Category Archives: meals

Make Do

Quiche to eat and to freeze. Kale from the garden. Local beer.

Quiche to eat and to freeze. Kale from the garden. Local beer.

I switch back and forth between scrutinizing our food budget, and then not giving a damn. I’m sure some of you think, “How reckless!” while others would think, “Man, I never even ponder a budget for food!” I think wherever you are on this scale depends on different factors.

If I was receiving food benefits I’d have a very specific number to work with, and if we were filthy rich I’d probably be going out to eat 4 nights a week, not because I don’t love to cook (it’s great!), it’s just that I love going out to eat. But we fall somewhere in between.

We recently returned from a vacation (a huge rarity for us) and we lived it up while we were away. This means we need to be a bit stingy with our budget for awhile while our finances catch back up with us.

Since our bills are basically as low as they can be, our food budget is the only thing with flexibility. Since most of the items I get don’t have coupons available, I’ve stopped bothering with couponing. I also get my veggies from my work, and most other items from the farmers markets.

What’s left are staples and specialty items. At the moment I don’t own a Vitamix so faux milks must be purchased. Also, I get a lot of great deals using Amazon’s Subscribe and Save feature, so each month or so I get wild-caught tuna, canned tomatoes, rice cereal, sunbutter, and coconut oil shipped to me, and I don’t even have to think about it.

For awhile now I’ve actually been buying bread and some other snacky items that I’ve made in the past. But when I narrow the budget I realize I will need to start making this stuff again. Also, I need to dip into our food reserves.

I have things I need to use up, even if I really don’t want to. Putting food by is really great, when you use it in a timely fashion…and I haven’t been. My first step in this process is checking what I really have, and organizing our food. I’m still working through this.

However, each time I do this I think, “Wow, I totally forgot I had that!” or “I don’t remember buying that!” Scary. I realize how fortunate I am to have this problem, and that most people in the world can’t even fathom this.

So now I’m going through and planning out meals that I can make with what’s on hand. It’s actually quite easy, it just takes intention. Last night I used up two heads of broccoli and a big slab of home-cured bacon to make quiche. Three, to be exact. Served up with kale salad from kale I harvested moments before it hit the bowl.

I realized I had a ton of crusts I bought at Aldi one week when they were on special. They had been sitting in the freezer. I also had an abundance of eggs, so it made sense to make extras to freeze for later, when I don’t feel like cooking. Pretty nice to cook and clean once and get three meals!

Today I have to soak some beans and harvest some greens. I plan to keep going on this path until I get caught up on my excess food. I may also make some muffins or quickbreads, and some granola to snack on.

It feels good to be getting back to making more. Around this time of year I start to feel more “nesty” anyway. I think my summers are just too crazy. Now I want to leave the house less and less as the days get cooler, and the more I’m home, the more I want to cook.

Ok, off to soak those beans!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

 

I have so much to be thankful this year, it hardly seems fair. I hope you have a lovely day of feasting and friendship today.

In much of my adult life I’ve had an interesting series of Thanksgiving meals with friends, since we don’t live near family. They’ve all been lovely.

I’ve had vegan Thanksgivings, Friday Thanksgivings, one where I was already so tipsy on red wine that I scorched the mashed potatoes, and tomorrow will be the second I’ve had with a turkey from the farm I work for. And this year when Chris pulled out the innards I actually knew what the gizzard was, and wasn’t freaked out.

I am shocked at the love and gratitude and great friendships I’ve had as a grown up. I’ve lived lots of places and it just seems highly unlikely that I’d be at such a wonderful place in my life surrounded by so many amazing people.

Like my friend Paul used to always say….”You are like a cat, you always land on your feet!”

Indeed.

~happy home~ Operation Grocery Budget Reduction, The Sequel

A few months ago I reduced my grocery budget for the month to $200. I used to aim for $400, but even then, I usually went over. I’ve been really good about sticking to budget though.

I’m a not a stickler with the budget, I just try to keep a running tally in my head during the month and if I go over by $10 I’m not going to freak out about it. Planning out meals and reducing impulse buying has helped keep me in check.

I think I’m going to try to reduce it even more though!

Chris leaves Sunday for 5 weeks (at the halfway point we are going to go visit him) so I’m not going to be making regular dinners. Jack doesn’t like meat or cheese (for the most part) so I don’t think I’ll be getting any of that. That’ll save money right there.

I also have so much food in this house. I’m not complaining, but I need to start eating through my stockpile. This week I plan on going through all of my cabinets and organizing everything. I’m going to plan out meals and snacks from that.

I’m also back to juicing more. I think a lot of the produce I get from working for the farm will go into juicing, and I’ll probably get some more at the store too. I’m going to see if I can reduce my shopping to fruits, veggies, raw milk, tortilla chips (Jack and I are truly addicted to them), and wine.

My goal is no more than $30/week. I may even take out cash for the whole month to really reign myself in. I’m going to try to put the difference away for when we go to visit Chris, since we’ll be eating out a lot.

Can I do it? Keep your fingers crossed! I’m going to start with this week coming up and I’ll be updating on my progress.

~happy home~ The $50/Week Grocery Challenge

Made this super tasty baked oatmeal with sweet potatoes tonight with ingredients I happened to have on hand.

I’m sure you’re already aware that one area of a budget that can always be tweaked is a food budget. Most bill amounts are pretty standard from month-to-month but food budgeting can change depending on what is going on in your life at the moment.

For instance, in December, with various meals, edible gifts, and parties I calculated that I spent close to what we used to in rent. Scary, right?! I knew after the first of the year I had to get this under control.

Two problems I kept running into were: lumping “eating out” with regular food purchases, and making excuses for why I needed to spend more. In fact, just about every month I can think of several excuses as to why I should spend more….housewarming gifts of wine, appetizers for parties, food swaps, etc.

I realized mid-month that we were on track to blow my estimated budget of $400 for the whole month. Finally I put my foot down and decided that to make up for it I would see if I could only spend $100 for the last 2 weeks combined.

*Gulp*

Ok so here’s how it goes in our house: there are only 3 people and all of my vegetables (plus some eggs) can be acquired through my CSA share which I get in return for work for the farm. That is a huge amount of any food budget! This begs the question, “Why would you be going over in the first place you moron?!?!?” At least this is how I pose it to myself.

So, with those two things out of the way I have the following left to buy: fruit, baking items, dry staples (rice, beans, pasta, etc.), milk/cheese, snack items.

There are a few ways I’ve cut costs on those items and I’ll go into them in more detail in future posts. Basically what it comes down to is planning. Different stores (especially with coupons and sales) allow me to spend less, but I have to plan trips to those stores in my daily routine.

We have basically 7 days left until we get paid again and I’m happy to report we still have $24 left and plenty of food in our home. And in the realm of planning, I already have much of that $24 allocated for the items I’m sure we’ll need before the next payday.

Stay tuned to see if I can keep it up in March! I’m honestly a little nervous but I think I’ll be able to do it.

Recipe above comes from here.

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012!

Gingerbread farm we made at the Kilpatrick Christmas party.

Well we did it, we survived the holidays and rang in the new year. I knew that somehow I’d get all my homemade gifts finished in the nick of time. Seriously though, this year I’m going to craft things all year long and just squirrel them away so I’m not so frantic near the end.

I also decided upon a new tradition. Going forward I’m going to make a handmade gift for Jack that he can open on the morning of Christmas Eve. We were never allowed to open anything on Christmas Eve when I was little so I’m the same way with regular presents. That’s why it will only be handmade and something really special.

The hat in action.

I’m proud to say that Jack loved his surprise Angry Bird hat and has been wearing each day since he opened the package.

Christmas morning Chris went to work and Jack and I had a nice breakfast together. I got to enjoy two lovely, homemade gifts during breakfast. Jillian had made me some tasty foccacia bread and Christina gave me a jar of home-roasted coffee. I had them with some tasty farm eggs and it was the perfect way to start the day.

Chris actually had New Year’s Eve off from work so we ordered Chinese food and watched Green Lantern. This was followed by Portandia and Star Trek: Next Generation, while I furiously tried to finish a cowl I was knitting. At the stroke of midnight I was binding it off. I really like how it turned out.

New Year’s Day we slept in, made homemade waffles with KFF strawberries, real homemade whipped cream, toasted pecans and local syrup, then took a walk through the Village with our pups. At night we went to Albany to see Hugo (which was awesome and reminded me of my days working at The Film Forum) and surprised Jack with a trek over to The Melting Pot for some chocolate fondue.

Monday Chris was off again so we took down all the decorations, put the tree on the curb, and cleaned the house. Now it’s time to look ahead to what we are going to do with the year.

I pondered writing out very specific goals for myself here (and I still might in a future post) but for now I’ll just say that my theme for the year is “stewardship.” I want to be a better steward of all the amazing things in my life.

I want to be a better steward of the land by planning and working my garden better this year and by continuing to improve the market experience for KFF. I want to be a better steward to my kiddo by being more patient and doing more fun/creative things with him on a regular basis. I want to be a better steward to the important people in my life by being more kind and understanding. I want to be a better steward to myself by exercising more, namely running.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a wonderful, eventful year!

My Recipe Binder

The cover of my recipe binder.

Part of pinching pennies is eating at home. So in my quest to be more frugal, I made up a fresh, organized recipe binder for myself. Having interesting meals planned out will prevent me from saying, “Hey let’s go out for dinner,” or “Let’s order pizza.” As fun as that is, it’s not the wisest use of our money right now.

I should tell you I already had a few recipe binders. One was super small so it ended up being a catch-all for folded up recipes. It was a freaking mess. The next one was a larger binder that had pocket folders in it. It held the recipes better, but since they were piled up on top of each other in the pockets, I couldn’t flip through them easily.

I took a basic 3-ring-binder (get a bigger one than you’d expect, trust) and made a cute cover for myself with some food-related pictures I’d taken. Before I filled out the tabs on the dividers I sorted the recipes to see what I was working with.

My "Breakfast" section. My apologies for the blurriness.

Since we eat seasonally I figured I should separate the veg-dominant recipes by seasonal group. So one tab is “Spring/Summer” and the other is “Fall/Winter.” Then I realized I had a bunch of breakfast recipes, so I grouped them together. We don’t eat tons of meat so rather than having a tab for each type of meat, all the meat centered recipes have their own tab. The others are “Ethnic,” “Soups, Salads, Dips,” “Desserts,” and “Easy Peasy.” The easy ones consist mostly of pasta dishes, sandwiches, and other things that come together in less than 30 minutes.

I would really suggest making your own tabs like this instead of going with classic recipe binder categories. You’ll probably be pretty surprised at your balance of recipes. For instance, I think in the future I may make subcategories for my “Dessert” tab because it’s much more full than I ever thought it would be. I could easily break it down into “cookies,” “cakes,” “quickbreads,” and more.

Most of my recipes are from magazines so I got a 100 pack of clear slip covers for super cheap at Target to put them all in. This way I can flip through easily and if I have it out while cooking, I don’t have to worry about the recipe getting stuff spilled on it.

Now I just need to make sure to look through it on a weekly basis and pick new dishes. I have been meal planning and although there are a billion templates you can use online, I just jot notes to myself in my planner, and continually change it during the week.

Coming up I think I will make some classic sausage and peppers because I need to yank out all my bell pepper plants. I also need to figure out more stuff to do with my swiss chard.

So there you have it. Do you have a recipe binder or have you been meaning to make one? Do you regularly plan out meals to stay sane and save money?

~Weekend-O-Rama~

Cilantro, Thai basil & sage

This long weekend (Chris had 4 days off) was an ongoing mix of work, cooking, and eating with friends. I feel pretty good about all of that.

The fence is almost done. Tomorrow looks like the day. It’s really incredible. I’m going to check out a yard sale Sunday for some patio furniture. I have zero clue how I’d actually get it home though. I feel like I want to sit out there with cocktails to celebrate.

sheep on a hill

We got to visit some friends this weekend and they live on a sheep farm. Within the next few years they will have a farm of their own with a year-round CSA. I’m so excited for them, they deserve so much success.

~Dinner in the Year 3000~balsamic pearls in olive oil, balsamic pearls on a salad of tomato, fresh mozz & arugula, beef cooked in a sous vide resting on caramelized carrots and topped with onion foam, strawberry daiquiri gel cube.

We had another installment of Fancy Food Club and the theme was “Dinner in the Year 3000” with a bunch of Modernist cuisine that was very good, especially the crazy gelled cocktails. We are up next. We have most of the menu already decided and I’m going to go completely Martha on the decor for the night, I can’t wait!

I’m currently in a Battle Royale with the tomatoes and weeds in my garden. The rains this summer have been frequent and intense which has caused the weeds to grow….well, like weeds. In 2 days I’ve spent 3 hours weeding and also pruning back my tomato plants. I’m still not done. Tomorrow I have to prune and tie up another row of tomatoes.

muddy garden feet

Oh, and if you are a lover of arugula, please come and harvest some from me. It’s either that or I’m going to have to blanch and freeze it.

This week is another Food Swap. I can’t wait! I already designed my labels and made my items. Now I just need to put it all together. I hope people want to swap with me! If you follow my Facebook page then you already know what I’m bringing.

Ahhh wine. What would I do without you?