Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Frugal Meals

12-13 years ago, I was working at a group home full-time, but earning peanuts. We're talking a gross income of $11,000/year- $9000ish after taxes- in an area where fair-market rent was more expensive than I could truly afford.

I had a tiny, tiny food budget of $10/week. This was before the era of couponing and frugality blogs, and my only resources were my vegetarianism, the library, and my own ingenuity.

I owned a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and religiously used my price book. At the time, I could stock up on store-brand pasta and mac 'n cheese when it was on sale for $0.20/box.

I made this recipe for Cuban Bread (a quick version of yeast bread) and every morning I would have a slice with margarine for breakfast, or oatmeal made with powdered milk, a slice or two with peanut butter for lunch, and pasta, mac 'n cheese, or lentils and rice for dinner. I can't say it was a varied diet, and I couldn't afford more than canned veggies and fruit or fresh potatoes, but my caloric needs were met.

I never want to eat mac 'n cheese again, and my kids happen to be allergic, so we don't eat that, but rice and lentils (in the form of Mujadarrah) is still part of our dinner repertoire.

In that vein, I thought I would share a list of some of my favorite low-cost meals:

Eggs and Toast. I can get a dozen organic eggs using a bonus points system at a local store for $1.49. That's about 12.5 cents per egg. A slice of Ezekial Bread is $0.36/each. (Homemade is cheaper- still working on perfecting that.) A meal of two eggs for each adult, one egg for each of our two children, a slice of toast each, and half a sliced apple is about $3.19 for my family.

Mujadarrah. This requires a couple TB of olive oil, a cup of lentils, a large onion, and a cup of brown rice. I cook my lentils in frozen veggie or chicken stock that I've made myself and frozen. This recipe serves 4 people a decent serving. I can make a batch for less than $2 on average.

Falafel: I make my chickpeas in the slow cooker and then freeze. I keep a bag of bread ends/crusts in the freezer to make breadcrumbs in the food processor as needed. I can make a large batch of this for less than $2, depending on the price of the dried chickpeas.

Boston Baked Beans: I used navy beans from dried, and trim the bacon amount to 3 slices. This can make a big pot for under $2. This can feed us easily for 2 days.

Homemade Pizza: I can make a large pizza for $1 or less. We don't use cheese due to allergies, which brings the cost down. I buy a cheap can of store brand tomato sauce and add in dried Italian seasoning and garlic powder to make the sauce. We typically only have veggies, such as bell pepper, onion, and tomato on ours. Even if you like cheese on your pizza, sale priced mozzarella shouldn't make this more than $2 to make.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Monday: Herb Roasted Whole Chicken, Roast Carrots and Potatoes and Onions, Corn on the Cob

Tuesday: Hummus, Carrot Sticks, Crackers, Tomatoes

Wednesday: Grilled Honey Lime Chicken Skewers, Grilled Corn, Grilled Beets

Thursday: Black Bean Sweet Potato Open Faced Burritos, Homemade Guacamole, Corn on the Cob

Friday:Lentil Shepherds Pie with Parsnip Potato Crust

Saturday: Vegan Quick Black Bean Tacos

Sunday: hunt and peck/leftovers

To make this week:

Homemade Slow Cooker Chicken Stock

Pumpkin Bread

Breakfasts: Oatmeal, Toast, Overnight Oatmeal, Granola

Hundreds more menu plans here!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Weekly Shopping

Weekly CSA Share:
2 lb potatoes, 3 lb carrots, 1 pint blackberries, 2 beets, 10 bulbs garlic, 2 quarts tomatoes, 2 yellow squash, 1 bunch basil, 6 ears of corn (counting as 27 items)


Dorothy Lane Market Trip:
2 half-gallons Organic Valley Chocolate Soy Milk: $3.98
1 quart organic strawberries: $4.99
1 pint local blueberries: $3.99
2 avocados: $3.98
2.5 lbs organic bananas: $1.93
1 bunch organic cilantro: $1.99
1 lb parsnips: $2.49
1 pineapple: $5.30
DL Nitrite Free Hot Dogs: $4.79
Chicken Tenders: $6.39
1 organic Ed Hill Whole Chicken: $13.93
1 dozen organic eggs: $1.49
Vanilla Extract: $4.75
Corn Tortillas: $1.29
Molasses: $3.49
Tomatillo Salsa:$3.99
Ketchup: $1.50
2 cans tomato paste: $1.58
4 organic kiwi fruit: $2.76
1 organic lime: $0.69
1 loaf organic Ezekial Bread: $4.99


Grand total: $100.56

Total food items: 54
Organic items: 39
% Organic: 72%

Monday, August 5, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Sunday: Slow Cooker Beef and Cabbage (still working through all that CSA cabbage)

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: Whole Wheat Pasta with Turkey Spinach Meatballs (frozen from last week), Zucchini, Tomato, and Garlic

Wednesday: Corn and Potato Chowder (using almond milk instead of half and half and oil instead of butter), Tomatoes

Thursday: leftover chowder, Tomatoes

Friday: Falafel, Sliced Tomato and Cucumbers, Roasted Carrots

Saturday: Dairy Free Chicken and 40 Cloves of Garlic, Corn, Green Beans

Breakfast: still munching through homemade granola and fresh peaches

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Weekly Shopping

 Fulton Farms CSA Share (all organic) : 6 ears corn, 2 quarts tomatoes, 2 lb potatoes, 2 onions, 3 zucchini, 10 bulbs garlic, 1.5 lbs carrots, 1 pint blackberries: $22

Babies R Us:
2 6-pack Take n Toss Lidded Containers (our stainless steel ones are too hard for kids to open independently, and the 6 year old ones are almost dead):

Whole Foods:
Organic Ezekial Bread: $3.99
3 Soy Dream Half-Gallon Soy Milks: $11.97
2 Blue Diamond Chocolate Almond Milk $5.00
1 Half-Gallon Organic Soy Milk (making yogurt!): $2.99
1 6.5 oz container black pepper: $7.99
1 Earth's Best Organic Waffles: $3.49
1 Organic Bacon: $4.99
1 pint local honey: $10.99
1 pint dairy-free Coconut Yogurt (using as a starter): $1.99
1 Organic Peanut Butter: $2.99
1 bottle Turmeric: $3.99
1 dozen Organic Eggs: $2.59
3 lb organic bananas: $2.11
Organic Arugula: $1.99
Organic Heirloom Lettuce: $3.99
1 pint Organic Blueberries: $4.49
3 Organic Kiwi: $2.67
 1 bunch Organic Celery: $2.49

1 newspaper: $2
1 96 ox Apple Juice: $2.48
3 lb Sugar: $2.26
2 50 sq feet Reynolds Foil: $4.96
2 65 count quart size Walmart Brand Freezer Bags: $7.56 (this was cheaper per bag by $0.01/bag than couponing)

$131.03 for all
$108.39 for food

Number of food items:50
Number organic:37
% organic: 74%

Room for improvement: I'd like to perfect homemade bread, but I'm am going to spend time perfecting that soy yogurt first. I'm happy with Ezekial bread, as it is already frozen and has plenty of protein, though I see Whole Foods may have it at the best price. I plan on washing and reusing any freezer bags that do not hold meat (most are used for preserving berries, veggies, and beans.)

We are saving money on weekday breakfasts by having "toast soldiers" (toast with jam sliced into strips) at least two mornings a week. Our son is very regimented and particular, and it has taken a while to break him of his morning waffle habit.