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
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?
Snack: Popcorn! It’s no secret I’m a huge popcorn addict, but the homemade stove-top-popped stuff is WAY cheaper and (mostly) healthier so I don’t feel bad about eating a giant bowl full. I make a big batch, and pack it up in Zip-locks for days of happy snacking.
Breakfast – drive thru breakfast wrap. Sometimes, you just cannot morning.
Snack – coconut almond Greek yogurt flip (I know, packaged brands are WAY too expensive but guys, seriously, this is SO GOOD! My mother-in-law got me hooked. I promise, I’m gonna try to find a way to make it myself cheaper, but for now, forgive me my guilty indulgence.) UPDATE: I did it! And so can you!
Lunch – leftover slow cooker black beans & rice & salsa from a weekend party. This was basically free because it was all bits of leftovers that ended up being amazing all together
Dinner – pasta with vodka pink sauce, leftover bread sticks, salad. The sauce was a little pizza sauce leftover from Saturday’s pizza night plus a 1/3 jar of alfredo rattling around the fridge with a tbsp of pasta cooking water to thin. I love using up all the bits of things to make something new and delicious! Plus not throwing away food makes my heart sing.
(Although, my heart later broke because I threw out a 1/2 pan of homemade tiramisu :,( We just didn’t eat it fast enough, and it got stale and dried out and gross. Mreow. Also tossed 1/2 a shortcake a friend had gotten me because strawberries aren’t green. And fuzzy.)
Breakfast – everything Bagel Thin with 1 tbsp cream cheese
Lunch – miso soup. Honestly, I just had a couple chunks of tofu left from last week’s stir-Friday that I didn’t want to go to waste. And I keep a tub of miso in the fridge (it lasts basically forever) so I just stirred a tbsp into some water, added the tofu and the last few sheets from a seaweed snack pack (yes I’m a weirdo but that stuff is addictive!) and called it lunch.
On a whim, I sliced a couple super thin pieces of onion to add (red, since I didn’t have green) and that was a great decision! It was warm and tasty at my desk on a rainy day.
Dinner – One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake using leftover chicken I had cooked in the crockpot on Sunday. I did half sweet potatoes and half white potatoes with a bag of frozen “California mix” veggies (cauliflower, broccoli & carrots), Ranch dressing, hot sauce, and cheddar cheese.
Guys, this stuff is so freaking good, I had to have seconds!
Sorry not sorry.
Oh, and the hospital where I work has a Farmers Market every Wednesday! How cool is that?! I got a pint of a mixture of delicious heirloom cherry tomatoes, an itty bitty adorable cauliflower, and a big ol zucchini.
Lunch – leftover One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake. I can’t believe we demolished a 9×13 pan in 2 days… oh wait, yes I can. There’s a reason that’s my #1 post!
Snack – other half of the KIND bar (I brought hard boiled eggs, but turns out they were so old they became mushy by noon, and smelled awful. Whoops! It made me sad but I threw them out rather than risk food poisoning.)
Dinner – Chicken enchiladas! I had some roasted cauliflower from the market yesterday, and literally microwaved a cup of spinach to have on the side. Delicious and quite filling.
Breakfast – cherry berry smoothie: frozen cherries + strawberries, 2 bananas (about to go bad), 1 cup orange juice, 1 scoop unflavored protein powder, 1 cup spinach. Blend for a long time until smooth.
Hubby loves waking up to a smoothie beside the bed! And I love sneaking in a serving of veggies before 9am 😉
Lunch – Panzanella with leftover homemade bread from last week, cucumber & cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market.
This is a great example of a frugal use of leftovers, because who enjoys stale bread? But this way, the juices from the tomatoes and cucumber and olive oil (or Italian dressing) soaks in and mixes together with some fresh basil and spices it becomes a whole new delicious meal. I tossed in half an avocado too, because, duh.
Dinner – Stir Friday! This week we had garlic shrimp. AND I made my own Yum Yum Sauce! Sure did. If you haven’t had it, it totally lives up to its name.
Breakfast – microwaved some spinach & egg whites, and put it on an everything Bagel Thin for a light, healthy breakfast before I went to a really cool rooftop yoga class downtown
Brunch – after yoga I met up with some friends to wander the Durham Farmers Market, and then we got a delicious brunch at Scratch. Oh, and the bacon jam, is totally my jam!
The Duck Egg Sandwich was outta this world, and the rosemary lemonade was so tasty it inspired me to go home and create some more fruity & refreshing beverages.
Dinner – Tacos at a friends house! Good food, good people, wine from Unique Pairings (which, if you’re ever in Myrtle Beach, definitely stop by!), and games combine for a splendid way to spend a summer evening. And all the food was provided, I just brought 2 bottles of vino!
To be determined, but I definitely plan to use up some of the goodies I got at the farmer’s market. Maybe a quiche or strata.
I’m also going to spend some time today making next week’s meal plan, using all the delicious fresh produce and trying to clear some space in our freezer. I’m aiming to not buy anything else food-wise this week except maybe some bananas (for the hubby’s addiction).
This is a rough estimate, because at markets where I use mostly cash it gets hard to keep track. Plus I buy things on sale or clearance and freeze or otherwise store for later use, so ‘weekly’ cost averaging can be tough.
For grocery stores, I only bought yogurt and milk and bananas this week, which is great. And I’m okay with spending a little more on fresh produce to support my local farmers! <3
My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.
So it seems this week was great in that we used up a lot of little bits and ends of leftovers, but we were also pretty wasteful with food. There were several things left over from parties that ended up in the trash. We aren’t big on sweets anyways, so we rarely buy or make them, and this just reinforces that knowledge.
When I make a big batch of something (like hard boiled eggs) I need to make sure I actually use it all up before it goes bad. I wouldn’t throw a $5 bill in the trash, but that’s exactly what I’m doing when I toss out old food.
How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week? Off to make a meal plan for next week!
If you have been following this blog, it’s no secret that I love fresh produce, and especially summertime farmers markets! And if this is your first visit here, now you know that I love fresh produce! =)
As such, when I moved to Colorado from Ohio, one of my first priorities was finding local markets. There actually was one right on my campus the first summer here. It was super convenient, but unfortunately not enough interest to continue it this summer. So I had to find new places to explore and get my fruits and veggie fix.
Wherever you are, Local Harvest has a great farmers market finder. You can also find farms, and local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) through their site. In Colorado, I’m so thankful that people love fresh, local produce as much as I and there is a website called Colorado Fresh Markets that lists several in the Denver area.
I live quite close to the Cherry Creek area, so I enlisted a good friend of mine, and we set out one sunny Saturday morning to explore. We were greeted by amazing smells, quiet happy noises, and slow-roasting of the locally famous Hatch chiles.
The Cherry Creek Shopping Center at the corner of 1st Avenue and University Blvd. fences off a huge area of parking lot for all the vendors. Open every Saturday from May 3 – October 25 from 8am – 1 pm and on Wednesdays June 18 – September 24 from 9am – 1 pm, you have two chances to enjoy the local bounty.
As we walked around there was a good-sized crowd of people from all walks of life. There were many moms pushing strollers and holding toddler hands, ladies still pregnant with their husbands sweetly carrying bags and boxes, older couples, professionally dressed people, people in gym clothes or yoga pants, plenty of dogs on leashes. Everyone was simply enjoying the day, no rushing, chatting with friends and strangers. Something about a Farmers Market turns everyone present into friends and time becomes irrelevant.
The range of vendors was just phenomenal. There were mutiple vendors touting hand-made soaps, candles, belts, clothing. Of course I was most interested in the foods, and there was food galore. Many different farmers were set up with tables laden with farm-fresh produce. Tiny plants, flowers, and herbs. Tomatoes, heirloom and not, cucumbers, watermelon, beets, carrots, potatoes, onion, lettuces, corn, exotic looking fruits.
And there were so many types of cheese! Hard cheese, soft cheese, wedges, wheels. Cheese that was hard outside and liquid inside. Most vendors offer samples so you can try for yourself how silky smooth the “Snowdrop” cheese is.
Live music is found in at least two different locations. Singers, guitars, and drums keep the mood calm yet festive.
And the pastries! The breads! The rolls, cakes, doughnuts, pretzels! It’s a carbo-loader paradise. The homemade farm-fresh bread looks artisan and beckons to your nostrils to buy a loaf. And at 2 for $10, why not?! They are huge, and far healthier than a bleached, fortified store-bought bread could ever be.
This doughnut company had such a clever name, “Glazed and Confused“. And they had very unique and interesting doughnuts, including the wildly popular right now maple bacon. They also had one inspired by the Girl Scout “Samoa” cookie.
I had to sample a dumpling from the Pierogies Factory, because due to my Polish/ Hungarian/ Solvak heritage, I have had literally dozens of pierogis in my life. I must say, their pork pierogi was the bomb. Not the same as a soft mashed potato pierogi like mom makes, but the pork was a totally unique flavor bursting with salty, herby goodness.
And then we have The Real Dill, a local artisan pickle company. From Habanero Horseradish Dill to Jalapeno Honey, from Caraway Garlic to their Bloody Mary mix made with pickling juice, their flavors will blow your mind.
And of course they offer samples of each! IF you try the Habanero or Aji Chile, may I recommend having lemonade or bread nearby?
Then we started to realize that all these great smells and tiny samples had started our bellies to rumbling. The Farmers Market draws a crowd of food trucks, eager to impress. Each is as fascinating and unique as the next, but we eventually settled on Gyros.
Oh. My. Word. This gyro meat…. so perfectly seasoned and flavorful, bursting with onions, garlic, and herbs. Piled onto thick, warm, homemade pita bread, and then slathered in dressed greens, tomato, feta, and kalamata olive.
The half-size was more than enough, but they offer a full size, chicken, falafel, and vegetarian options as well.
An example of some of the brighter characters that Farmers Markets attract.
We were both looking to restock our honey stores, which had gotten low over the winter due to high tea consumption. And then we found these people. The lady who runs the stand is just the sweetest, friendliest woman you’d hope to meet. She regaled us with stories of beekeeping, and why bees are so critical to the future of our food.
The tall, white-haired gentleman beside her is her son-in-law, and the inspiration for the name “Bjorns Colorado Honey”. Originally from Sweden, he met the lady’s daughter in Austria and they fell in love. She convinced him to move to Boulder and get married, and he became part of the family honey business. Ah, love. A jar of the honey ended up in both of our bags that day.
They also make hand cream from parts of bee life usually discarded, the “propolis”. It is a resinous substance made by the bees to protect and seal their hives. It has many biomedical and cosmetic uses. According to WebMD, “Propolis seems to have activity against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It might also have anti-inflammatory effects and help skin heal.” Clever.
The huge hot pretzels for sale.
Fresh hand-made strawberry lemonade to quench your thirst.
My friend and I headed home after a long, fulfilling day at the Cherry Creek Farmers Market!
All in all, the farmers market was a blast. I went home with a huge loaf of farm-fresh bread, chive and garlic goat cheese, a jar of Colorado honey, and a belly full of happy. I also got a little hint of a tan! Bonus.
Farmers markets are a great way to make new friends, relax, and support local businesses and farms. Check out one near you this weekend!
As I’m sure you all know, sometimes in life a situation arises in which you are more financially pinched than normal. Even the best budgeters with decently padded savings accounts can’t anticipate things like home repairs, doctors bills, or car problems. Such is the situation I found myself in when a knocking sound in my car lead to one part needing to be replaced, which then lead to several other parts needing replaced, until the source of all the problems was found and I had to replace that as well!
All said and done, nearly $1000 later, even with parental help (bless their hearts!) my budget belt is tighter than it has ever been before. That, compounded with a soon upcoming move to a new apartment, meant a stock-taking of my fridge/freezer/pantry was in order.
The goal: By August 1st, have used up every edible in my apartment, purchasing as little extra as possible. This means the meals I will be eating will be sure to get interesting!
I have actually found that sometimes, the best meals are the ones where you just open a cupboard and say, ‘ok, what can I do with this?’ With a bit of inspiration from Allrecipes.com (one of my favorite recipe websites) I did just that, opened my cupboard and came out with:
1 can chickpeas
1 can diced tomatoes
Dried onion flakes
1 cup white rice
Step 1: I boiled the rice, and meanwhile drained the chickpeas and simmered them with the diced tomatoes for about 10 minutes. I added about 1 tbsp of chili powder and 1 tbsp of the onions. For a bit of extra veggies, I threw in about 1 cup of frozen corn.
Step 2: Once the rice was done, I separated it into 3 individual portions and poured the mixture over the rice. And you know what? It was actually really delicious! Slightly Indian in taste because of the chili powder, the texture of the beans mixed with the tomatoes and sweetness of the corn was very satisfying. And I got 3 meals out of it!
Well, after debating and thinking about starting a blog for quite some time, I have decided to go ahead and do so. No idea what I’m doing, so you will have to learn along with me. I have this idea to try to make a cookbook of some sort with recipes which are very easy and very easy on the wallet. Having been a college student, and still a grad student, I know how strapped for cash we all are. And after talking to several people, I am always amazed at how few of us know how to feed ourselves beyond Ramen noodles and Taco Bell! So my mission is to educate the hard working students of the world (or anyone who has little to no culinary experience and/or cash in their pockets) how to feed yourself… simply and cheaply.
I will update as often as I can, and will include recipes and pictures when I can. If you have recipe suggestions or any questions I would be happy to hear from you! I also welcome any reader to take my recipes and see how reproducible they are. If this cookbook idea goes through, I want to know that my ideas work in the “real world” with real people.
The fusion of food, fun, frugality, and curiosity.