Monthly Archives: January 2012

Supermarket Shuffle

I left my house at 6:15 PM today on a mission to get my watch fixed and pick up some groceries since I finally got paid..

After 3 grocery stores, $40.97, 7 pounds of meat, and a ton of cooking, here I am — 4 hours later.

While going to the different stores was exhausting, it was TOTALLY worth it.  Here’s a pic of what I got:

$41 of organic goodness

See all those orange stickers in the top left?  That is 7 pounds of meat that I got for 60% off.  Why was it 60% off?  Well, it goes bad tomorrow, but that’s okay because I have plenty of freezer space.  This is also more than enough meat to last me the rest of the semester.  Here is what I got:

Bloomingfoods:
1 lb organic romaine lettuce: $0.99
1 gallon organic 2% milk: $5.99
1 bulb organic garlic: $0.84
2 x pesticide free butternut squash: $1.00
5 lb bag organic navel oranges: $3.99
2 pesticide free turnips: $0.99
28 oz cans organic diced tomatoes: $2.49
28 oz can organic whole peeled tomatoes (fail): $2.89
2.39 lbs organic rolled oats: $2.37

+ 5% discount

Total: $20.47

Sahara Mart:

(All the meat is from Fischer Farms, an all natural, hormone and antibiotic free farm from Jasper, IN)

1.01 lbs  ground bison: $4.54
1.03 lbs ground turkey: $2.57
1.00 lbs ground beef: $2.50
1.95 lbs beef chuck roast: $5.70
1.82 lbs pork tenderloin: $4.06
1 gallon organic milk: $3.00

+10% off

Total: $20.50

Grand total: 40.57

This is how I followed the rules for myself from yesterday’s post:

1.  I saved a total of 15% on my groceries today by going on member days.  Bloomingoods’ was 5% and Sahara 10%.

2.  didn’t use any coupons

3.  I saved $22.46 using manager’s specials at Sahara.  All the meat and the 2nd gallon of milk goes bad tomorrow so it was all 50% off.  I immediately froze the meat and I made yogurt and cheese tonight out of the milk.  At Bloomingfoods, I saved $2-3+ on the squash.  It is usually $0.69/lb, and these were $0.50 each.  Granted, the majority of them were rotten, I was still able to find a couple that were somewhat good.  I immediately roasted them when I got home and now I have 2+ pounds of butternut squash pulp that I will keep in the fridge.

4.  I intentionally didn’t buy a couple things I normally would put in my lunch, since I have been taking leftovers in.  For instance, I was tempted to buy almonds solely to make almond butter for lunches.  However, organic almonds are $8.99/lb and are something I can skip this month since I only want them for the stray day here or there that I may  make a sandwich.

5.  I saved money by not buying yogurt or cheese this trip.  It was an added bonus that I ended up getting the milk for $3.00.

6.  I didn’t make too many bulk selections this time, but I am happy that I bought a lot of oatmeal at such a low price.

7.  I remembered my reusable bags! But I also found the only stores in town that don’t give discounts for them 😦

8.  I felt as though I was flexible with my food choices.  I didn’t buy bananas (+1 for maturity) and the only things I bought that weren’t on sale were garlic and and the first gallon of milk.  Oh, I also failed hardcore and bought the wrong can of tomatoes, accidentally paying $0.50 more.

9.  Finally, there were a few things I walked away from buying just because they were on sale.  These included black beans and organic walnuts.  I love both, but truthfully they just end up sitting in my pantry longer than they should.  One area I could have been better: the chuck roast.  I don’t really need that, but I got a little discount happy.

Money left in the budget: $67.24

When All Else Fails, Make Soup

today's ingredients

*sigh*

Today’s meal was a bit of a comedy of errors.

I came home very excited to make pumpkin barley with thick chunks of potato, chick peas, and onions stirred in.

I somehow ended up with this:

not what I had expected

What I ended up with was a pumpkin heavy stew that NEEDED those chickpeas and onions I roasted.  Fortunately, it tasted pretty good.

As I said, I really wanted barley.  I failed, miserably, at making that work.  I added far too much water, added the potatoes too early, and everything turned into mush.  I then thought that I could maybe make this into mashed potatoes and barley.  yeah, no.  Way too much water for that, and at this point I didn’t see an easy way to drain it.  I added the left over sauce from the pumpkin pasta in an attempt to thicken this up.  It did thicken a little bit, but not nearly enough to be anything other than thin mush.  As a last resort, I stirred in the pumpkin to see what would happen.  To my amazement, a thick stew formed.  I tasted it, though, and it needed something.  It frankly tasted lifeless.  I added chipotle chili powder and nutmeg.  This helped a ton, but still not enough.

needs a little green, huh?

While making the barley, I had put one of my favorite stand bys in the oven- chickpeas coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes.  For a little bit more flavor, i placed onion slices on top of the chick peas.

hummus bites

I let these roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, stirring them about 10 minutes in.

As I was pondering what my soup needed, I tried a bite of the two together.  It reminded me of this quirky cookie I made for my German class in high school that no one liked.  It was pumpkin and onion filled and delcious.

Behold, my dinner had been made.  Not at all what I expected, but sometimes that’s okay 🙂

I’m not sure I can come up with a price on this meal, since it’s all bits and pieces of previous meals.  My estimation is less than $3.00 total, which is nice considering I have enough left over for 3+ meals.

Dolla Dolla Bill Y’all

Fair warning: this post has absolutely nothing to do with food and everything to do with February’s budget and my strategies to save money.

Tomorrow is pay day and damn, do I need it.

I was working out a budget today and went through 3 or 4 symptoms of depression…

1.  Denial – there’s no way that I have only this little bit of money to spend on groceries.

2.  Sadness- I have no money

3. Anxiety- How will I eat this month?

4. Hope- It may be fun to be SUPER thrifty and at the very least, I will have something to write about!

Back in February when I found out how much money I would be making as an Associate Instructor at IU, I was ecstatic.  I thought I was going to be living super comfortably and would finally have “the” life.  ha.

hahahahahahahahahaha.

To be fair, I get by.  I feel very fortunate that I worked this summer because many of my coworkers have had to resort to the phone call home.  In their defense, January was a particularly tough month because our last paycheck was December 16th.

But, where has all my money gone?  In working out my budget, this is how I anticipate to spend February’s pay check (I made a pie-chart but can’t figure out how to post it…):

Paying off the Christmas/NYE Credit Card Bill: 39%
Rent: 37%
Groceries: 7%
Savings: 6%
Energy Bill: 6%
Student Loans: 3%
Spending Money: 3%

So, why exactly am I freaking out about groceries?  This budget leaves me with $107.71 to spend for 29 days.  Between January 3rd and January 30th, I spent $136.91.  That ended up being ~$34 a week.  To be honest, I don’t know if that’s a lot or a little, considering this is my first time trying to do the all-organic thing.  I know in undergrad I spent ~$50 a week, but I bought a lot of superfluous food, too.  I also think I eat a little bit more than the average person because I run 50+ miles a week.

I’ve developed a few strategies for the upcoming month in an attempt to get the most bang for my buck:

1.  Only go to the co-op on member days
I try to do this anyway, but there are a few times throughout the month that I slip.  I also checked around town for other “deal” days.  Marsh gives students 10% off on Saturdays and Sahara Mart gives 10% off on Tuesdays.

2. Find coupons on facebook
I’ve been trying to get in the habit of “liking” my favorite brands on facebook because most offer coupon deals/giveaways.  Also, other people who like the same page usually post tips when stores put that brand on sale.

3.  Look for “manager’s special”
I’ve bought quite a bit of bread and meat this way.  Typically (this seems to work best for me when I go at night), you can find food that is about to reach it’s “sell-by” date go on sale 25-30% off.  This tends to happen more with organic food because it has a smaller market.  I have gotten great deals on bread, chicken, steak, and hummus in this way.  If you do buy meat, make sure to freeze it right away.  I have made the mistake of letting it sit in the fridge and then wind up wasting my money.

4.  Ditch the sandwich for lunch
My lunch habits have gotten exponentially better since I got this wonderful lunch thermos for Christmas.  I waste less and buy less “lunch food” by being able to bring leftovers from the night before.

5.  DIY more
Making my own cheese, yogurt, bread, almond butter has been incredibly cheap, fun, and delicious.  Now that I have invested in the equipment and have saved the appropriate starters, I will be able to save even more money.

6.  Make smarter bulk selections
Everyone knows that buying from the bulk section saves money.  However, it’s always wise to know which store has the cheapest bulk sections.  I’ve now staked out all the grocery stores in town and I know, for instance, Sahara has organic almonds $4.00/lb cheaper than Bloomingfoods does, but Bloomingfoods’ organic walnuts are a better deal.  I also have to be better at stocking up when I find good bulk deals.

7.  Remember my reusable bags
Pretty much every store has a bag discount…I usually save ~$0.15 by bringing my own bags, which adds up!

8.  Be flexible with my food choices
I know a lot of people, myself included, who spend a lot of money at the grocery store because they HAVE to buy the same 3-4 things every week.  For instance, I always get bananas, even if they’re not on sale.  Do I NEED bananas every week?  No.  So if I can find another fruit or vegetable that’s on sale, I will go for that instead and be creative.  Besides the fact that this will save money, not eating a variety of foods is bad for you.  Even if what you eat every day is healthy, your body craves variety.

9.  DON’T  buy something just because it’s a good deal
This is a bad habit I learned from my mom.  I have a tendency to buy something just because it is on sale, even though I could just as easily do without it.

So, there it is…pretty  much the same list that everyone posts when they talk about saving money in the grocery store.  I’ll keep y’all updated on how this works out.

Bun in the Oven (100% Organic Home-Made Sourdough Bread)

Finished Product!!

If being pregnant is half as satisfying as baking this loaf of bread was, then I think I may have to change my stance on babies.

This bread has been about a week in the making and tons of anticipation.  Honestly, it is better than I could have ever imagined.  For Christmas my sister bought me a cookbook that I have alluded to in a previous post – DIY Delicious by Vanessa Barrington.  I’ve been enjoying making a lot of various foods out of the cookbook — yogurt, cheese, creme fraiche, etc.  Today, I conquered this.  I could not be happier.

First of all, I have to say that baking your own bread is time consuming.  It is, however, 1.  cheaper than buying organic bread, 2. much, much tastier than buying your organic bread, and 3. damn cool.  The most expensive part is buying the equipment you’ll need.  In the book, Barrington suggests you buy a few different things but in the end the only supply I bought was a 1 lb bread pan.  I consider that to be an investment, though, since I will undoubtedly get a ton of use out of it.

For a sourdough bread, you initally need a starter.  The starter is a fermented flour/water mixture that gives sourdough that familiar tangy, yeasty flavor.  The downside to the starter is that it takes about a week to prepare.  The plus side is that once you have it made, you can keep it going indefinitely.  It’s also ridiculously easy to make, and, despite my best efforts, hard to ruin.  Here’s what you do:

Sourdough Starter

In a glass or hard plastic bowl (I used a pampered chef microwave bowl with a vented lid), mix 4 ounces (1/2 cup) warm water and 4 ounces wheat flour.  Cover with something breathable- a vented lid, a towel, etc., and let sit unrefrigerated over night.  24 hours later remove half of the starter and again add 4 ounces warm water and 4 ounces wheat flour.  Continue to do this for 1 week (called “feeding”).

Like I said, I had a couple mishaps with mine and it still turned out fine.  The first day I added cold water instead of warm, and the second day I only added 4 ounces of flour and no water.  oops.  I made up for it on the third and added twice the amount of warm water.  After a few days your dough will begin to ferment and look like this:

fermented starter

It should smell a little bit yeasty, slightly beer-y.  Apparently if the starter goes bad it will smell atrocious.  That made me feel better about my miscues…I would be the person to bake a rancid loaf of bread.

The unfortunate thing is that you have to throw away half the starter.  You can, of course, compost it.  Another strategy is to give it to your roommate so she can bake a loaf of bread, too.

Once your starter has been made, store it in the refrigerator.

Bread baking time!

To begin, if you plan to bake your bread at 7 PM on a Sunday (like I did), you need to take your starter out of the refrigerator on Saturday morning.  You need to feed your starter twice before you bake with it.  I fed mine at 8 PM on Saturday (I had forgotten to take it out of the refrigerator beforehand, though, and it was fine) and 12 AM Saturday night/Sunday morning.  At noon on Sunday, I began mixing.

mixing time

 

In the large orange bowl, I combined 1-1/3 cup warm water with 2/3 cup of the starter.  The yellow bowl to the left is for water to dip your hands into, as they get messy.  True to form I added my starter to this bowl and had to starter over.  Once your starter is in the correct bowl, mix it with your hands until it dissolves.  In another bowl, I combined 1-3/4 cups wheat flour, 1-2/3 cups whole wheat bread flour, and 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt.  After mixing I added this to the water/starter mixture.

While rotating the bowl counter clockwise with my left hand, I used my right hand to fold the dough from the sides of the bowl into the middle.  I did this for five minutes.  After kneading, I let the dough sit for 5 minutes.  I repeated this process two more times for a total of 15 minutes kneading and 10 minutes resting.  Make sure to cover your dough with a towel while it is resting.

After the final knead, let your dough sit for 3 hours, again covered with a towel.  An hour and a half into the resting period, I did a quick knead of the dough, again folding over the sides as I rotated the bowl.  This  only needs to be done for one complete bowl rotation (about 4, 90 degree turns)

Let your bread sit for another hour and a half.

This time, remove your dough from the bowl and place it on a floured surface.  Add a little bit of flour to the top of your dough.  Stretch the dough into a rectangle and then fold the stretched ends over on top of the bread, pressing down in the middle.  Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat.  Flip the dough over and rotate the dough with one hand while folding the ends under with the other hand.  Form a mound with the dough as you do this.

Let the dough sit for 5 minutes.

As the dough is resting, brush your bread pan with vegetable oil.

Once your five minutes are up, take the dough, turn it over, and stretch it again into a rectangle.  Fold the narrow ends into the middle, and, grasping an end with each hand, fold inward towards the middle, creating an envelope.  Grasp the top point of your bread and pull it towars you to form a cylinder shaped loaf.  Manipulate the bread so that the seam is on the underside of the loaf.  Push it lightly to remove the air bubbles.  Roll the dough so that you can barely see the seam.  Push the dough with the heel of your hand to seal the dough, but don’t smash it.  Place the dough in the loaf, seam side down.

Let the dough rest, covered, for another 3 hours.

Honestly, if all of this sounds confusing you should either 1. buy the book, or 2. make up your own way to knead.  My roommate didn’t follow this completely and her loaf ended up just fine.

When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees C.  Take a serrated knife and slash diagonal marks into the top of the dough to allow for expansion upon baking.  The author suggests pre-heating a cast iron skillet (I used a roasting pan) under the rack you will be baking on and adding cold water to the pan as you place the loaf in the oven.  The goal is to create steam.  I did this and didn’t get much steam, but my bread turned out great, so I don’t know how necessary it is.

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 425 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.  Remove the bread from the pan and let it finish baking on the rack for another 5 minutes.  Remove it from the oven and let it cool on a cooling rack.

Total Cost: $2.59
whole wheat bread flour: $0.77 (used 7 ounces, paid $1.79/lb)
wheat flour: $0.72 (7/68 of a $6.99 bag of flour)
starter: $1.10 (used half my starter)

starter: $3.29 (32/68 of a bag of flour, including the 2 feedings before baking)

I feel like this cost is a little bit deceiving because of the starter.  I’m not sure if I should include that or not, since now that the starter is made I won’t have to make it again.  I suppose take the cost as you will.  Regardless of whether you include the starter, it is still cheaper and much more delicious than buying a loaf of organic bread.

 

post-run baking. I probably should have washed my hands...

Po-tay-toe…boil ’em, mash ’em, put ’em in a stew!

Or, in my case, a salad.  I actually have no idea what that quote is from, except that aforementioned best friend Zach has said it a few times….

Today’s meal ended up being quite good.  Here is what I had to work with:

hodge podge ingredients

You are looking at (from left): 2 potatoes that are growing sprouts, half eaten jar of mustard that’s been opened since September, my “manager’s special” lettuce that’s getting more than slightly wilted, a little baggy of chopped onions, a clove of garlic whose brothers and sisters went moldy (I bought that bulb 2 weeks ago 😦 ), 1/4 jar of balsamic vinegar I inherited from my old roommate (shout out Jayne!), and one of the remaining pork chops that I’m pretty sure I bought in August.  Peeking out in the back is my sour dough bread, which we’ll talk about later 🙂

The meal ended up being a mustard fried pork chop on top of fried potatoes, on top of a salad.

Here’s what I did:

Fried potatoes

-with the skin on, I thinly sliced the potatoes into “chips.”  I placed these in boiling water and boiled them until they got soft, ~7 minutes.
-in a large pan, I began sautee’ing chopped onions (small chop) in a generous amount of olive oil.  Once the onions were translucent, I added the drained potatoes.
-I let the potatoes sit in the oil, instead of sauteeing them.  This will help them get crispy.  If you’re unsure how much olive oil to add, I would suggest starting with 2 tablespoons and adding as you see fit.  After a couple minutes, flip the potatoes over.  Continue until they are at the desired crispness.  At some point in the process, add salt.  For me, fried potatoes can never have too much salt, but for most people probably ~1/4 – 1/3 teaspoon is fine.
-When they were done, I added them on top of a generous pile of lettuce and drizzled the lettuce with balsamic vinegar.

lettuce + potatoes

 

Mustard Fried Pork Chop

-Begin sauteeing a generous amount of garlic and onions in olive oil.
-Once translucent, add a dry pork chop (take a paper towel and pat the pork chop dry – this will aid in getting a browned skin.)
-salt/pepper the pork chop and add a generous coating of mustard (I would most definitely recommend a brown mustard, as opposed to a yellow).
-allow the pork chop to fry on the pan for 3-4 minutes, then flip.  Season this side with salt/pepper, but no need to add mustard.
-cover with a lid and let cook until you are not in danger of developing trichinosis.
-add to the top of your salad, mustard side up, and drizzle onions/pan drippings on top.

finished product!!

This was delicious and I would most definitely make it again.  I’m really excited because I have plenty left over for lunch tomorrow.

Total Cost: $2.55

salad: $0.60 (used a 1/3, paid $1.79)
potatoes: $0.60 (have been assuming that 1 potato = $0.30, used 2)
onion: $0.25 (used ~1/2 a large onion)
pork (not organic): $1.00 (bought this pork at $2.00/lb, was a half pound chop)
mustard: $0.10 (bought SUPER cheap at a truck load sale..$1.99, I think, used ~1 tablespoon)
balsamic vinegar: free! (thanks Jayne!)

The total cost is actually less because I have leftovers for lunch tomorrow!!!!

 

Dinner for Four

As per usual, I had found myself in a dilemma.  I had promised dinner to 3 people at 7, but was still in the chem building at 5:45.  Then, I invite a 4th, which exponentially raised my stress.

When I had gotten home at 6:15, I still had no clue what I was going to make for dinner.

I took a quick look into my pantry and saw a pile of canned pumpkin looming over the rest of my food at me.  Pumpkin pasta!  That seemed easy enough.

Then I began to worry about a side dish.  I had a spaghetti squash that had been adorning our bar, so I figured no better time than the present to roast it.  I quickly halved it, and started pre heating the oven.

Fortunately, my roommate came home at this point and offered to roast some tofu as a protein.  Not really sure what I would have done without her, since I didn’t have anything else to share 🙂

I also realized I lacked a sauce for the pumpkin pasta.  Doing a quick search for what kinds of sauce goes well pumpkin I realized another dilemma — my roommate is lactose intolerant so anything creamy would be bad.  Then I saw my plain yogurt!  I figured I could make a pseudo-alfredo with sage.  In the end, my roommate hated it and used olive oil + brown sugar, but everyone else liked it.

In my stress to get everything on the table, I forgot to take pictures 😦

Here are the recipes:

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

preheat the oven to 410 degrees F
cut the squash down the middle, scoop out the insides (but keep the seeds!)
place each half on a roasting pan, fill the pan ~1/4 inch with water
roast until the squash easily peels away with a fork and forms “spaghetti”
(It wasn’t ready when I wanted it to be, so I stuck it in the microwave for 2 minutes to finish it off)

Bonus: roast the seeds the same way you would with pumpkin seeds, they’re delicious

Pumpkin Fettuccine

In a food processor, mix 2 cups white flour, 2 tablespoons semolina flour, 3/4 teaspoons salt, and a dash of nutmeg
In a seperate bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup pumpkin puree and 1 medium egg
combine pumpkin mixture and flour, briefly
Add 2 medium eggs to the mixture and continue mixing until a ball of dough forms

I had to add more flour, probably ~1/4 cup because it was too moist

On a semolina dusted cutting board, knead the dough.  Let it rest for 30 minutes

After resting, cut the pasta to your desired size.  I used thickness 4 with a fettuccine die.

Boil until desired doneness, ~4 minutes for al dente

Pseudo alfredo sauce

Boil 2 cups of water in a saucepan, adding 1/2 the amount of chicken stock you normally would for 2 cups of water
Add 1 cup plain yogurt
Add a dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, sage, and pepper
whisk together
if sauce is too thin, whisk in flour until you achieve the desired thickness

Roasted tofu

place diced tofu on a roasting pan and toss in olive oil and salt.  Roast at 410 degrees F until brown and crispy ~20 minutes

This meal was the perfect amount for 3 runners and 1 heavy eater who each took 3rd helpings.  It would probably work great for 6 light eaters.  Bread would be a great accompaniment.

Total Cost: $4.89+ (but probably still less than $5.50)

squash: $2.79 (bought for $0.69/lb)
pumpkin pasta: $1.55 (pumpkin – $0.45, flour – 0.50, semolina – $0.10, eggs – $0.50)
tofu: (I actually have no idea, I never buy tofu)
sauce: $0.50 (used about 1/4 of the yogurt I made)

Pasta is the perfect meal for company..it cooks fast and is universal.  I didn’t end up serving it until about 7:30, so if you can make the dough ahead of time, that will save a ton of time.  Roasting the spaghetti squash took the majority of the time.

Lost in the Super Market

Today was the best haul I’ve brought home from the grocery store and it was entirely on a whim.

During Project Runway I decided to check out the ads we got in the mail today.  On the very front page of the Kroger circular was an ad for Mom’s Best Naturals cereal.  This is seriously some of the best cereal I’ve ever tasted…a 16.5 ounce box was on sale for $0.99.  I bought 10 boxes.

While I was there, I noticed a new granola bar, Good n’ Natural, was on sale, too.  I got 10 for $0.49 each.  These seem pretty similar to clif bars, nutrition wise.  I’m excited to try the cranberry almond.

I also got organic bananas for $0.79 a pound.  They’re usually $0.99/ lb so I was pumped.

Finally, employing my favorite shopping strategy, I managed to get one of those cute organic salad containers full of radicchio, herbs, spinach, romaine, etc for $1.79 on manager’s special.  My grand total?  $18.59

my unbelievable haul