Saturday, January 31, 2009

February's Grocery Goal

My original grocery plan for Feb was going to be $400. If you've been reading that long, you see this post that says I'm going to shoot for $160/month on the odd months and $400/month on the even months.

I've decided to drop that down to $320, so $80/week. However, I've decided to cheat a bit for Feb. Feb doesn't start until tomorrow. But I do the bulk of my grocery shopping on Saturday, which is today. Normally, it wouldn't be a big deal to just wait a day.

BUT, unless you hate sports or live under a rock, you realize that tomorrow is the Super Bowl. So, my plan is to first run a 4-mile race in the morning. Then we are having Arizona (boo!) friends over for chili. So that means if I wait till tomorrow to go shopping, I race from 9 to 9:45, shop from 10:15 to 11:15, shower, eat lunch, and start cooking. I'd rather just shop today. And my husband agreed it's dumb to drive myself crazy tomorrow "just because".

I figure it doesn't really count if we don't eat any of it today, right? And the only thing I need for today is a little bit of fresh ginger, probably even less than 0.23 worth (the leftover from Jan).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I made these tonight to go with the leftover Indian food. I've made these twice before. Once, yummy. Second time, when mom was in town...yuck. What did I do wrong?

Well, I think I figured it out. See, most roasted brussel sprouts recipes call for roasting at 400F for 35 to 40 min.

Here's the thing. #1, the sprouts from the farm are smallish. #2, they end up smaller when I pull of the outer leaves to get rid of the little shiny bugs. #3, I cut them in half. So I probably overcooked the heck out of them at 35 mins, which is why they got all disgusting.

So, tonight, I found this recipe. I just used salt, olive oil, pepper, and garlic. And roasted for only about 13 mins. Roast for 11, turn, roast for two. Perfect.

Also, my big plan of meals for the week had a kink or two. #1, there's leftover Indian food for lunch tomorrow. #2, hubby has a business meeting Weds, will stay late, get free food, and won't need dinner. That's okay. It will all work out in the end.

January's tally

But wait, you say - it's only the 26th! Yep, but I've spent all my January budget. Last $5 went on applesauce, of all things. This means: boo, I can't go grocery shopping until Sunday, and Yay! I can't go grocery shopping until Sunday! (Fewer receipts to enter.)

Jan 1-9: $37.50
Jan 10-16: $36.29
Jan 17-23: $40.29
Jan 24-31 (hopefully): $45.69

Monthly total: $159.77

Leaving me $0.23 to put in the "extra" envelope to save for...whatever $0.23 will buy.

It shouldn't be too hard to stay out of the stores this week. My weekly lunch and dinner plans include leftovers, leftovers, and more leftovers. I'm not kidding. Leftover pasta bake, leftover Indian food (homemade), leftover split pea soup (from the freezer), leftover Thanksgiving turkey (from the freezer).

It will look something like this:

Mon: L: pasta bake. D: Indian food with brussel sprouts
Tue: L: pasta bake. D: split pea soup with roasted beets and potatoes (I bought a 10lb bag, 8.5 lbs to go)
Wed: L: pasta bake. D: turkey, mashed potatoes (yep, again), gravy, sauteed yakuna savoy
Thu: L: split pea soup. D: leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, and whatever vegetable is laying around that day (it's CSA day). Maybe spinach salad.
Fri: Yeah, we'll have to see what kinds of leftovers are still leftover at this point. Probably still two more servings of pasta and two more servings of soup. We'll just call it "smorgasbord" day.
Sat: Roasted acorn squash, potatoes, and salmon patties.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday meal

Well, I've cooked 8 things this weekend. With all those dishes (I'd complain, but Mike did 3-4 loads of laundry), I'm too tired to post actual recipes of some of the stuff.

Yesterday: red lentil curry (recipe posted), collard chips (search for roasted kale for recipe), aloo gobi, and roasted chicken.

Today: pumpkin apple streusel muffins, syrian bread, italian pasta bake, and roasted delicata squash.
Italian pasta bake:
1/2 to 2/3 lb whole wheat pasta, cooked: 0.40
3/4 lb frozen mixed vegetables, cooked and chopped in food processor: 0.75
1 onion, chopped: 0.20
1/2 lb ground beef: 1.00
2 14-oz cans diced tomatoes, pureed: 1.20
2T tomato paste: 0.20
3 cloves garlic: 0.15
basil, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, oregano: 0.20
salt and pepper
1 bunch collard greens, steamed, squeezed dry, pureed: 1.50
1 cup cooked kidney beans: 0.24
some sliced kalamata olives: 0.30
4 oz shredded mozzarella (or so): 0.60
Total: $6.74 for about 10 servings, or $0.68 per serving.

Cook the beef and onion. Add the vegetables, tomatoes, paste, and spices. Basically making a chunky meat/veggie sauce. Add in the cooked pasta. Pour in a 13x9 pan. Top with cheese. Bake until bubbly. Like a lasagna but a little less work. This made probably 4-5 meals worth.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Red Lentil Curry

This recipe came from my friend Shithi, who is originally from Bangladesh. It was yummy, even though I forgot to remove the bay leaf before I pureed it.

Red Lentil Curry:
1 small onion, diced (0.20)
2 T canola oil (0.07)
1/2 tsp turmeric (0.05)
1/2 tsp coriander (0.10)
1/4 tsp cumin (0.05)
1/2 tsp fresh garlic, minced (3 small cloves) (0.15)
1 bay leaf (0.05)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 c. red lentils (1.50)
2.5 c. water
1 tsp salt
Total: $2.17 for about 4 cups, or $0.27 per half cup

Saute onion in oil until soft. Add garlic and saute one more minute. Add spices and saute one more minute. Add lentils and water.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, simmering for 15-20 min. At this point I should have fished out the bay leaf. I got a smoother consistency by using the immersion blender a little bit. I still wanted a few chunks.

This was a little runny (it's supposed to be). I didn't make rice or naan, but it was still good (scooped it up with the aloo gobi and roasted chicken). I will maybe make some flatbread tomorrow to eat the leftovers with on Monday.

The roasted chicken was good. But it was a grocery store chicken ($2.60), not a farmer's market chicken ($12), so it wasn't THAT good.

The collard green chips were a success, like the kale chips. My son really liked the lentil curry and the collard chips, though he ate the chicken and aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower) too. He's a bit of a bottomless pit, and followed that up with some yogurt. Now he's eating carrots sticks.

The week

Sorry! No new recipes for the week. I tried a recipe from a cookbook I got for Christmas - Vegan Express, by Nava Atlas. It was underwhelming, but I didn't follow the recipe exactly. After a few additions, it got better.

I also made a pad-thai like dish with noodles, tofu, peanuts, lime, cilantro, and cabbage. We ate these two vegan meals all week.

The first one was quinoa - in the end, it had kidney beans, corn, artichoke hearts, salsa, roasted onion and bell pepper, parsley, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin.

I am going to do a roast chicken, aloo gobi, baked collard chips, and red lentil curry tonight. I've posted all these on here before, except the red lentil curry. If it's good, I'll post the recipe! I got the recipe from a friend from Bangladesh, so I know it's good when SHE makes it. I'm just not sure if it's good when *I* make it.

An update on the CSA for the week:
1 bunch beets - dinner Monday, roasted
1 bunch collards - dinner Saturday, baked into chips
1 acorn squash - probably save for next week (we're eating last week's delicata tomorrow, roasted, as a side dish to baked pasta with veggies)
1 lb clementines - snacking
1 lb brussel sprouts - sauteed or roasted, as a side on Tuesday (with leftover split pea soup from the freezer)
1 bu yakuna savoy (an Asian green), as a side on Weds with leftovers
1 bu green onions (with the yakuna savoy)
1/4 lb spinach - on sandwiches or in a little salad.

Thursday I just signed up to donate blood at 6:15, so my hubby will be cooking dinner. I think it will be some leftover turkey from Thanksgiving with gravy (from a jar, also leftover) and mashed potatoes.

On Thursday I did my volunteer shift. It used to be that you could "opt out" by paying $40. Last year the CSA doubled in size, and I guess a bunch of people opted out of volunteering and didn't pay the fee. Instead, this year, everyone had to pay the fee. And if you volunteer, then you get a $50 gift card to the stand. I will be saving this for avocados, strawberries, and figs.

I really enjoyed talking to the fellow members, swapping recipes and ideas, and chatting with the other volunteers. It's great to really get to know the farm.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Yay, our CSA just started up again. Here's a tally of week one, and what I'm going to use it for

1 head lettuce - salad (tonight and one other)
1 bunch parsley - quinoa with corn and artichokes (today), and maybe freeze some in pesto
1 head napa cabbage (1.5 lb) - Thai tofu and cabbage over noodles (Sun)
1 bunch turnips (3 large) - roasted as a side (Mon) with leftover cabbage
1/4 lb spinach - in quinoa and bean soup (Tue)
1 bunch bok choy - side dish for fried rice night (Wed)
2 leeks - in the fried rice (Wed)
1 bunch collards - in the fried rice (Wed)
1 lb clementines - snacking

Lotta Asian this week, to counteract last week's "week of Minestrone".

Thurs will also be leftovers, as I'm working at the CSA from 4 to 7 pm.
Sat is hubby's night...pancakes for dinner.

Grocery Goals for the Year

I've decided to set a goal for my grocery spending for the year. I generally don't do this for a full year. Usually, I set a particular time frame. Last year, from April to July, I decided to try and spend only $50/week on groceries. I was successful - came out at about $45/week (and donated the extra to the food bank).

This year, I've decided to shoot for the full year! Here's my plan:

Each alternating month, set a budget of $160 or $400 (for the most part, that's approximately, but a little less than, $40 or $100/wk). That means January is $160. February is $400. And so on. I am also using a Cash-only system. My hubby loves this because I shop less and there are fewer receipts to enter.

Here's my rationale. If I set my goal at $40/wk, it's a challenge. But one I can manage. It got a little easier this week with the start of my (pre-paid) 45 week CSA. That was $850, paid at the end of last year. For fairness in my calculations of grocery, I am counting it towards this year's total.

At $40/wk, I am eating extensively from the pantry and freezer. I am not running to the store to get cilantro because "it will go well with this dish". I am deciding, a week in advance, what it for dinner, and doling out about $30 of it right off the bat. The remaining $10 is left in reserves for emergencies. At the end of each week, the leftover gets moved to the following week. At the end of each month, it's removed from the envelope and put in another one. I guess an "emergency" envelope or "stock up" envelope...something that I can use for those 31-day months of only $160. Or maybe it will be useful for, say, my son's birthday party.

By the time I get to $100/wk, that's going to feel flush. That will be the month that I can stock up on some good sales and re-fill the freezer and the pantry. In the past, I have stuck to an even $70/wk. The problem is, that gets too hard. Then I start borrowing money from next week. A week that started on Monday now starts on get the point. So now the week starts on Friday, since most shopping and cooking is done on the weekend.

My other grocery and food-related goals are pretty simple. I'd like to build and maintain ONE square foot garden in front of my house (a 3'x3' spot). You have to start somewhere. And for non-food items like TP and toothpaste, I am going to pay better attention and shop sales with coupons, instead of just buying everything at Costco (which is more convenient, but not necessarily cheaper).

And hey, I should be gaining about $500 this year from NO MORE DIAPERS!!

Thus far, here's the count:
Jan 1-9: $37.50
Jan 10-16: $35.79

Monday, January 12, 2009


This is a recipe I adapted loosely from American Wholefoods Cuisine by Nikki and David Goldbeck. Very loosely...I added extra zucchini in place of potatoes, and used green beans instead of greens (no greens yet, but the CSA starts Thursday).

1/5 lb dry (1 cup cooked) kidney beans: 0.24
1/2 c dry (2 oz) macaroni: 0.09
1/2 of a 6 oz can tomato paste: 0.17
6 c. water
1 tsp dried basil: 0.05
1 tsp dried parsley: 0.03
1 clove garlic, pressed: 0.04
1/2 large onion, diced: 0.15
1/4 lb sliced frozen green beans (these were leftover): 0.25
2 carrots, diced: 0.17
1 tsp salt: 0.02
1 T canola oil: 0.04
2 small zucchini, diced: 0.85
2 celery stalks, diced: 0.20
1 T dried veggie stock powder: ?
Total: $2.40 for 12 cups, or eight 1.5 cup servings. $0.30 per serving.
Soak and pre-cook the kidney beans. Saute onion and garlic in oil until soft. Add herbs, carrots, water, and tomato paste. Cover and simmer for 20 min. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer 30 min.

This was really good. I made this yesterday alongside last night's dinner of Mediterranean chickpeas and rice. (I had the leftovers for lunch today with steamed broccoli and it was heaven). So I got two different meals in one cooking batch. And soup is always better the next day. We've got about 8 cups left, which will be dinner for toddler and I tomorrow (2 cups), and lunch for me Weds and Thurs (3 cups). The rest will probably go in the freezer. Or maybe we'll eat it Friday.

I served this with about 1T of parmesan per bowl (at 0.09), plus homemade rye and onion bread (0.08 per 2-oz slice). It's a recipe from the book that came with our bread machine. We discovered when we replaced our bread machine that the recipes don't necessarily translate from one to the other. We could fiddle, but don't. On the bread we had just some butter and some of the homemade caponata from New Year's Eve (from the freezer).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Black Pepper Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry

I think this originated at here. I make adjustments from time to time. It's not a regular at our house, because we don't eat very much beef. But it is very good. This time I used frozen meatballs. I defrosted them in the microwave and chopped them in the food processor. I didn't have ground beef.

It's very tasty and has cabbage, which is good for the digestion and cheap to boot! Our CSA starts up again next Thursday, so then my meal planning will based around what we get there. We got a great deal this the full year up front for $850. This comes out to a little less than $20 a week. And then if we volunteer for a shift, we get a $50 gift certificate to the produce stand. Yay!

Black Pepper Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry
1 T. canola oil: 0.04
4 cloves garlic: 0.16
9 oz frozen meatballs, defrosted and chopped: 1.27
1 small head cabbage (1.5 to 2 lbs): 0.65
1 green bell pepper: 0.46
3 T. soy sauce: 0.26
2 tsp corn starch
1/2 c. water
1 tsp black pepper: 0.02

served with:
1 3-oz package ramen noodles: 0.16

Total: $3.02 for 5 servings. This fed my husband and I two nights and one lunch for me. Our toddler ate maybe 5 bites each night too. That's $0.60 per serving.

There's not a lot of noodles in there, but that's okay. Doesn't need much. I just scooped the cabbage on top of the noodles.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Food Costs, 2000 to 2008

So, I'm a total geek. I admit it. I love checking out my food costs, seeing how I can trim, and seeing how I'm doing. My hubby is a total Quicken geek. So, with about 15 mins of work I was able to pull up our food costs since 2000 (though 2000 numbers are estimated based on my memory. When I said "we spend WHAT?")

The all time low was just after I lost 57 lbs. We were eating out a LOT less, and we were both eating less food, period. The eating out bill crept up from there. A big difference from 2003 to 2004. As I got pregnant and gave birth, the eating out went up again. Until 2008, when it just became too much of a pain to eat out with a toddler.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Today I did pizza again. Using the bread machine for the dough. Except for the first attempt (where the blade wasn't attached, so...nothing happened). Once the blade was attached it worked.

The machine makes the dough. Then I kneaded it for 5-10 min, until it springs back. Then I divided the dough into two balls and let rest in a warm place (aka, the top of the stove, set at 250F) for 20 min.

I rolled the dough out on two cookie sheets coated with canola oil and sprinkled with cornmeal. Let rest for 15 min.

Par-bake at 340F for 15 min. Remove from oven. Add toppings. Bake at 400F for 15 min.

This was really good. The dough was fully cooked in the center and crispy at the edge. Finally, good pizza dough!! It's still not "authentic" like from a pizza shop. I don't have a pizza stone yet, so that will have to wait. Still, it was pretty good.