February 1st, 2011

Weekly Menu

In order to save money, I make a weekly meal plan so I know exactly what we’ll be eating every night and what groceries to buy.  I am posting it here every week (as long as I remember…) to give an idea what sort of meals we eat.  I divide the week into 1 red meat, 1 poultry, 1 seafood, 1 vegetarian, 1 soup, 1 pasta, and 1 pizza.  The categories can overlap as long as I have at least one of each to keep things varied.  We like to eat a lot of interesting and bold flavors.

We also have a “theme” week once a month where all of our dinners are from a certain country or region.  This exposes us to new types of cuisine!

Week of: May 29 – June 4
Theme: n/a
Day of the Week Main Course Side Dish
Tuesday Pasta w/ Meatballs Salad or Baby Bok Choy, Fruit
Wednesday Creamy Tomato Soup w/ Dumplings Grilled Cheese
Thursday Soba w/ Toasted Sesame Sauce
Friday -out of town-
Saturday -out of town-
Sunday -out of town-
Monday Pepperoni, Onion, & Mushroom Pizza Pitas & Hummus

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January 23rd, 2011

Ingredients

Good food, in my opinion, is food that is not only absolutely delicious, but decently healthy.  Packaged junk food does not enter our home.  In fact, very little packaged food does.  Candy is almost unheard of around here.  When I was unemployed I made everything we ate from scratch; now that I have a 40-a-week job, I make as much as I can but supplement with prepared foods here and there.

When baking and cooking, I rely on certain ingredients consistently.  I have some health issues including hypoglycemia and various allergies so we eat a lot of protein (animal-based lasts in my system longer than legumes) .  We do not use artificial anything as I ardently believe that nature gives us the best food for us, but everything in life is about balance and moderation.  That being said, here are a list of ingredients I use most:

Fats:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil – A good quality brand for drizzling, salad dressings, and mixing with Cajun or Italian seasoning as a dip for fresh bread.
  • Unsalted butter – I have a sensitivity to salt water so I like to control the amount of salt in my dishes to minimize the amount of salt in my body.
  • Grapeseed oil – Canola oil is derived from the highly-toxic rapeseed, and no matter how much marketers say it is 100% safe, I don’t trust it.  I use grapeseed oil in place of canola oil for all applications.  Possible danger aside, grapseed oil is ridiculously high in nutrients, and since I only pretty much use it for baking, it is worth the high cost.
  • Pure olive oil – I use this for frying, and oiling pans rather than using my good extra-virgin or butter.
  • Bacon fat – A little bit adds a lot of flavor to sautéed onions, leeks, potatoes…mmmm….
  • Sesame oil – I use just a dab for sautéeing or in salad dressings when I want a punch of flavor.
  • Peanut oil – By far the best oil for making fried rice, I tend to use it a lot for stir fries.

Sugars: I am allergic to all artificial sweeteners, so using them is out of the question even if I agreed with the idea of them.  I use a variety of natural sweeteners instead, which I feel is healthier than putting another artificial food in our bodies.

  • Raw sugar -  Refined sugar has been stripped of the naturally-occurring molasses which contains many vitamins.  Raw sugar is therefore a bit more nutritionally sound.  The fact that it is more expensive just ensures I use it in moderation. :-)
  • Honey – As I have an allergy to antihistamines but also have terrible seasonal allergies, I try very hard to procure locally-made honey.  Being made from the same plants that are bothering me, it works like an antidote.  Honey also has a low glycemic-index which is good for maintaining my blood sugar levels.  When we want to sweeten most things, this is what we reach for.  I have not tried raw honey yet, but plan to very soon. Edit: Tried it, loved it, hooked.
  • Brown sugar – Raw sugar that has extra molasses added in for that crumbly texture.  We do use this for some things as its texture is just better than anything else for those applications: some breads, muffins, streusel, etc.
  • Pure maple syrup: The Grump hates this stuff, but it’s the best thing in my opinion for some hot, fluffy pancakes.  No “pancake syrup” for me, nosirree.

Flours & Grains: I use King Arthur brand for all my flour, whenever possible.  I just prefer the texture of it and find it is very much worth the extra cost.

  • Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • White whole-wheat flour – I replace some of the flour in every recipe with whole wheat flour for added nutrition.  White whole wheat is my preference because the flavor is milder and I can use more of it without compromising the texture of whatever I am making.
  • Whole-wheat pastry flour – I use this for cookies, pie crusts, cakes, etc.
  • Unbleached bread flour – for softer loaves of bread, especially when it has heavy grains like oatmeal or cereal.
  • Rolled oats – I use these in a great many of my breads, scones, waffles, pancakes, and muffins for added nutrition, texture, and flavor.
  • Spelt flour – I just recently started using this, and I really love its slightly nutty taste and the texture it brings to quick breads.  I plan to start using it for yeasted breads too.

That is all I can think of.  I will add more to this list if I feel it necessary.  If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment!

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September 4th, 2010

The Cost of Food pt. 2: Spending less

I wanted to post about a new method of quick-breakfast-making that I’ve found, but my method of getting photos off my computer is to use Brian’s card reader and it’s not working.  So I hope you enjoy part 2 of “The Cost of Food” and maybe share your methods of cutting food costs in the comments!

In part one of this “mini series” I discussed how I discovered the very painful way after moving to Massachusetts that food is just dang expensive here.  Or at least much moreso than where I used to live, Ohio.  I started experimenting with different meals and decided that if I could keep each one under $2 per person for vegetarian meals and $3 per person for meat & fish meals, I was doing ok.  I could eat shrimp or steak more cheaply than a much less tasty meal at McDonald’s.  In this part, I’ll show you how I keep those meals at or under budget.

The key to accomplishing pretty much everything, especially saving money, is to be organized.  I use the following methods to take control of my food expenses:

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July 10th, 2010

The Cost of Food pt. 1

I’ve only lived in Massachusetts for almost a year now, and I’ve only recently gotten the hang of the cost of food out here compared to Ohio. Verdict: it’s just more expensive. I was frustrated that our monthly grocery bill was hovering around $300 for two people. That might not seem like much for some couples, but as I’ve mentioned before, I am a miser to the nth degree.  I want to be able to feed my boyfriend and myself delicious, relatively healthy food and not break the bank to do so.  Am I asking too much? Well I thought I might be, since I do everything I can to save money and still spend that much on food.  Until I accepted the fact that food is just that much more expensive out here.

When I was trying to figure out how my grocery bill was so high, I began figuring out how much each meal costs me to make.  I don’t take staples into consideration, because I keep them on hand anyway.  I only count things I bought specifically for each meal.  I divide how much each item costs by the number of servings it will…serve…and then add up all the items and that’s the cost of each meal per serving.  If I bought an ingredient as 2 for 1, I take the cost of it and divide it by 2, then divide that by the number of servings.  This way is more accurate since I essentially paid half price for it.

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July 17th, 2009

So close…

I went to AAA today and got a Trip Tik and some maps for the trip.  I’m in the middle of figuring out how much it’s going to cost us in tolls and gas, and where we should stop for fillups and to eat.  Brian and I plan to take food along with us so we’re not paying more money to eat, but we still need to know where the rest stops are so we can stop there instead of being tempted by road-side diners!

I’m extremely excited about the move…in two days Brian flies in and I get to finally see those blue eyes look at me that way he does again.  In person, not via webcam! :love:  And in four days I leave the “land of corn and beans” as Robert calls it for good! Although I’ll be back the end of next month to visit HotJohnScott for a couple days before the Army ships him off to Iraq.

I’m sleepy! But I needed to take a break from map staring to post this little update…now back to figuring out where the most cost-efficient stops are.  :grrr:

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