planning
  10. Freezer meals

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

But every tip will not work for every person and every situation.

If you are in a dorm with just a small refrigerator and 6 months until you move again, your life is drastically different from a family with four children in the suburbs with two chest freezers.

I’ve designed meal plans for the Dollar Tree, one week of dinners from one pork roast, and 10 freezer meals in one hour.

The Freezer Meals For 2 Plan

This plan is designed for smaller households, who have a freezer.

One or two people.

I made all of these meals for a friend who was about to have a baby. Having freezer meals on hand makes feeding yourself when sleep deprived and stressed so much easier! But these meals are also great for single people or couples who don’t like to cook, as they are super easy and stress free.

So if you have a big family or a big appetite, these recipes might not be for you. However they are very easy to scale up, simply double or triple the ingredients, and use larger freezer bags.

This is also designed to go straight from ingredients –> bag –> freezer –> thaw in refrigerator –> oven or crock pot.

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

To complete these 5 freezer meals, in addition to the food ingredients you will need:

  • 5 quart sized freezer bags
  • Sharpie or other permanent marker
  • Container in which to thaw the bags in the refrigerator (otherwise they will leak condensation all over)

The ingredients are pantry staples (at least in my house!) and items you can easily find at most any grocery store. You can of course step up your game slightly and use dried beans you cook yourself, or produce straight from your garden. These tricks will lower the total cost even further.

But the total for this should be less than $30, for 5 nights of meals for 2 servings each, possibly with leftovers. I will also include some tips at the end on how you can jazz up each one to make it your own.

Per serving total = $3 or less

Recipes included:
  • Chicken & Rice Casserole
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • 3 Bean Vegetarian Chili
  • White Bean & Barley Soup
  • Corn & Potato Chowder

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

Entire Ingredients List:

  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can corn (can use frozen)
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 large chicken breast, cut in half, or 2 total
  • 1 cup barley
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1-2 large baking potato
  • 1 onion, diced, or dried onion
  • Garlic powder or fresh garlic
  • Italian seasonings
  • Chili powder
  • Bouillon
  •  1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup rice

You will be using half or a third of some of these cans, I did not measure it out, I just eyeballed it. If you feel more comfortable with exact numbers, go ahead and get out a measuring cup.

Step 1: Cut up your carrots and potato and onion into a small dice. I did not peel either the potatoes or carrot, but you can if you want. You can also use canned potatoes, though the end product will be soggier. You can also use dried onion, like I did.

Step 2: Label your bags and write the instructions out. Trust me, you want to do this part before the bag is full and possibly wet outside.

Step 3: Open and drain all your cans.

Step 4: Cut a large boneless skinless chicken breast in half, or use two smaller cuts. You can leave the breast whole, or dice it up, either way works. You could also use canned chicken, 1 per recipe.

 

Once you have your labeled bags ready, just dump the ingredients into them, in the order listed. You want to put the meat in last, so it is the first thing to come out when you cook it. Then push out any air in the bag, and seal. Freeze laying flat if possible, as they are then easier to stack and take up less freezer space.

 

Chicken & Rice Casserole

  • 1/2 can corn
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed veggies
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 bouillon cube
  • 1 chicken breast

*Thaw overnight. Bake at 350 in a casserole dish for 1 hour, or in crock pot on low for 2-3 hours, shred chicken before serving.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 can pinto beans (or black beans)
  • 1/3 can diced tomatoes or 1 cup salsa
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • Diced or dried onion
  • 1 chicken breast

*Thaw, simmer on stove for 1 hour, or in crock pot on low 2-3 hours. Top with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheddar cheese, avocado…

 

3 Bean Vegetarian Chili

  •       1 can of 3 different kinds of beans
  •       1/3 can diced tomatoes
  •       Dried onion, garlic powder
  •       2 tbsp chili powder

*Thaw overnight. Add to slow cooker with 3 cups water, cook on low 6-8 hours, or high for 4-6 hours, stirring every hour or so if possible.

 

White Bean & Barley Soup

  •       1 cup white beans (or 1 can)
  •       1 cup barley
  •       ½ – 1 cup cut up carrots
  •       ½ white onion, diced
  •       1-2 cubes bouillon
  •       1/3 can diced tomatoes

*Thaw overnight. Add 6 cups water, simmer 2 hours on the stove or cook in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.

 

Corn & Potato Chowder

  •       2 potatoes, diced
  •       ½ can corn
  •       ½ cup flour
  •       Garlic, onion, bouillon
  •       Optional: 1tbsp Italian seasoning

*Thaw, add 2 cups water and simmer 2 hours on the stove or cook in slow cooker on low 4-6 hours.

 

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

 

 

 

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?