Category Archives: Main Dishes

Weekly Eating – 8/14

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!

 

On Sunday, as I usually do, I broiled a whole chicken, and then made soup in the Crock Pot overnight. The broth I then strained the next day, and will use it to make rice and quinoa, as liquid for stir frying, in sauces and marinades, soups, and if I don’t use it I freeze it for later.

All you do is toss into a crock pot: the carcass of a chicken, 1 whole onion (skin and all), one lemon (or a few tbsp lemon juice or vinegar), a few carrots and herbs & spices. I use black pepper, garlic salt, bay leaves, and any fresh herbs growing (right now it’s sage, thyme, and rosemary). Such a great frugal habit, you should consider trying it!

Monday:

Breakfast – strawberry pineapple smoothie

Lunch – the final serving of my Chipotle bowl. I got 3 meals out of it, for <$3 per serving! I also had a weird Asian drink, we went to an Asian market over the weekend and each picked out one crazy beverage. All I can say is HOLY SUGAR….

Dinner – baked chicken breast, steamed broccoli & cauliflower, steamed spaghetti squash, and brown rice.

Snack – ice cream sandwich at a colleagues going-away party! We will miss him & wish him the best of luck in Cali.

Tuesday:

Breakfast –  bagel thin with an egg & cheese

Lunch – someone brought in homemade Indian food for a coworkers birthday and it was divine! Cashew chickpea curry, tri-color rice, and homemade naan. MMmmmmmmmmm.

Plus some protein puppy chow for dessert <3

Dinner –  Meatloaf (a freezer meal), baked potatoes, salad & dinner rolls. Made with half turkey and half lentils, so it’s extra healthy.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Orange Creamsicle Chia Pudding; recipe from Cookies & Kate

Lunch – Chicken, couscous & edamame, roasted cabbage quarters.

Dinner – Lemon, garlic, & white wine pasta with sardines! This was a crazy new recipe I tried because I had an open can of sardines in the refrigerator from the olive tapenade bruschetta last week. And it actually turned out pretty great! I’d make it again.

Snack – 2 vanilla “rusks” from a coworker and Thai tea. A rusk is like a biscotti, apparently, and is delicious. Thai tea is a black tea with sugar and cream and is also super tasty! Also purchased at last weekend’s Asian mart adventure.

Thursday 

Breakfast – pineapple strawberry smoothie

Lunch – Chicken tortilla soup,  a baked potato & a salad. I just chopped up the potato and put it into the soup.

Dinner – Stuffed cabbage casserole & salad. Clearly we are trying to eat more leafy greens. Also, this casserole is insanely cheap when you use lentils rather than ground meat. I came up with it when I did the SNAP challenge, trying to eat on $4 per day.

Snack – 2 pieces of chocolate from Vermont a friend brought me from a trip. They were so good!

Friday

Breakfast – Avocado toast. I know, you’re thinking “typical millennial”, but honestly it is less than a dollar to make at home. Half of one avocado (.50) + slice of bread (~0.10), and I even added an egg, so maybe it was $1 total. Plus we already own our home, so that myth is debunked.

Lunch – More stuffed cabbage casserole. This is super filling, healthy, and made a huge batch. So you will probably see more of this next week for lunches.

Dinner – Stir Friday! Lo mein noodles from spaghetti squash (I roasted a whole big batch of things last weekend), a bag of frozen mixed Asian veggies I had in the freezer, scrambled eggs, and some soy sauce. Easy, breezy, vegetarian and delicious!

The Weekend

Well, we had to do some adulting and chores, so while we were out and about we ended up getting 2 Little Caesar’s hot-n-ready pepperoni pizzas. Ahhh, feels like college again. I know, I know, they are horrible for you. But life is about balance, k? And now I know there’s food the hubs is willing to eat in the fridge. At least until Monday, cause he will eat a whole pizza in one day.

I’m also going to spend some time this weekend making things for the next Bull City Food Swap on Tuesday! Oh, and Monday is a potluck for the Solar Eclipse at work. I’m the head organizer, so I made cute decorations, and will be setting up & then cleaning up.

But I don’t mind, because I love cooking, theme parties, and hosting so it’s pretty much all those things. We’re having a big salad bar (because the sun makes plants grow) along with a SUN-dae bar! Get it! 😉

We’ve also got a frugal project planned. I want a pegboard in the kitchen, because we have one large unused wall space. I want to hang pots and pans and maybe some decor, to save limited cabinet space for appliances. I’m also planning to put in a big whiteboard, which will be a nice meal planning upgrade from papers taped to the fridge… and shelves for knickknacks, jars of ingredients like flour and sugar, and maybe some herbs as well.

Total: $68.41

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

I’m pretty excited that even with 2 pizzas, 2 grocery trips, and a food swap and potluck to prep for, this week’s food spending was below budget. Aw yessss.

Lessons Learned

Eating vegetable based meals really does save money! By making the stuffed cabbage casserole, and enough to last a long time, and the stir fry from spaghetti squash, I made about 10 meals worth of food for less than $10! That’s what I need to do more often to keep our grocery food costs down. Rice & beans is on the meal plan for next week!

Speaking of meal plan, this week was a little bit silly. I had a general plan, but we ended up shuffling the meals around all over the place based on what sounded good at the time. And that’s ok! The beauty of a meal plan is that it can be flexible. It has to be flexible, to keep up with all the twists and turns of life.

And I learned that no matter how much I wish it were so, I will never turn the hubs into a soup lover. I know soup is an AMAZING money saving food option, because it is mostly water, and you can add anything you have to get rid of in the fridge or pantry. But he just can’t handle soup more than once per week at most, so I usually end up having to eat it all, or freeze it to be ‘not-eaten’ at a later date. Bummer, but facts are facts and even cheap food is a waste of money if it doesn’t get eaten.

 

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

Weekly Eating 8/7/17

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 – Cherry Vanilla Protein Smoothie. What you see is what went in the blender, except I used frozen already-pitted cherries. The fresh ones were for snacking all week.  🙂

Lunch – chili with edamame and grapes. Organic frozen edamame are my favorite, because I love them (covered in sea salt of course) and they count as a green vegetable with any meal!

Dinner – one pan rosemary chicken and potatoes with zucchini. I speared chunks of chicken onto the rosemary stems, and sprinkled the leaves all over about 4 cubed potatoes. 2 zucchini got diced into spears, and the whole thing covered in foil and popped in the oven at 400 for about 35 minutes. It was so delicious, and really easy cleanup!

Snack – banana pudding y’all! We made some from scratch, and it was gooooooooood! We used ginger snaps instead of vanilla wafers, and I had no idea pudding is actually so easy! Tasty, and dangerous…

Tuesday:

Breakfast – smoothie! The rest of yesterdays (I made a double batch, and put the rest in the refrigerator)

Lunch – Chili with edamame and grapes. Yes this week is pretty boring, but I had SO MUCH chili left over from last week. Rather than freeze it I decided that was just what I was eating this week. It’s easy, super healthy, and super cheap.

Dinner –  macaroni & cheese, not even healthified, just something that was quick and easy to throw together, plus we had several types of cheese in the refrigerator that needed using. I sprinkled it with paprika to look fancy.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – 2 hard boiled eggs & a homemade pretzel chocolate peanut butter granola bar

Lunch – chili mac n cheese, just leftover chili and leftover mac n cheese mixed together. But oh em gee it is SO GOOD.

Dinner – gyros! Hubs made this one, since his favorite food of all time is a burrito. He loves other cuisines’ takes on burritos too, like enchiladas, sushi burritos, or schwarma. Or gyros. Mmmmm.

Snack – handful of pretzels and M&Ms

Thursday 

Breakfast – a piece of blueberry pie left from last weekend’s party

Lunch – tasty pasta

Dinner – broiled chicken breast, potato salad & kale. I tried cooking the kale in lemon juice until soft, but I think I let it go too long. It got this dark olive green color, and was barely edible. Next time I think I’ll just stick with kale chips!

Friday

Breakfast – granola bar & 2 hard boiled egg whites. Yes sometimes I get boring and repeat meals, what of it?! Plus, boiling a dozen eggs at the start of the week and making large batches of things like granola bars gives us plenty of quick protein filled breakfast and snacking options. So necessary at 6:30 am.

Lunch – chili mac n cheese = finally finished both the chili and the mac n cheese! Yes!

Dinner – Chipotle! I had been hard core craving this for almost 2 weeks, and finally caved. C’est la vie, I don’t regret it. Plus, I get a burrito bowl, and they always pack that container full. I put part of it into my own tortilla when I get home, and that way I turn one bowl into 2-3 meals! That’s like $3 per meal. Aw yessss.

The Weekend

This weekend is pretty relaxed, just going to Saturday morning rooftop yoga, and the Durham Farmers Market. We planned to explore some towns near us perhaps, and do some organizing at home. Maybe some video games… by maybe I mean definitely.

Total: $89.35

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

Lessons Learned

This was a good week, some things at our jobs were finally calming down and assorted outstanding items were done, so stress levels decreased overall. Always a nice feeling. Plus using up leftovers, even if it means repeat meals, is a top 10 frugal strategy.

On the flip side, I didn’t make a meal plan this week, so the meals were figured out the day of usually… and we also went out to eat twice, which is not our norm.  It is what nudged the week’s cost up, as groceries alone were only about $30. But it felt much more special exactly because it is a rare event!

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

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?

Weekly Eating – 7/24

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, mommy dearest and I had a WONDERFUL time at the beach this past week! It is so good to get away and stick your toes in the sand. And I came home with a case of really delicious and unique wines from Unique Pairings! (Expense included in Travel budget, not food budget, thank goodness)

Monday:

Breakfast – corn tortilla (maseca + water) 1 scrambled egg +  tbsp black beans + shredded cheese

Lunch – boring turkey sandwich

Dinner – burgers from the freezer, plus pasta salad using some peppers from the food swap!

OH MY GOSH GUYS, so there’s this thing called the Bull City Food Swap in Durham. It’s all homemade, home grown, fermented, canned, baked, or foraged, no grocery store purchases. And it is all barter, no cash, checks or credit. You bring your goodies, and everyone else brings theirs. And then there is a sort of bidding system, where you offer your goods for others you want. Then you swap!

And holy cow was it fun! It was at a cool local bar, and I met some awesome folks who produce some delicious goods. I made about 2 dozen soft pretzels and some extra homemade yogurt for the occasion.

In return, I came home with banana pudding, pickles, 3 different types of jam and jelly, salsa, a half dozen eggs, homemade pasta, a bucket of tomatoes and 2 big brown bags FULL of peppers / eggplant / okra! This was so awesome, and gave me oodles of “free” stuff to plan my week’s meals.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – frugal fail oatmeal

Lunch – Caprese sandwich using a tomato from the food swap, mozzarella, and home grown basil!

Dinner – Jambalaya using frozen sausage and tomatoes, peppers, and okra from the food swap!

Wednesday:

Breakfast – yogurt with almonds & chocolate

Lunch – brought to us for a work meeting: Salmon salad

Dinner – stuffed cabbage casserole in the crock pot

Snack – grape tomatoes & cucumbers, Peach Basil Jam (from the food swap!) & crackers

Thursday 

Breakfast – smoothie with homemade yogurt, blueberries from ALDI and spinach

Lunch – stuffed poblanos from the Food Swap. I stuffed them with quinoa and black beans, cooked them in the rice cooker (yes for real, it is small so it fits 4 peppers perfectly!), and then split into 2 containers and added pepper jack cheese on top!

Dinner – Fajitas! I got a nice chuck roast at ALDI, and sliced it thinly. I fried up a bunch of strips of onion and bell pepper (from the swap of course) and added the steak. We ate it in wraps, with the hubs adding pinto beans and rice to make it a burrito of course 🙂

Friday

Breakfast – 2 scrambled eggs with spinach

Lunch – turkey wrap & berries

Dinner – stir friday! Steak & pepper stir fry

Snack – grape tomatoes & cucumbers with white bean hummus

Guys, this white bean hummus was SO STINKIN GOOD! I promise the recipe is coming soon!

Total:  $8+58.51 = 73.51

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

I spent a few dollars at the farmers market for a gorgeous cucumber and heirloom cherry tomatoes, and got a windfall of ‘free’ veggies from the Food Swap. I could calculate out the costs associated with making the pretzels and add that, but honestly I had all the ingredients in the house already. Let’s just say it was about $5, and took me roughly 1 hour of hands-on time to make them. In return, I got maybe 2 dozen pounds of produce (that I cannot grow, due to lack of sun in my yard) and several canned goods. That is a trade I’d make any day!

Lessons Learned

Being part of a community is a HUGE bonus in life, for so many reasons. The Food Swap was a really great experience, and I can’t wait for the next one! Benefits include:

  1. Cheap entertainment: this was only 10 minutes from my house, and for one $4 glass of beer, which was not even mandatory, I got to be entertained for almost 2 hours
  2. Networking: I met several people from the area who have similar lifestyles and hobbies. This is a great way to start making friends, or even business associates. Who knows when it will be beneficial to know someone with a backyard flock of chickens, or with canning knowledge, or a fermentation expert?
  3. Financial benefits: Being able to trade with like-minded people is a win for everyone. Society became civilized and we grow together when we all share our talents and passions. We cannot all be good at everything, but everyone is good at something. When we trade, we both get something of value that we cannot or do not want to do for ourselves. Plus no pesky Uncle Sam’s hands in our pockets…

Another lesson from this week is that adaptability is a big financial benefit! If a large amount of a specific type of food falls into your lap, whether from the garden, a generous neighbor or family member, or a really good sale, it helps to be able to make use of it! This is where flexible recipes like lasagna, pastas, soups, and casseroles come in handy. Or knowing how to preserve the bounty, like making salsas, sauerkraut, canning, freezing, or dehydrating. All these small steps help save you dollars.

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

Venison Penne Alfredo

 

Oh man, of all the venison recipes I’ve tried so far, the pot pie and the breakfast hash, this one has to be my favorite! And honestly it is probably the easiest too, so double win!

Of course, this is an easily adjustable recipe. If you don’t like or don’t have venison, just sub ground beef, chicken, pork, or turkey. I used frozen vegetables because I always have some mixes around, but obviously if it is summer time and you have a medley of produce, use that instead.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground venison sausage
  • 1 package frozen veggies (or any fresh, about 2 cups)
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1 jar alfredo sauce (or make your own!)
  • 1 pound pasta, shape of your choice

Step 1: Cook the onion and garlic in a tbsp of oil until fragrant, and the onion becomes transparent, about 4 minutes. Add the venison, and cook until fully browned, breaking up any chunks. Add the vegetables and cook until warm and softened. (This will depend upon fresh vs. frozen, and what types of veg you use)

Step 2: Meanwhile, boil the pasta 8-9 minutes, and drain. In the pan you boiled your pasta, put the drained pasta back in, and add the venison and vegetables. Pour the alfredo sauce on top, and mix it all together well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

And that’s it! You could add some Parmesan cheese on top too, for extra salty deliciousness. Enjoy your creamy bowl of yum!

Venison Penne Alfredo

Yield: 2 2-cup servings

Venison Penne Alfredo

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground venison sausage
  • 1 package frozen veggies (or any fresh, about 2 cups)
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 jar alfredo sauce (or make your own!)
  • 1 pound pasta, shape of your choice

Instructions

  1. Cook the onion and garlic in a tbsp of oil until fragrant, and the onion becomes transparent, about 4 minutes. Add the venison, and cook until fully browned, breaking up any chunks.
  2. Add the vegetables and cook until warm and softened. (this will depend upon fresh vs. frozen, and what types of veg you use)
  3. Meanwhile, boil the pasta 8-9 minutes, and drain. In the pan you boiled your pasta, put the drained pasta back in, and add the venison and vegetables.
  4. Pour the alfredo sauce on top, and mix it all together well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
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Weekly Eating – 7/17

 

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 – yogurt bowl with fresh cherries, crushed almonds, and chia seeds. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite so delicious as fresh bing cherries in the summer! But boy are they a pain to cut up and remove the pits, plus my finger tips are red for hours… almost as bad as beets…

Lunch – can of Progresso soup in my desk drawer. This is why you should always have some “backup” lunches, in case you forget yours. This can I got on sale for $1 saved me $5-10 at the cafeteria.

Dinner – the world’s most amazing tomato soup & grilled cheese! You’ll just have to check BE’s Facebook for the recipe…

Snack – these delicious brownies, with a healthy secret!  😉

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Cinnamon raisin bagel thin with almond butter & cut up apples. Easy, filling breakfast on the go.

Lunch – whole wheat turkey cheddar wrap with homemade refrigerator pickles & mustard

Dinner – chicken enchiladas

Snack – hummus with raw veg, cottage cheese

Wednesday:

Breakfast – cinnamon raisin bagel with almond butter

Lunch – turkey wrap with cheddar & pickles

Dinner – Crock pot chili

This was a low-key and boring day, because I worked late (to make up extra hours) and it was our last night together. I wanted something stress free so we could maximize the few hours we had before early bedtime. I have to be up and out the door early because…

Thursday – The Weekend:

I will be at the beach, celebrating mommy dearest’s birthday!

We have been planning and looking forward to this for a long time, I’m super stoked it’s finally here. We will be staying at the home of a friend of hers too, so super double bonus savings!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave hubby to starve or blow tons of cash on takeout and pizza… keep reading below.

Total:  $70.44

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

This was a great week for not spending! I went to ALDI and stocked up on tons of staples and fresh produce and even cheese, all for about seventy bucks. I love that store so much. And much of it hasn’t even been used this week (due to me going out of town) so that homemade pizza with fresh mozzarella will have to wait until next week, hopefully bringing down next week’s total!

Lessons Learned

It’s always a good idea to plan ahead! Since I will be gone for a while, and don’t want hubby to starve to death, I made sure to have foods I know he likes to make and eat in the house. We have all the fixings for burritos, I made extra-large batches of dinners I know he will love for leftovers, plus a few freezer meals. Hopefully he remembers to feed both the dogs and himself while I’m gone  🙂

Double batch of enchiladas to survive the weekend

Also, it is a great idea to plan ahead for vacation foods! I intend to pack a small cooler full of travel snacks, like string cheese, homemade KIND bars, and raw fruit and vegetables. My breakfast will be ready to go along with a cold brew coffee, so I can just grab them on the way out the door, and not waste time and money on a drive through.

Anything I don’t eat on the way will be safe in the house we are staying at for snacking throughout the week. We will also probably go to a local grocery store as one of the first items of business to get some staples to have around the house. We don’t want to impose on our gracious hosts too much!

Finally, plan for vacations financially. I am fully expecting to eat several great meals out, and get some splurge items on the beach (pineapple drinks anyone??). Thus, I made sure to eat a little lighter this week, and will next week too in order to make up for the calorie splurge, and have a budget which I am not allowed to go over for food and drinks. That way, I can relax and not stress at all! I know that the money I’m spending is planned for and guilt free.

 

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

Weekly Eating #4 – 7/10

 

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 – yogurt parfait with frozen strawberries & cherries & a crushed up Nature Valley Oats & Honey bar

Lunch – leftover stirfry

Dinner – BBQ pork ribs & leftover mashed potatoes. I grab boneless ribs anytime I see them on clearance, and keep some in the freezer as a special treat, these are one of hubby’s absolute favorite things. I defrost them overnight, then boil in some chicken stock, then sear them in the pan. We then eat them slathered in BBQ sauce, and ended up so messy by the end that I didn’t get a photo.  🙂

Tuesday:

Breakfast – KIND bar

Lunch – leftover salmon summer salad from the weekend’s dinner party. This stuff is so darn good I swear I could eat it almost daily.

Dinner – Pork & White Bean Soup in the slow cooker using the broth from yesterday’s ribs. It was so simple, but so tasty! Served with biscuits from the freezer.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – chocolate PB oatmeal: funny story. This was actually a rescued “Frugal Fail” to borrow a term from Mrs. Picky Pincher. I meant to try a recipe for no-bake energy bites. It called for oats, and PB and honey. But I only had honey PB (twofer, awesome!) and steel cut oats (They’re the same thing, right? Wrong.)

So I happily measure and mix, convinced this is a perfect quick breakfast choice. Oh, by the way, this is at 7am, and I need to leave at 7:30… Well, first, it wouldn’t all stick together. I tried using more PB, and got it wet enough to stick. But it still won’t form a ball, it was like, wet sand. Steel cut oats are cut into teeny tiny pieces, and evidently, do not make no-bake balls well.

So I tried baking it. I know, that defeats the purpose of a “no-bake” recipe. But I figured, maybe I could at least turn them into bars and salvage this. Now it is 7:20… And I try to cut a bar… and it falls apart instantly. Okay, clearly, this is not working. Do I throw out a whole 8×8 pan of oats and peanut butter and flax?

No way!

I think… well… it’s still oatmeal. May as well throw it in a jar, and pour some milk over it. Still warm from the oven, the chocolate was melty and quickly turned it into chocolate milk, with a slight peanutty flavor. Turns out, this was pretty great! Hooray!

Frugal fail turned into something edible.

Ahhhh, the sweet taste of success.

Lunch – out with a work colleague, pesto chicken panini

Dinner – tortellini with pesto and frozen mixed veggies

Snacks – brown rice cakes

Thursday:

Breakfast – chocolate oatmeal creation

Lunch – black beans & rice with salsa

Snack –  These Amazing Date Cookies!

Picture courtesy of Hip Fit Foodie

Dinner – baked potato soup. I used some leftover mashed potatoes with frozen chicken stock and we stirred in a tbsp plain Greek yogurt to make it creamy, with bacon and cheddar cheese on top. We ate it on the front porch while watching a heck of a thunderstorm.

Friday:

Breakfast – 1 egg, colby jack cheese, Bagel Thin sandwich

Lunch – last of my salmon & couscous salad. I used a small salad container and a leftover ranch dipper to be all cute too!

Dinner – leftover buffet!

The Weekend:

My plans for the weekend include rooftop yoga followed by the Farmers Market, then a quick healthy lunch of some kind of salad, and figuring out what to make for dinner. I’m sure we will have loads of fresh produce by then, so I’m thinking a vegetable lasagna, summer veggie pasta, or kebabs are imminent.

Then I will start a new batch of homemade yogurt, and homemade kombucha. I also think I will try to make ahead some mason jar meals like yogurt parfaits, overnight oatmeal, and salads in a jar too. I’m going to the beach next week to celebrate my mom’s birthday (SO EXCITED!) so I want easy meals to give me more time to pack and plan, and then I need to plan ahead some freezer meals for the hubble bubble so he doesn’t starve.

Total:  $77.60

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

2 trips to the store (Kroger & Harris Teeter) plus the local farmers market. The weekend Farmer Market trip will be included in next week’s total.

Lessons Learned

I did a great job at the store this week! Nearly to my $75/week goal, and that included all our staples, plus a few last-second items I asked the mister to grab prior to our dinner party last week, plus the farmers market splurge on Wednesday. Aw yeah!

And I learned that sometimes, recipe experiments don’t turn out the best. But that’s okay, we all make mistakes sometimes. Luckily, it wasn’t so bad of a fail, I could still eat the oatmeal. It was just… less than pleasing in texture, shall we say?  😉

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

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?

Super simple lemon garlic chicken

 

You know how some days you are very excited about cooking, buy two dozen different ingredients, and spend hours in the kitchen creating the perfect culinary masterpiece? This recipe is not for that day. This recipe is for a day when you have no idea what to make, no energy to make something fancy, but still want a hot, healthy, filling dinner that also tastes great.

Oh, that’s every night? Good news, this is great for every night!

This recipe can work with fresh or frozen chicken; if using frozen just microwave for 3-4 minutes before putting it in the oven, and add about 15 minutes to the cooking time. You can also use thighs, or chicken leg quarters, but again add about 10 minutes to account for the bone. Cutting the breasts thinly into cutlets as I did means the cook time is the shortest, but you can also leave the breasts whole.

This recipe is super easy, requiring really only 3 ingredients. You can add on and be creative from there, especially with the flavorings. It is also very versatile in terms of a complete meal. It would go well with pasta, potatoes, a nice salad, steamed veggies, rice, quinoa, or couscous.

Whatever you have in the fridge to go along, they will probably be friends. I also use these easy and versatile recipes to stock up on sales on the good stuff when I see it, because I know I can always pull this recipe out when needed.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, diced
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tbsp)
  • Optional: fresh or dried herbs, I used parsley and rosemary

Step 1: Using a sharp knife, filet the breasts into thin pieces, about 1/2 – 1 inch thick. Layer in an oven-safe pan, and sprinkle on the garlic, lemon juice, and herbs, if using. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until there is no pink inside the chicken.

I used the same pan, and baked a pound of asparagus and quartered cabbage at the same time. Couscous takes just boiled water (in the microwave) and 5 minutes, so this whole meal was done and on the table in under 30 minutes!

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Venison pot pie

 

You guys want to know a little secret about the Budget Epicurean?

I can’t believe I lived over 2 decades in Ohio, and never tried venison. It’s true.

I’ve had elk, and bison, and goat, and pheasant, and a whole bunch of other more exotic meats. But still no venison.

Until now.

I’m lucky enough to have a friend who knows a guy who hunts regularly. Turns out, excess deer population is a problem shared in North Carolina too. This seems to be a problem just about everywhere, as they now have almost no native predators to worry about. Their only concern is a too-fast passing car.

why we should eat deer

Deer will eat just about anything when they are hungry, and a rough winter or over-population means more infiltration into neighborhoods. We live between two big patches of forest, and they are well known to stroll through around dusk. They have decimated my pansies more than once, and I’ve already seen evidence of browsing on my brand new ivy and hostas as well.

So really, I’m doing us all, and myself a favor by eating deer meat!

Do us all a favor too, and make this recipe soon. If you or someone in the household doesn’t think they’ll like deer because it is “gamey”, you need to find a new supplier. Deer, when ground and spiced right, is totally delicious and almost indistinguishable from ground beef. If your store doesn’t carry venison, try a specialty meat market, or ask around. You never know who you know that might know a guy…

venison pie with biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound venison (you could use any ground meat though)
  • 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • 1 container biscuits (you could use mashed potatoes instead)
  • Garlic salt to taste

Venison pot pie

Step 1: Microwave the milk for 1 minute, whisk in the flour and let sit. Meanwhile brown the venison in a skillet. Add the frozen vegetables and let cook until just thawed.

venison pot pie with biscuits

Step 2: Spray the bottom of a round pie plate or 8×8 casserole dish. Pour in the meat mixture, and cover with the milk and flour mixture. Pop open the biscuits, and line the top with the dough.

baked biscuit venison pot pie

Step 3: Bake at 350 on the bottom rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the biscuits are nice and browned on top. Let cool for a minute, and enjoy.

 

Venison pot pie

Venison pot pie

Ingredients

  • 1 pound venison (you could use any ground meat though)
  • 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • 1 container biscuits (you could use mashed potatoes instead)
  • Garlic salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Microwave the milk for 1 minute, whisk in the flour and let sit. Meanwhile brown the venison in a skillet. Add the frozen vegetables and let cook until just thawed.
  2. Spray the bottom of a round pie plate or 8x8 casserole dish. Pour in the meat mixture, and cover with the milk and flour mixture. Pop open the biscuits, and line the top with the dough.
  3. Bake at 350 on the bottom rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the biscuits are nice and browned on top. Let cool for a minute, and enjoy.
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