Thursday, February 19, 2015


So, I'm looking through the ads this week, and what do I see?

Quaker oats, 42 oz, on sale for $1.69. ($0.64 a pound)

But that's not the crazy thing.  It's says it's on sale from a regular price of $2.69.

Since when?  I JUST paid $3.99 last week at the same store!! ($1.52 a pound)


You'd better believe that I'm buying 2 boxes, maybe 3.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Oatmeal Death March

So today, I got a glimpse of what my life was like in 2009, when I embarked on the grocery budget challenge.  Back then, I was aiming for $160 or $320 a month (alternating months), not including the pre-paid CSA.

The problem with a tight budget is the inability (or difficulty) in stocking up.  In 2009, the $320 a month months were stock up months.  And of course, I rolled over unspent money to the next month.

This year, I started my $80 a week challenge 3 weeks in, and was already over budget by about $100 when I started.  So there is no "overflow" and won't be until probably April.  I periodically check to see when I break even.  I am lucky that I have bulk chicken breasts and pastured pork in the freezer right now, but when that runs out, it's going to be even more of a challenge than it is now.

Case in point: Oats.

I've been making granola a lot lately.  For V-day today, I decided to make oatmeal cookies.  When I checked the pantry, I realized I was short on both oats and brown sugar.  I knew a grocery shop was in the cards today, but I have only $22 left for the week.

My  memory tells me that oats are generally $0.80 on sale, and I can usually find them for $1 - $1.25 a pound not on sale.

Well, my memory sucks.  Here's what happened today:
1.  I wasn't going to check out Costco, because it's out by work (11 miles away).
2.  I remembered that oats are cheap at Whole Foods, and sometimes Lazy Acres.
3.  Since I was heading to Trader Joe's, I opted for Whole Foods because it is nearby.
4.  I needed milk at Ralphs.

Step 1:
- Ralphs: 42 oz oats on sale for $3.49.  $1.32 a pound.  A little expensive.  Also needed brown sugar.  $1.69/lb.  Opted to skip Ralphs.

- Trader Joe's: 2 lb oats for $4.  $2 a pound.  Nope.  Brown sugar: $3.49 a pound.  Nope.

- Whole Foods: Bulk oats at $1.79 a pound, and packaged was even more.  Nope.

- Albertson's (my regular store): I was sure it would be cheaper here.  $3.99 for 42 ounces, or $1.52 a pound.  And brown sugar $1.79 a pound.

At this point I couldn't stomach another stop, not even going back to Ralph's, which is on the way home.  So I spent $0.60 extra and learned a lesson (again).

When you are on a budget and out of something, it's a problem.  You end up spending more for non-sale items or smaller items.  (I also spent too much on hand soap yesterday.)  In order to get great deals, you have to keep your eye out for prices AND for the amount that you have.  If you are out of something, then you can just decide to make something else instead - this is a seriously good way to save money, and I've gotten better at it over the last few weeks.

So for today, I could have skipped the oats until I got a better price, and made chocolate chip cookies instead of oatmeal cookies.  But my husband doesn't like chocolate, so what's the point of making a Valentine's day "treat" if it's not a treat for your honey?

In the end, I split the dough, and half are oatmeal raisin, half oatmeal chocolate chip, because my big boy doesn't like raisins.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Greens Greens Greens!

It must be winter in Southern California.

My husband picked up the veggies this week at the CSA and ooh-boy, are they full of greens!  Craziness I say.  I know what we are eating this week.

Allow me to list:
kale - 2 bunches
chard - 1 bunch
"spicy greens" - 1 bunch
lettuce - 2 heads
spinach - 1 bag
turnips (with greens) - 1 bunch
beets (with greens) - 1 bunch
(We also got cauliflower, marinara, oranges)

So.  My goodness.

Today I fired up a pot of water with the steamer insert and started washing.

I first washed and steamed the turnip greens and beet greens, and put them in a bowl when done.

Then I washed and steamed the chard, and chopped the stems and tossed those into the crock pot with the black bean soup that's in there (recipe from Budget Bytes).

After that I washed the spicy mix and tossed it in there.  Generally the spicy mix is used in salad.  I could have done that and mixed it with the lettuce and spinach.  But I find it to be really spicy.  And as I suspect that we will be getting the spicy mix for several weeks, I decided to pace myself.

While the spicy mix was cooking, I smelled a strange burning smell. I  turned it off and moved it into the bowl.  Here's the bowl:

After it cooled, I pureed it in the food processor.  My favorite ways to eat greens are in soup, in frittata or quiche, as an Indian curry, mixed with an Asian sauce, or creamed.

These are destined to be creamed with cream cheese and parmesan.

As I started to wash the mountain of dishes, I noticed that the burning smell was the bottom of my big pot.  Ugh.  It's soaking right now, while the beets and turnips roast.

Does anyone have a good turnip recipe?  I admit, I don't care for them.  I've tried them many ways, but mostly end up choking them down with potatoes.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Superbowl Sunday

Well, I survived another week.  Thanks to Smowmaggeddon, my husband's trip to the frigid northeast was canceled last minute (well, postponed really, to an undecided date).  Yay!  The week ended up a social whirlwind.

I am a fairly social person for an engineer.  I have a lot of groups of friends and like to cultivate and embrace them.  But that's a lot of work.  On the Myers-Briggs surveys I tend to come in at ESTJ or INTJ.  I am weak in the E/I and S/N.  I find that when I was a supervisor of a group of six, I leaned more ESTJ.  But now that I'm more of an individual contributor, I lean more INTJ.  Interesting.

Anyway, this week sported:
Morning brunch potluck at the park (Sun) - standing weekly date
Elementary kid birthday party (tons of fun, lots of parents to talk to), it was at a ropes climbing course. (Sun)
PTA move-a-thon planning meeting (Mon)
Fundraiser for school at local pizza place (Tues) - are you tired yet?
Out for a glass of wine (and she brought cheese/ crackers, I took nuts) with a good friend (Weds)
Lunch out with a former boss and couple of others (Fri)
Lunch out with a good friend (Sat)

Well, it definitely hit all at once (that is 6 months worth of social engagements for me).  Also I had PMS so maybe my food choices weren't always the best (sometimes they were!)  I also had about 6 months worth of beer and wine (a total of 4 beers and 2 glasses of wine all week).

So for Superbowl Sunday?  There's our standing date for the potluck, then to the pool with the boys, then...nothing.  No plans, other than to occasionally check the score to see if I've won money in the pool (my numbers are 8 and 5, so...I'm not particularly hopeful).  And of course I wrote this yesterday, we all know I won no money.

Here's a snapshot of the CSA, the menu and cooking for the week:
Beets: roasted for salads, steamed the greens to go into a frittata for today's potluck
Lettuce and radishes: lunch salads
Butternut squash:  Roast
Cauliflower (from a coworker): Roast for tonight's dinner
Kale: chips (last night)
Parsley: I washed and spun 2 very large bunches and stuffed it into a small ziploc bag for the freezer.  No way I could have used it all up.

I also made refried beans in the crock pot (from 100 days of Real Food), but I must have put too much water in there.  They were like soup, so I had to cook them down for an hour after.  We used canned beans for last night's burritos.

Left to do today:
Make the frittata
Make granola
Figure out what to make for dinner.  There was an interesting chicken and lentil soup I saw on the kitchn this week.  So maybe that?  Or  maybe something else?  It's a bad sign that I haven't figured it out yet.
Wash the lettuce and radishes and some carrots for the week's lunches (mine and the 3rd grader's)

A few photos of the work - so much of the prep work is for lunches.

Here's an outside picture of my lunch (salad)

Here's my 3rd grader's lunch (that's homemade hummus!)

Here's some roasted carrots - my coworker gave me a bunch of HUGE free carrots, so I made them into "fries" and baked them.  And we'll probably not eat them until tomorrow.