Category Archives: Main Dishes

Crock Pot Chocolate Chili

 

As we roll into the autumn months and the days get shorter and colder, we crave comfort foods. There’s nothing I like more than coming home to a house that smells amazing with a crock pot full of dinner bubbling away! It’s low work, high reward.

This is a chili recipe I decided to try based on what was in my refrigerator. We had some Hershey’s dark chocolate sauce from the sun-dae bar for the eclipse, so I got a little crazy! And you know what? It turned out great! Sometimes, the experiment that is cooking goes well. I’m glad this was one of those days.

This makes enough for 4-5 healthy sized servings. You can change up the types of beans, adding 4 or 5 kinds or using all one kind. If you drain them first, the chili will be thicker, but you can just open the cans and dump them in.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can cannelini beans
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1/4 cup chocolate sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2-4 tbsp hot sauce (optional!)
  • 1/2 cup coffee or dark beer

Step 1: Open and drain all your beans, and dump into the crock pot. In a blender, add one whole can of tomatoes, the onion, and the garlic, and pulse. This breaks it up into smaller pieces, and the longer you blend the more juice-like it becomes. Add to the crock pot.

Step 2: Brown the ground beef or turkey. Drain off excess fat, and add to the pot.

Step 3: Add the coffee, chili powder, and chocolate sauce, and any other spices you want. I used some red hot sauce, but you can use ancho chilies, jalapenos, cayenne powder, whatever you like. Or leave the spice out completely. Cook on high 1-2 hours or low at least 4 hours up to 12 hours.

The best thing about chili is that it gets better over time! Leftovers the next day have more time to meld flavors and usually it tastes even spicier. We throw a tablespoon or two of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream in to cut the heat. You can also top with shredded cheese, diced green onion, avocados…

Chili makes a great topping for chili cheese dogs and chili stuffed baked potatoes too! Oh, and it freezes beautifully! What are you waiting for? Get some chili cooking right now.

 

Crock Pot Chocolate Chili

Yield: 5

Crock Pot Chocolate Chili

Ingredients

  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can cannelini beans
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1/4 cup chocolate sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2-4 tbsp hot sauce (optional!)
  • 1/2 cup coffee or dark beer

Instructions

  1. Open and drain all your beans, and dump into the crock pot. In a blender, add one whole can of tomatoes, the onion, and the garlic, and pulse. Add to the crock pot.
  2. Brown the ground beef or turkey. Drain off excess fat, and add to the pot. 
  3. Add the coffee, chili powder, and chocolate sauce, and any other spices you want.
  4. Cook on high 1-2 hours or low at least 4 hours up to 12 hours. 
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Weekly Eating: 8/28

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

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

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

 

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

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

Monday:

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

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

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

Snack – white bean rosemary hummus & 1/2 cucumber

Tuesday:

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

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

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

Wednesday:

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 

Breakfast – Tropical granola & milk

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

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

 

Friday

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

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

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

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

The Weekend

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

Total: $26.06

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

 

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

Weekly Eating: Eclipse Week 8/21

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

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

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

 

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

Monday:

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

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

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

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

Tuesday:

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday:

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

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

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

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

Thursday 

Breakfast – granola bar

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

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

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

Friday

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

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

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

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

The Weekend

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

Total: $74.12

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

Microwave Eggs Benedict For One

 

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

Think again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Eating – 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?