Posts filed under ‘food’
This is one of those random hodge-podge posts. You know the kind where you start writing about one thing and quickly find yourself thinking about another, so rather than breaking them up you toss them all into the same post and call it a day.
It seems 2013 has continued right where 2012 left off. In the year of let’s see if every appliance in our house can unexpectedly break. We started off last week with a broken garbage disposal. An $89 fix, which took the plumber all of two minutes to fix and a broken laptop display on my MacBook Pro. We also need an entirely new air conditioning unit and exchanger at our beach house in North Carolina. That will add a hefty $9000 to this year’s maintenance bills.
After dealing with power outages over the last few years my husband decided to throw in the towel and order a generator. I was already to move to a new house with underground power lines, but alas that doesn’t appear to be in the cards for me. In order to install a generator we required a new meter from Washington Gas, a new pipe that can support the pressure required by the generator and, of course, a new generator. We had three quarters of the work completed last week. My son managed to sleep through the sound of men drilling holes into cement, but somehow wakes when he hears the floorboards outside of his bedroom creak. I’ll never understand how that’s possible.
This weekend my husband and I spent a good two or three hours in the kitchen cooking up new recipes. I’m always hesitant to try new meals because you never know if you’ll like the flavors once everything melds together. I always tweak the recipes ever so slightly based on ingredients we have on hand, for example I skipped the mint in the wrap recipe because I didn’t have any. I’m happy to say that everything we prepared turned out pretty tasty.
Here are links to the three recipes we tried:
- Curried Chicken & Apple Wraps
- Butter Chicken (Indian Chicken in Tomato Cream Sauce)
- Baked Potato Soup (We’ve made this one once or twice before)
Lastly my husband and I are hiring a babysitter for the very first time. Up until now a family member has always been available to watch my son. I have absolutely no idea how much to pay a 14 year old. If it makes any difference my son will be asleep the entire time.
A few weeks ago The Frugal Girl wrote a whole post describing the new ladle she purchased. Now if you are really into kitchen gear you might be excited to read about soup ladles. That wasn’t the case for me. It wasn’t the soup ladle that interested me, it was the thought process she went through when deciding which one to buy.
It seems The Frugal Girl is now focusing on purchasing heirloom quality goods. As I read her post I wondered, “how many times do I buy a quality item over a cheaper alternative and how often do I think about one of my purchases lasting beyond me?” I have to admit that I’ve never thought much about it before. In fact, I often comment that my grandmother is lucky to have so many quality items to pass down. Toys from her youth that still function and cut glass that is as beautiful today as the day it was made. Our generation seems to have nothing to show for it. Our stuff all seems to land in a heap at the junk yard.
So when I wrote my birthday list this year I created it with heirloom quality products in mind. I want to buy things that my son can continue to use long after I’m gone. Things that his children, (if he chooses to have children), can use well beyond him.
For my birthday, instead of asking for a bunch of things of lesser quality I asked for one beautiful, ocean blue, 8 quart Le Creuset dutch oven. While the pot retails for as much as $500 I found a great sale at Bloomingdale’s that offered it for nearly half that price. I would rather have everyone pull their money together for one legacy gift than to receive a bunch of gifts that will end up in the landfill.
Over the years my husband and I have grown to love cooking together and I know that unbelievable aromas and delicious meals will be cooked in this pot for years and years to come. Right now my son plays in his highchair while my husband and I chop vegetables and simmer sauces, but eventually he will join us in measuring and stirring ingredients. One day he may even use this pot to cook his favorite meals.
I love the idea that this pot will last for generations and that one day it may sit on the stove in his own home. He can sing songs, dance around the kitchen and make meals with his family. Just like my husband and I do with him.
Here is a picture of my pot. Beautiful, isn’t she?
Now the minute I told my mom my idea for buying legacy products she said, “I don’t know. I think you’ll worry a lot more about breaking things along the way. What if you place the wrong burner on and burn the bottom of the pot? What if you chip it as you move it in and out of storage? Maybe it’s best that things are more disposable these days, then you don’t have to worry about them.”
It’s an interesting point. So what do you think? Do you try to purchase legacy items and if so do you find yourself worried about taking care of them?
What is it about gourmet grocery stores that make me drop all concern for money? Until recently I only had two options for buying groceries: Giant or Safeway. While I can certainly fill a cart full of food in either of these two places I don’t really get excited about cooking or baking when I step into them. I walk in, search for the basic staples and walk out ready to move on to my next errand. It’s in-and-out shopping.
Now if you replace one of those stores with a high end grocery store like Balducci’s then it’s a whole other story. Suddenly I find myself lingering near the dessert case, eyeing each and every loaf of bread in the bakery and walking up and down the seafood section pointing to all of the beautiful fish and shellfish set out on frigid cold ice cubes.
What is it about these stores that lures me in and makes me want to spend, spend, spend. In a typical trip to the grocery store I spend somewhere between $100 and $150. That includes enough food for two solid weeks, plus a bunch of staples that will sit on the pantry shelves until I need them.
In a gourmet grocery store I can spend $150 on a handful of items that won’t last more than a few days. Of course price is the primary issue. Even every day items like hamburger meat or sandwich rolls seem to cost a few dollars more than they do in the average grocery store, but it’s not just that. In a high end grocery store I find myself dreaming of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Wouldn’t that $25 balsamic dinner taste just delightful on that crusty loaf of freshly baked focaccia bread. How about that $35 pot roast, which won’t be complete without expensive vegetables like fennel and pricey fresh herbs.
It tickles my creative genes and gets me excited about the infinite possibilities for dinner. The only trouble is I can’t seem to make my way out of the grocery store without spending hundreds of dollars.
Does anyone else find themselves lured by gourmet grocery stores? Do you find you can stick to your budget when you go to the local grocery chain, but can’t seem to control your credit card when you step inside someplace a little more fancy?
So I’ve tried all sorts of tricks to keep my fruits and veggies from spoiling before I can eat them. I now keep them on the top of my refrigerator rather than the bin. Every time I open the fridge I see them staring me in the face. This helps in two regards I am more likely to grab a piece of fruit as a snack and I am more likely to dice them up and throw them into the dinner pot.
Still I don’t always seem to eat all of the produce before it begins to break down. A friend recommended purchasing a Ethylene Gas Guardian and I noticed an article on Wise Bread also touting this technology. It’s a little egg looking device that’s supposed to absorb the ethylene emitted by fruits and veggies. With the gas absorbed the manufacturers say your produce will last longer.
I was wondering if anyone has ever purchased one of these and if so did it really help your food stay fresh longer? From what I can tell you need to purchase the product along with refill packs. Once refilled the product will absorb gas for up to three months.
If the product works it may be worth the money, but I really don’t want to purchase one if it won’t make a difference. I’ll just stick with my current system which also involves simply buying less fruits and vegetables to begin with. I find sometimes my eyes are bigger than my belly when it comes to the produce department.
In my previous post I discussed a few simple ways my husband and I save money on food and supplies while on vacation. Well today I thought of another tip worth sharing.
Before you leave your house or after you arrive at your destination stock up on easy to eat, hand held snacks. These can be absolutely anything you enjoy. Our list includes apples, granola bars, snack mixes, pretzels and mixed nuts.
Now pack handfuls of these snacks into a small travel bag that is lightweight and easy to carry. If you plan to have your car with you at most times then you can pack a larger bag of snacks and leave them in your trunk or back seat. If you take this approach make certain to grab a handful after you arrive at your destination. The key is to have food on hand and at the ready whenever hunger strikes.
I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have gotten into a fight on vacation, because one or the other of us is hungry. We are usually exhausted from a day of activities, we don’t want to wait until we get back to our rental house or hotel, we have no idea where to eat and we are absolutely starving. Inevitably we end up stopping at some overpriced, poorly rated restaurant because we simply can’t wait to eat.
The trick to stopping this problem was so simple I couldn’t believe it. Carrying around a few snacks ensures that we no longer find ourselves frustrated and starved. Now we can either go home and prepare food or we can take our time searching for a place to eat.
We no longer find ourselves stopping at the drive-thru to pick up greasy fast food or stopping by the nearest restaurant.
This simple trick has not only saved us money, I think it’s saved our health and our sanity while on vacation. We no longer find ourselves starving and fighting. It also means we enjoy our food more once we do finally eat. It’s a lot more enjoyable to sit and wait to be served while you are relaxed and hungry, but not starved.
If we’re not too tired from a day of activities we can even make it back home and cook dinner once we get there. In the past we would’ve been too hungry to hold out for the drive back to our house or hotel. Now, with snacks in the car, we can fulfill the need to eat immediately, but wait until we arrive home to dine on a full meal.
In a few days we’ll pack up the car and head out on a week long trip to the beach. We visit North Carolina fairly frequently, but with my husband acting as the sole provider for our family our last two trips were only two days long. We left late on a Friday night and returned by Sunday afternoon. This will be our first week long vacation since we idiotically waited out Irene last fall.
We’ve owned our beach home for nearly eight years now and over the years I’ve learned quite a bit about saving money when staying in a beach house. If you know the house you’re staying in will have a kitchen, grill, dishwasher and/or washing machine you might find these tips helpful.
The best money saving tip: Bring as much as you can from home. Stock up when things are on sale before you ever leave for vacation.
First, bring rolls of toilet paper and paper towels from home. I ALWAYS buy paper products when I can combine a coupon with a store sale and usually have a stash of them in the house. If you wait until you arrive at your destination you will inevitably pay full price for them at the grocery store. If you buy paper products on sale you can save quite a bit of money by bringing along your stash from home.
I do the same for any household supplies I know we’ll need. I make certain to bring trash bags, dish soap, dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent. I like to bring along items that can be packaged in smaller units. For example, I like to use Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets, which act as both the detergent and the dryer sheet. I can just grab a few and don’t have to worry about lugging a heavy bottle around with me. Those little ultrapacks for the dishwasher are similar. You can put a couple in a plastic container or sandwich bag and bring them along. They don’t take up much space in the car and they aren’t heavy.
On most days we eat in while we’re on vacation, so I also bring a bunch of recipes and spices along for the ride. If you know you just need a bit you can measure the ingredients in advance. You can place them in baggies or take the more environmentally friendly solution by placing them into tiny glass containers or clean baby food jars. Everyone knows spices are extremely expensive, so it helps to menu plan a bit in advance. You’ll save a bunch of money on ingredients this way.
I also pack a stack of those marinade mixes that you can purchase by the packet. Again they are easy to transport and typically require nothing more than oil and water. You can find these on sale throughout the year and they last for a very long time. If you have a grill where you’re staying, (most places do these days), you can marinate chicken or meat and make a quick and easy supper.
If you have room to carry a cooler in your car, (we no longer have room in our Camry for one), you can also buy some dry ice or cooling bags and pack meats like ground beef or chicken. I must admit that I do this much more often for one or two day trips to the beach. If I’m going for a whole week I just purchase it at the grocery store and typically know that I’ll pay full price for it. Even at full price it’s still a whole lot cheaper to buy meat and poultry than paying for meals at restaurants.
If you are going to a beach town leave a little room in your cooler and search for fruit and veggie stands along the way. The produce is typically in better condition than you’ll find in grocery stores and the price is usually better too. It’s best to look for stands that are slightly off the beaten path. You’ll pay more for ones with prime locations right along the main roads. We almost always pick up ingredients for pool side smoothies this way.
If you are a coupon clipper bring along coupons for any items you’ll need to buy to complete your recipes. You may find better deals with sales at the store, but it never hurts to be prepared for those every day items like bread, butter, cooking oil and cheese. If you have room to transport these along in your car go for it, but I find it’s easier to just make a trip to the grocery store once I get there.
If you have time clip coupons for chain restaurants between your home and your final destination. My husband and I often stop for sandwiches at places like Subway and Quiznos and Quiznos often has printable coupons available on their website. If you want to save even more money pack sandwiches yourself and snack on them in the car. As an added bonus you may be able to drive for a longer stretch without stopping.
Once you arrive at your destination look around for coupon booklets outside of gas stations and shopping areas. You’ll often find discounts for free appetizers, buy-one-get-one free meals and/or a percentage off your breakfast, lunch or dinner. These booklets also have coupons for local stores, so if you plan to buy clothes, trinkets or souvenirs definitely pick one up before you go.
Despite the best intentions you may still blow your budget on food and supplies while on vacation. You may pass a tasty restaurant and decide to stop in for dinner, you may find a local seafood market and spend large sums of money on steamed shrimp, mussels and crabs. Remember that it’s okay to splurge every once in awhile and if you’ve budgeted for it by all means splurge on vacation! If you want to eat out every night, not pack a single thing and buy everything once you get there it’s entirely up to you. My tips are not meant to keep you confined and repressed during your vacation, they are simply meant to save you a couple of bucks if you choose to use them.
Do you spend more than you think you should at the grocery store? Do you consider what you’re placing into your cart and then consider the alternatives? For example, do you realize that you are paying more for shredded cheese than you would for a whole block? Do you know that prepackaged deli meat is 50% more than the meat you receive fresh from the deli? Do you buy shredded lettuce even though you know it costs more and will spoil much more quickly then buying a whole head and chopping it up yourself?
I must admit that I’ve fallen into some of these spending traps. I used to buy prepackaged salad, but got fed up with how quickly it turned brown and converted to buying a whole head of romaine. The bags used to last a day or two, the head is sometimes good a week and a half later!
The same goes for shredded cheese. If I’m looking for a particular mix I might pick up the shredded variety, if I’m buying old fashioned cheddar I’ll just pick up a block and shred it myself. That is of course, unless I find a great sale on the shredded variety.
I loved the infographic I found one All You today. (You can view it at the end of this post.) It provides a list of spending traps along with ways to avoid them. I follow most of these rules, but I must admit that I still purchase a lot of boneless chicken. Most of my recipes call for the boneless variety so unless I’m making chicken soup or chicken stock I typically purchase boneless poultry.
Looking at the graphic definitely got me thinking about it though. We eat a lot of chicken! So much so that I recently complained about how tired I am of eating it. Many of my recipes require the chicken to be baked and chopped up prior to adding it to the dish and I’m wondering if it would be cheaper and tastier to bake the chicken with the bone in the oven and then cut around the bones to extract the meat.
Hmmm. I might have to give this a try. I barely have time to make dinner as it is, so if this adds too much time to the current repertoire then I’ll have to reconsider. But this might definitely be do-able for those Sundays when my husband watches the baby while I cook a few days worth of meals.
I’m also not so sure about buying produce in bulk. I’ve tried this many times and I’m often disappointed by the quality of the apples and oranges. When you pick them yourself you know they don’t have marks and bruises. When you buy the bag it’s more difficult to decipher the quality of the product. I’ve been buying the bag lately, but I find myself cutting out or eating around quite a few bruises in my produce.
Kudos to them though for pointing out the difference between smaller cut pieces of meat. I always buy the larger portions and divide them into freezer paper when I get home. I had no idea though that the markup was 300%!
Take a look at the graphic below and let me know what you think. Do you avoid spending traps at the grocery store? Can you think of any others that should have been included?
Here’s a shout out to my readers! Most of my go-to recipes involve chicken as the primary protein. While I try to vary the ways I prepare it I must admit that I’m getting a little chickened out.
I’ve checked out a bunch of my favorite cooking sites in the hopes of finding something new, but none of them have inspired me. My husband won’t eat pork so that’s definitely out. I wouldn’t mind a classic recipe that’s all together meat-less but my husband is a bit picky when it comes to veggies, so it might be hard to find something tasty that we would actually eat.
If any of my glorious readers have ideas on what I should prepare, PLEASE leave me a comment. If I don’t come up with a solution soon I’ll be forced to order pizza!
This month I’ve vowed to waste less food. Well, truth be told I vow this every month, but this time I’m taking the vow more seriously. We have two refrigerators and a freezer in my home and with so many appliances around it’s tough to keep track of all the ingredients that might spoil.
So one afternoon while Baby A was sleeping I rummaged through the fridge, checked expiration dates and sorted through the fruit and veggie bins.
I found a plethora of foods in need of consumption. Among the list were cream, milk, carrots, onions, potatoes, yogurt and tomatoes. I turned to the Internet and searched through my online recipe boxes in search of tasty recipes that would allow me to consume everything before the expiration dates kicked in.
I am happy to report that I cooked my a** off for the past five days and made a ton of tasty meals in the process.
I used up a portion of the milk, onions and carrots baking one chicken pot pie and preparing two others for the freezer. I also prepared tikka masala, which enabled me to cook down all of the tomatoes, (I used fresh instead of canned), half of the cream and all of the plain yogurt that had been hiding in the back of the fridge.
With the majority of items checked off the list I made a delicious baked potato soup recipe. That tasty dish used up the remainder of the heavy cream and all of my remaining potatoes.
I’ve never felt so good about cleaning out the fridge before. I not only used up each and every bite of the expiring items, but I made some unbelievably tasty food in the process. Best of all my husband and I loved each and every meal!
At one point in time I decided to use baskets at the grocery store rather than carts. Hand baskets forced me to think through each and every product. After all, if an item wasn’t on my list or on sale, I certainly didn’t want to lug it all the way around the store.
Of course, this worked much easier for some products then others. I could avoid a heavy twelve pack of soda a little more easily then a lightweight candy bar. But overall this trick worked for me for years. Inevitably I found that I purchased a lot less impulsively when I was forced to carry the weight of those products around in my arms. More often than not I found that I simply didn’t have the room or the strength to lug things around.
Well today I found a new trick. For the first time in four months I took my son grocery shopping with me. By the time I fit his car seat into the back of the cart there was little to no room for food. I carried my coupon binder in the front of the cart so I primarily used half of the front portion, plus the space just above the wheels.
As I walked through the aisles I considered picking up one thing or another, but I had absolutely no room in the for them. I was forced to stick to the list of items that were on sale. It not only cost us less to shop today, but actually took less time as I knew there was no point in wandering the aisles. Plus I had the added benefit of looking down to see my little angel looking back at me.
Soon enough my son will be big enough to ride in the front of the cart, but for now this little trick will definitely help us cut back on impulsively buying groceries.