Follow our family's weekly vegetarian menu, access recipes, and download weekly grocery lists, during my quest to get our weekly grocery bill down to $70 per week, while supporting local agriculture and eating healthy organic foods!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Project food Budget: 3 weeks missing

The last 3 weeks have been a big transitional time for me. We sold our espresso stand, withdrew from the dinner swap, started looking for part time work, spoke at a rally at the Capitol, made some tough dietary choices, and got back into the groove of being home in the mornings with the sweet moody toddler. :) All in all life is busy but good... and this blog always takes the first hit.

The budget has stayed steady around $80-85.

I miss the dinner swap, but we had to focus on our family for a while, instead of the dinner swap. Since then I have decided to stop eating dairy and oil. I don't think these dietary restrictions would work well for the dinner swap. I am happy to announce that the other participants are still going strong, and they are all really enjoying it.

I do hate to admit, the dinner swap actually cost a bit more than doing all my cooking at home. I am really not sure why that was the case. It was only a difference of about $10, but we are at a very frugal  point, so it made a difference to us. We are also not getting left over coffee from our espresso stand, so that is another item to add to the list, and it will end up adding about $8/week.

My husband and I sat down and made a list all the meals I make, which he enjoys. The list was 25 meals long! I was pretty happy about it. When we first met, I only really knew how to cook two things, stir fry and fajitas. We made a deal that I will stick to these basics, while I get to experiment with new recipes twice a week. Here is a great find for a quick, healthy summer recipe!

Rachael Ray's No Cook Lasagna
No Cook Oatmeal

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Project vegetable garden!!

Spent: $50.53


This is the first garden I have planted since I was a teenager. I have always had the impression that the start up cost of a garden was huge. I was expecting $150. I decided not to go with a raised bed, as that would cost more for the lumber and extra soil. I only had to buy 3 bags of compost, and I mixed it with the dirt in the garden spot. It was a lot of work though. I tilled the plots with a hand spade... during a drought! Terrible idea. Although I guess it did save me money on supplies. I have two small beds. One has red and yellow bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, sun gold tomatoes, sweet basil, African blue basil. I have a trail of mint lining the sidewalk and a pot full of cilantro. The other bed has sugar baby water melons, Asian black water melons, and two varieties of  heirloom squash. Hopefully everything will grow well and the soil is not to clay ridden! That is actually my biggest worry. I am going to keep track of the production of the gardens in relation to average  market value of the produce to see how long it take for me to make the money back, and if it actually starts saving us money. 

Project Food Budget: Week 12

Goal: $70/ week - $ 280/month
Actual: 82.09 week- $341/month OVER $61


The Breakdown:

  • $15 1/2 CSA share
  • $31.59 Dinner Swap
  • $35.5 Staples
Dinner Swap Menu:
  • Kimbap (Korean style sushi rolls) with steamed Asian greens
  • Lentil and Butternut squash soup with side salad
  • Whole wheat pasta and veggies with creamy pesto sauce w/ home garden side salad and hibiscus tea
  • Minestrone soup and dinner rolls. 
  • Cacciatore
  • Lemon chive pasta with garlic roasted broccoli 
Additional meals/items:
  • carrot bread
  • home made tortillas
    • 2 cups whole wheat white flour
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 TBL coconut oil
    • 2/3 cup warm water
    • Mix all dry ingredients, add wet ingredients and  mix thoroughly. Add more water by the tablespoon if mixture is too dry. Kneed for several minutes and let rise for 30. Cut into 8-10 pieces and roll out. Cook in hot skillet flip when bubbles form. 
  • Fajitas
I really thought I was going to be right around $100 this week. I am not really sure how I stayed so close to the budget. I did buy extra items to make a special dinner for Easter. I think without those items I would have been on target. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 11

Goal : $70/week- $280/month
Actual: $87.48 - $258.91/month


The Breakdown:
  • $15 for 1/2 CSA share
  • $23.74 Dinner Swap meal
  • $43.98 Staples
  • $4.76 dog food ingredients
Dinner Swap Menu
  • Sweet potato and kale quesadillas w/ home made tortillas
  • Potato, apple, (veggie) sausage and sage casserole and salad
  • Spinach and mushroom quiche and roasted tomato soup
  • Fettuccine and white beans
  • Chickpea salad sandwiches and pasta
  • Vegetable biscuits and gravy with mashed potatoes and green beans
Additional recipes:
  • I tried my hand at solar cooking. The recipe was amazing. The solar oven made of random things laying around my house... ummm... not real great. So I am going to tweak it and try again! This recipe for solar cookies, with about 1/4 c of cocoa added is (as I said) amazing! I finished cooking them in the conventional indoor oven. :) 

  • I also decided I did not like the carrot bread recipe I have been using and found a new one. It is quite possibly the best bread I have ever made. I would definitely suggest trying it! I also threw it on the skillet for a minute to heat it up and then added a tad of butter and some fresh crushed garlic.. Yumm!
Dinner swap meal: sweet potato and kale quesadillas with home made tortillas and smoky pinto beans
  • 12 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 lbs dry pinto beans
  • 5 lb whole wheat white flour
  • coconut oil
  • chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 3 onions
  • 5 lbs Monterey jack cheese
Staples: 
  • peanut butter
  • oranges
  • black beans
  • lemons
  • limes
  • tortillas
  • eggs
  • cheese
  • pinto beans
  • cottage cheese
  • honey
  • cheese
  • cliff bars
I am on track to go approximately $50 over budget this month. I have $21.09 left to stay under the monthly budget. $15 of which is already spent for my CSA share.  Being that I have used almost all our grains, I don't think $6 will make it.

I have been $15-$20 over budget every week. I have decided once it comes time to renew my CSA, I am going to try to do a work share. That would shave off $15-30 per week and bring be right down to my goal. This won't happen until June though. We are also going to start a garden. I have not really done so before, so it will be a grand experiment. What in life isn't?


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 10

Goal : $70/week -$280/month
Actual: $86.18/week- $171.43/month


Dinner swap menu: 
  • Edemame, peas and quinoa topped with blue cheese and cocoa beet cookies 
  • Spinach and mushroom enchiladas with black beans and flan
  • Carrot and ginger soup, croissants, broccoli slaw, hibiscus tea and chocolate raisin cookies
  • Vegetable noodle stir fry
  • Rice, dal and sateed veggies and chocolate chip zuchinni bread
  • Stuffed bell peppers with garlic bread and salad
The break down: 
  •  $15 1/2 CSA share
  •  $27.22 dinner swap meal
  •  $37.70 staples

CSA:
  • salad mix
  • spinach
  • scallions
  • kale
  • radishes
  • beets
  • carrots
  • bok choy
  • rainbow chard
  • lettuce
  • dandelion greens
Dinner Swap: Edamame, peas, and quinoa topped with blue cheese and cocoa beet cookies
  • 5 bags of shelled edamame
  • 5 bags green peas
  • 4 oz crumbled goat cheese
  • 8 oz crumbled Gorgonzola blue cheese
  • 3 white onions
Staples:
  • dry milk
  • peanut butter
  • butter
  • 2 lbs Monterey jack cheese
  • cornstarch
  • garbanzo beans
  • key limes
  • lemons
  • vinegar
  • cliff bars
  • tortillas
  • ancho chili powder
  • smoked salt
  • organic red delicious apples

 Thumbs up to these recipes:


I am going to reach my $70/week goal!



Saturday, April 2, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 9

Goal: $70/week - $280/month
Actual: $85.25

I am at a plateau with the budgeting that feels a lot like when you are trying to loose weight and your weight loss was great until you get to that last 10 lbs. I seem to be hovering around $85/week. I just want to squeeze that last $15 off our budget. I suppose I will keep on keepin' on. 


I thought the overage was due to choosing expensive dishes to make on my night of the dinner swap, but after doing the math, I only spent $30 total on my dinner. I don't want to go crazy and make really expensive dishes, but I also want to make sure they are getting high quality, delicious food. This week I made the pesto-infused sun-dried tomato stew with oatmeal dinner rolls. 

Dinner Swap Menu:

Additional meals:

  • Vegetable and tofu stir fry
  • Beans and greens
  • Carrot Bread
  • Breakfast apple pie
    • preheat oven to 400 degrees. Skin and cut 4 apples into chunks.  Place in sauce pan and fill with enough water to cover 1/3 to 1/2 way up the apples. Mix 2 tsp of cinnamon and cook on low until the apples are slightly tender. In a separate bowl, Mix 2 cups of old fashioned oats with 1/4-1/3 c honey and 1 cup of almond meal. Mix well until it makes a stiff mixture and all oats are covered. Lightly grease casserole dish and sprinkle  1/3  of oat, honey mixture in the bottom of the dish, top with cooked apples in liquid, top off with remaining oat mixture and bake for 15 mins. 
One of the participants in the dinner swap is splitting the CSA share with me. Which is amazing. We only have to cook one dinner a night for our own families, and a couple lunches. A huge portion of the share would go to waste. The half share works perfectly. I am able to pick it up on Friday nights, Saturday is the day we must cook for ourselves. This means fresh veggies for that meal. I don't have to lean on frozen veggies after all. :)
 






Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Actual Cost of Food

       Living in Texas (in what I can only imagine the most expensive utility district in the nation) has made me acutely aware that the price at the bottom of my grocery sales receipt is not the entire cost of my food. I am sure we have all thought about it in one way or another. Is it really cheaper to go to multiple grocery stores, to get the best deals, if the stores are on opposite sides of town? Is it really cheaper to buy dried beans vs. canned beans if dried beans require a lot of water and hours of electricity or gas use? I don't know. I do feel they are valid questions. While figuring out how much money you are spending on gas to drive between stores seems fairly straight forward. I think it is more difficult to figure out the cost of cooking and prepping your food.
        One thing I think we can all agree on, is using your stove and oven in the middle of summer when it is 100 degrees outside heats your house, and makes your air conditioner work more frequently and harder. I wish I knew how to calculate the actual cost. I can only imagine it is pretty significant. I also know it is completely unbearable to be in our house after cooking a meal in the summer. It usually stays that way well into the night.
        I began having a desire to stop cooking indoors during the late spring/summer months last year. I found very expensive solar ovens, and formulated a plan to get a tall table, and portable electric burners to use outside when cooking. None of that came to fruition. This year I am going to act on it. I am going to keep the indoor cooking to an absolute minimum. I am going to learn how to grill, which means actually using the copy of The New Vegetarian Grill, I bought last year. I have started looking at DIY solar oven plans. I plan to have one made by the end of April. Then I can watch as lower energy bills roll in.
       As a side note, I find it really funny and a tad ridiculous when you look for seasonal summer recipes that call for you to preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  There is nothing seasonal about that.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 8

Goal: $70
Actual: $84.53 plus we went out to eat for another $25

This weeks overages are due to a number of factors. I went shopping based on our passed grocery needs. Meaning I bought a lot of items for an entire weeks worth of eating. The very next day, my neighbors and I decided to start a dinner swap. This means that I purchased almost an entire weeks worth of groceries, and then went back to the store to buy enough ingredients to make a meal for 20 people. I think the overage is fairly reasonable for that fact. I also went a little nuts in the bulk grain section, but the surplus will lower bills later.

Now lets talk food swap! Cooking co-op, dinner trade, whatever you call it, it is AMAZING! The basic premise is you find friends, coworkers, neighbors that would like to join. You make enough food for every family in the group and they do the same. Some co-ops make all their meals and meet one day, swap them and freeze them. We all live very close to each other, and I like fresh hot food, so we each chose a day of the week to be our day to cook. We cook enough food for 24 people, divide it up amongst the group and deliver it to each family by 5:30 pm. The rest of the week, you wait for dinner to be delivered to you!

I can can not articulate how awesome it was. Last week was the first week and it was more than I dreamt it to be. :) Four nights last week, I was able to sit and read to my 2 year old, relax, go for a late afternoon/early evening walk, and get much needed/neglected deep cleaning done. Normally from 5-6 I am stuck in the kitchen, rushing home to be stuck in the kitchen, or prepping everything. It was unbelievably relaxing to take my time on those days. I could get used to this co-operative lifestyle. The meals were all amazing as well.

Dinner Swap Menu:

  • Curried chickpeas and spinach on a bed of kasha
  • Eggplant (or chicken) Parmesan
  • Potato soup
  • Homemade pizza and Salad w/peanut dressing
  • Roasted vegetables and pasta with delicious tiramisu for dessert
I could go on and on about how wonderful it was. We even have a new member this week. This means I cook for the group on Mondays, and for just my family on Saturdays, every other day I get a hot home cooked meal at my door. sigh... life is good. 

I also made:
You might be wondering why I made so many cookies. Sleep deprivation. My two year old daughter has the hardest time going to sleep and staying asleep. One night last week she woke at 1:30 am and when I left for work at 4:30 am she was still awake. This means I got very little sleep that night. I do not understand how she could be up in the middle of the time. I have decided she has toddler insomnia. I have, in fact, coined that term. So, I began a frantic search of ways to get her sleeping at night. I came across all this information about adults with insomnia and in many cases it is due to hunger. Apparently if you eat the wrong types of food before bedtime, or do not eat a snack before bedtime your body does not make and maintain the proper hormones. It them signals hunger, and it can wake you. In the reading, it indicated you might not even be aware your are hungry when you wake. The information stated eating high protein foods before bed will cause these undesired waking. Everything I read said, small amounts of protein, and complex carbohydrates before bed. So I began a quest for "healthy" cookies for her to eat, and decided to push chamomile tea. She did not care for the tea, so I found the lemonade recipe. It is great. She has slept well every night since I started this new bedtime snack ritual. I am also less of a crazy person.. if only a little. 



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 7 (Sans CSA)

Goal : $70
Actual: $86.45

I don't know what to think about this week. Our CSA needed to be renewed, but I didn't really feel like dealing with SXSW crowds to go pick it up, and we need to get our taxes back before we drop $300 on a 10 week share. Part of me wanted it to be well under budget, but then there was this other part of me that wanted to go over budget, just to say to myself, "Aha! having a CSA share really does save  money!!" So, just be aware that there could have been some level of sabotage in this weeks budget. I did go to the grocery 3 times this week. Which added about $8.36 in little extras. I could have definitely said no to my daughter about a z-bar, and 4 pack biokiefer.... Ok, Ok looking over the receipt it looks like had I not bought random quick snack bars, then we would have been right in line with our standard. The CSA may not save us money, but it definitely gives us a bigger variety, and healthier whole foods. Without it I leaned pretty heavily on frozen. Every time I dumped frozen veggies into a pot it made me cringe. I think I have come to love the (time consuming) ritual of cutting whole veggies for dinner. 

Some of the meals we ate include this delicious  kale and white bean pasta penne from http://veggieburgher.blogspot.com/
Edamame, peas with blue cheese on a bed of quinoa 
And this completely amazing whole wheat banana bread

As much as I love our CSA and lamented it all week. I don't think we are renewing it. This is only due to my newest dinner time development. Co-op Cooking!!! I am really excited about this, and you will get to read all about it on Thursday's post!!


Edamame, peas with blue cheese on a bed of quinoa 
8 oz frozen edamame (soy beans)
8 oz frozen peas
1 small red onion
2 gloves garlic
1/4 cup Braggs (or soy sauce/tamari)
3/4 cup water
Blue cheese crumbled to top (amount varies for preference)
1 cup quino
2 cups water

     Wash quino well. It is known to be quite sandy otherwise. Place quino and two cups of water in a small pan and cook on med to low heat until all the water is absorbed and quino has expanded and looks like a spiral. Meanwhile, combine other ingredients (leaving the blue cheese  aside and refrigerated) in a pressure cooker. Stir well and cook per pressure cooker's directions. The quino and edamame mixture shoudl be done roughly the same time (usually within 15 mins.)  Make a bed of quino on the plate, top with edamame mixture and crumble the blue cheese over both to complete.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reinventing the Wheel

Developing and sticking to a food budget is a practice of necessity in our home. This explains the long gaps in posting. When it is not a necessity, I shop in a willy-nilly the surplus with never dry type of way. At times when it is required, I find myself cursing the frivolous "times are good" self. I keep thinking, "if only I had stuck with the budget, money would be a bit more loose now." C'est la vie! It is what it is and it is time to enjoy the present with as much gusto as the past. Lessons have been learned and life will be more balanced going forward.

With that being said, I started this blog as a way to keep myself in check. I also look around for other blogs and people that have succeeded in feeding their families low cost vegetarian meals. While I would love to develop and create recipes, menus and shopping list everyone can follow, I am perfectly happy following someone else's plans and ideas. Why reinvent the wheel? This leaves me doing internet searches for "$50 vegetarian menu, " low cost vegetarian," etc every now and again. Today I think I found the gem of all gems!

Low Budget Vegetarian

This site is simple, and amazing! The author offers a FREE 90 page "cook book." Really it is an instruction manual on making tasty, balanced, healthy, low cost meals, shopping tips and meal planning.  It is so informative. I have been looking for a how to manual on cooking, I think this is the answer. I am extremely happy to have stumbled onto it! I can't wait to incorporate his ideas into my shopping and cooking to see how it helps.

I would highly recommend this to everyone. I mean, how can you pass up free, let alone something that is so useful! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 6

Goal: $70
Actual: $70.85


Menu:
Breakfast: 
Groceries:
  • CSA Share: 
    • Turnips
    • Beets
    • Carrots (a ton)
    • Brussels Sprouts with greens
    • Brussels Sprout greens
    • Spinach
    • Kale
    • Salad Greens
    • Scallions
    • Oranges
    • Grapefruit
    • Cilantro
    • Parsley
  • Store 
    • limes
    • lemons
    • apples
    • tomatoes
    • onions
    • avocado
    • ginger
    • tofu
    • tortillas
    • great northern beans
    • pinto beans
    • basil
    • almonds
    • walnuts
    • eggs
    • cheese
    • cliff bars
         
Recipes:
  • Homemade Apple Sauce: cut desired amount of skinned apple into small chunks. Place in a saucepan with just enough water to cover apples. Add 1 tsp of cinnamon and bring to a boil. Boil down the liquid slightly. Drain excess water and save for use in Applesauce oatmeal. Place cooked apple in food processor and pulse until desired consistency is reached. 
  • Apple Sauce Oatmeal with Apple: Skin and cut a large apple into chunks. Place in sauce pan with 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Add 1 cup of old fashioned oats and 1 tsp of cinnamon. reduce heat and cook to desired thickness, being sure to stir constantly. Once cooked stir in Homemade applesauce liquid and 1/3-1/2 cup of homemade apple sauce. 
  • Smoky Pinto Beans: Soak dry pinto beans overnight. Cook according to package directions, or in pressure cooker. Once beans are cooked reduce heat, add smoked sea salt to taste, and 1/2 chopped onion.Cook on reduced heat for 10-15 mins. Save extra beans in liquid to make bean burritos. 
  • Bean Burritos When making a meal with pinto beans, or black beans cook the entire lb of beans. Save half to make bean burritos a couple days later. For instance, this week we have Costa Rican Style Black Beans and Rice. I used half the black beans in that recipe and then saved the remaining beans and the juice the beans were cooked with. In the next day or two I use the beans to make refried beans for burritos.  
    • Refried Beans
      • Beans in juice
      • 1/2-1 onion diced
      • green or red pepper if on hand
      • 1 bunch of greens stemmed and cut thinly or left over cooked greens, if on hand
      • 2 Tbls oil
      • Ground Chipotle pepper to taste
      • Smoked Salt to taste
                Blend beans in juice and set aside. Heat oil in skillet or wok and add onion and green pepper. Cook until onions are translucent. Add ground chipotle pepper to onions and cook for about 1 min. then add blended beans. Cook for several minutes and add smoked salt and greens, if desired. Cook beans and stir constantly, until beans reduce and thicken. 
Notes: My husband eats egg and cheese tacos every morning for breakfast. I think this probably adds about $8 to our grocery bill each week. That is just an observation for anyone looking to save a bit more. Oatmeal is so cheap, easy and delicious. My husband only eats a cliff bar for lunch, so unfortunately, oatmeal will not fill him up enough or give him anywhere near the protein of a couple egg. 
            I tried three recipes from fatfreevegan.com. They were all wonderful and simple. I think I might try her kid friendly mac and "cheese" as I have never found a vegan mac and cheese that is at all tasty. 

Project Food Budget: Weeks 4 & 5

The last two weeks were blog free for a variety of reasons. Week 4 was consumed with flu. Aside from feeling the sickest I had been in my life, I also sent my husband to the grocery store with the list. I am positive we went over that week. When I am with him we do a good deal of shopping at Fiesta Mart. Which is insanely cheap on a huge array of items. We then get a few additional items at HEB. This saves us at least $10 a week. I don't think my husband enjoys stopping at two stores. The week he did the shopping he only went to HEB. I think he said the bill was around $80. 


Week 5: I was in a budget funk. I am finding it extremely difficult to stay under $75. I think I got in the, "I want to buy what I want when I want and not be so restricted mood." While I did not really do this, I was down on the budget. I think we spent about $85 that week. I  became concerned that our budget was not giving us room for enough fruits and veggies. I was concerned we might not be getting enough Calcium. After tracking our calcium intake for two days, it seems we are getting more than enough. I am feeling much better about our budget and our ability to eat well with it. 


Here are some good finds from those weeks:


Recipes:
Beetroot Hummus (possibly the best hummus I have ever had.) 
Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Smoothie
Black Bean Brownies 
Mini Carrot Loaves 


Information on Nutrition:
Harvard's School of Public Health has differing ideas on healthy eating as well as an alternate food pyramid. 
Meal Make Over Moms is a site run by two moms who are also registered dietitians. They have some wonderful sounding recipes and great ideas about how to get kids to eat healthy.
Spark people is actually one of my happiest finds. This website allows you to track your menu, and it tallies the nutritional info for you. They  have a feature that suggests a menu base don your dietary preferences. It also provides workout routines and recipes for healthy eating. It is completely free! I honestly think it is the best site I have seen that offers these things. I have even participated in pay for sites that are not even nearly as thorough and good.




Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 3

Goal: $70
Actual: $70.76

Menu:
Extras:


Groceries: 
  • 1 Bunch Garlic
  • 1 pkg Tofu
  • 1 JalapeƱo
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple 
  • Peanut Butter
  • 1 lb Black Beans
  • 1 lb Chickpeas
  • 1 small can Tomato Paste
  • 1 large block of cheese
  • 6 pack Cliff Bars
  • Dry Milk
  • 1 Lemon
  • Ginger
  • Brown Rice
  • Vinegar
  • Eggs
Included in CSA share:
  • Turnips
  • Kohlrabi with small greens
  • Beets
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprout Greens
  • Scallions (green onions)
  • Cilantro
  • 1 orange
  • Sweet potatoes
Recipes:

     The only additional recipe used this week is the Whole Wheat Flax Tortillas and a bread machine pizza crust.  It is by far the most delicious and softest pizza crust I have found. When I make it, I cut it in half to make two pizzas or use half for another meal. For instance, I will only loosely follow the kolhrabi empanada recipe. Mainly for the filling, but I will use half the dough to make kohlrabi pockets instead of following the recipe to make the empanada crust. I find this to be easier on me and less wasteful. It just stretches our budget. As you will also notice, I found a new recipe website. I use http://www.all-creatures.org/recipes for a huge portion of our meals this week. This is mainly due to the ability to search their page for recipes that include specific ingredients. This made planning around our CSA share a breeze! So far they have all been  pretty good. I am going to start rating the dishes on a 5 start scale, just so you don't have to randomly try unrated foods, like I make my husband and daughter! 

Bean Burritos: When making a meal with pinto beans, or black beans cook the entire lb of beans. Save half to make bean burritos a couple days later. For instance, this week we have Costa Rican Style Black Beans and Rice. I used half the black beans in that recipe and then saved the remaining beans and the juice the beans were cooked with. In the next day or two I use the beans to make refried beans for burritos.  
  • Refried Beans
    • Beans in juice
    • 1/2-1 onion diced
    • green or red pepper if on hand
    • 1 bunch of greens stemmed and cut thinly or left over cooked greens, if on hand
    • 2 Tbls oil
    • Ground Chipotle pepper to taste
    • Smoked Salt to taste
            Blend beans in juice and set aside. Heat oil in skillet or wok and add onion and green pepper. Cook until onions are translucent. Add ground chipotle pepper to onions and cook for about 1 min. then add blended beans. Cook for several minutes and add smoked salt and greens, if desired. Cook beans and stir constantly, until beans reduce and thicken. 


  • Whole Wheat Flax Tortillas:
    • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 6 TBL ground flax (You can use 2 TBL of butter  or shortening instead of flax seed. If you do decrease water by 1/2 cup.)
    • 2/3 +1/2 cups warm water
    • 1.)Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Then gradually add the water while mixing. Mix into a dough, cover and let rise for 20 mins.
    • 2.) Roll into a rope and divide into 10 equal pieces
    •  3.) On a lightly floured surface knead each piece into a flat circle and use rolling pin to make tortilla.
    • 4.) Cook on stove top on medium to low heat. Tortilla will bubble and then flip.


Notes: 
       Our grocery bill was actually $80.33 plus a couple dollars for frozen pizza, I had my husband get on his way home one night I was sick. The difference includes toiletries and Valentines Day items. I would like to work these types of items into our $70 budget, but I am giving myself a little wiggle room for the first little while, and counting only the food items in the actual. That being said, I won't spend more than $10 on these additional items. I also want to point out the cliff bars are my husband's daily lunch. I tried the home made option this week and they were great and very simple. My husband still has to weigh in, so it is still up in the air whether or not we switch to home made. 
      Central Texas just weathered an extreme unseasonal freeze. It definitely impacted our CSA share. Our CSA received major damage to their crops. This was one of my biggest worries when joining a CSA. Your share is based on the success of the farms which is directly related to the weather. In the 20 weeks we have received shares I am positive we received a great deal more than $30 worth of vegetables in our weekly shares. Most weeks my very large grocery bag is overflowing with vegetables. Even in these previous two smaller shares, it has been enough to get us through a week. I also realized these weeks of surplus and weeks of less would also occur at the grocery store. Vegetable prices at the store are also based on industry yields and disasters. If I gave myself a $30 budget at the grocery store for veggies, there would be times when my bag was fuller than others. Even during this time when our CSA is adjusting and replanting, I know I am getting the better deal, and healthier fresher vegetables, and supporting a local farm all in one shot. I am so glad we gave it a chance. It really has been one of the best decisions we have made for our health and budget. 





Friday, February 11, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 2

Goal: $70
Actual: $84
Menu
Groceries:
  • Chickpeas 
  • Black eyed peas 
  • 1 dozen eggs 
  • Whole Wheat Flour 
  • Onions 
  • Tofu 
  • Coconut Milk 
  • Quinoa
  • Raisins 
  • Limes 
  • Lemons
  • Millet 
  • Cottage Cheese 
  • Lentils 
  • Cheese 
  • Soy Sauce 
  • Cliff Bars 
  • Brown Sugar
  • Almonds
CSA:

  • Spinach 
  • Carrots 
  • Beets 
  • Chard 
  • Scallions 
  • Turnips 
  • Bok Choy 
  • Kohlrabi 
  • Dill 
  • Cilantro
Notes: We went over budget this week, due to a number of things. I make my dog's food every two weeks. This week was the week I needed to get the ingredients. Which were lentils, millet, and cottage cheese. I need to figure out how to buy these things and the rest of our groceries without going over budget. I also used an additional $3.29 to buy some almonds to make almond butter. I made some using my food processor and 1 tsp of cinnamon. It seems almonds a a source of calcium. The cinnamon almond butter was delicious! 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 1

Goal: $70
Actual: $75

Dinner Menu: 

Breakfast Menu:
Grocery List:
  • Start your shopping in your pantry! We were able to eliminate a lot of needed items from the list, b/c it we already had it. We only had to buy: $45
    • Black strap molasses
    • Basil
    • Chickpeas
    • Dry milk
    • Raisins
    • Yeast
    • Tomatoes
    • Bananas
    • 1 large block cheese
    • 1 package of Parmesan cheese
    • Tortillas
    • 1 dozen eggs
    • Cliff bars
    • Soap
    • Sugar
  • Our CSA share included: $30
    • 1 bunch of carrots
    • 1 head of cabbage
    • Turnips with greens
    • Rutabaga (Swedish turnips)
    • Cilantro
    • Dill
    • 1 head of cabbage
    • Beets with greens
    • 1 bunch rainbow chard
    • 2 large sweet potatoes
    • Brussels sprouts with greens
    • Big bag of broccoli
    • Green onions
If you choose to go the CSA route, your share will have a different variety of veggies. Be creative. You do not have to follow recipes to a the letter. Substitute and try variations! 

Next week I will work on posting a complete shopping list in case you don't have everything we have on hand. 

Recipes:
  • Any menu item with a hyper link will lead you to the recipe I used. Those without a hyper link are listed here. 
    • Chipotle Chickpeas:
      • 1 lb dry chick peas, soaked over night, cooked and drained
      • 1/2 TBL ground chipotle pepper
      • 1 TBL oil
      • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place oil, chickpeas and chipotle pepper in 9x13" baking dish. Shake until chick peas are evenly coated. Cook for 20 mins. Shake and cook for another 10 mins. 
    • Roasted Root Veggies: 
      • Use any root veggies you have. This week I used sliced turnips and rutabagas.
      • 1 TBL oil
      • Pre-heat over to 400 degrees. Place veggies and oil in 9 x13" baking dish. make sure veggies are fully coated with oil and cook for 45-60 mins.
    • Greek Yogurt with dill:
      • Make yogurt. We use non-fat dry milk and a yogurt maker. Here is a video on how to make yogurt without any special equipment. 
      • Once your yogurt is ready to use, strain the whey completely using a coffee filter. Save whey for other uses. 
      • Chop fresh dill and stir into yogurt.
    • Smoked Black Beans:
      • 1 lb dry black beans, soaked overnight, and cooked. (do not drain.)
      • 1 tsp smoked salt or to taste
      • 1/2- 1 onion, diced
      • Once beans are cooked add smoked salt and onion and cook for about 15 mins. Save left overs to make refried beans. 
    • Raisin Oatmeal:
      • Follow banana oatmeal recipe, omitting the bananas and adding 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/3-1/2 cup raisins. 
    • Pesto:
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • 1 bunch basil
      • 1/4 olive oil
      • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
      • Combine all ingredient in a food processor and blend. 
    • Whole Wheat Flax Tortillas:
      • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
      • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
      • 1 1/2 tsp salt
      • 2 tsp baking powder
      • 6 TBL ground flax (You can use 2 TBL of butter  or shortening instead of flax seed. If you do decrease water by 1/2 cup.)
      • 2/3 +1/2 cups warm water
      • 1.)Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Then gradually add the water while mixing. Mix into a dough, cover and let rise for 20 mins.
      • 2.) Roll into a rope and divide into 10 equal pieces
      •  3.) On a lightly floured surface knead each piece into a flat circle and use rolling pin to make tortilla.
      • 4.) Cook on stove top on medium to low heat. Tortilla will bubble and then flip.
Omitted and Substituted: 
  • I try to avoid canned and frozen ingredients. When a recipe calls for canned beans I use dried beans. When a recipe calls for canned tomatoes I use diced fresh tomatoes. Anytime a recipe calls for a variety of veggies, I check my current stock and use whatever I have. For instance, I used carrots, broccoli, cabbage, onion and garlic in the stir fry, and did not even pay attention to the veggies they called for. I did not have red pepper on hand, so that was completely omitted from the sun-dried tomato stew as well as navy beans instead of white kidney beans. I have carrots but not parsnip, so carrots were used in the cabbage stew. There are many many more examples. The key to keeping the bill as low as possible, is to use what you have so there is no waste and don't buy things you don't really need. So far flavor and satisfaction has not suffered. I also always mix greens while refrying my beans. This ensures veggies in the meal and it is a great way to sneak them passed my 2 year old. At the very end of the week, I was out of a lot of items. For instance, when I went to make the oatmeal dinner rolls, I realized we had eaten the eggs for breakfast. Instead of running out to get more eggs or skipping the rolls, I did a quick search for egg replacer substitutes. I found 2 TBL of cornstarch is the equivalent of 1 egg in baking. The rolls turned out great! 




One More Time With Feeling

Have I ever dropped the ball! Sheeeeesh! Well no more, I am back to updating weekly. I also found a group of veggie food bloggers doing this same thing. You can check them out with the tag "Project: Food Budget" and I am sure they will pop up and give you a ton of really great ideas!

My loyalty to this blog ebbs and flows with our wallet....Our budget currently restricts us to $70/week. I think it will continue to be like this for a long time to come. So I will be planning our weekly menu again and posting it here. I look forward to this practice and hope that as our wallet expands I can keep being frugal with our grocery budget. Seems like a great way to save money and one day build wealth. 

Check out the hillbilly housewife. She has an emergency menu posted. Very frugal. She also makes recommendations such as using dry milk instead of fresh. We gave that a try and paid $5.49 for a box that makes 5 gallons of milk. 5 gallons of fresh milk would have cost us $14.95. Meaning we saved nearly $10! She also has great tips on improving the flavor. I loved the suggestion for putting blackstap molasses in the milk! While I hate the stuff my 2 year old loves it! 1TBL blackstap molasses has 25% of daily recommended iron and 20% calcium. (This varies with brand and from bottle to bottle. So read the labels!) I put a tsp of black strap molasses in her milk at each meal. She loves it and I feel confident that she is getting a huge dose iron and calcium.

Our weekly grocery budget must include everything from groceries, cleaning supplies to personal hygiene products. You will see links to info about cleaning with vinegar and making home made deodorant. It is not just food.

I will also start couponing, but not in an extreme way. The goal of my grocery list is simplicity. I am going to try to limit the variety of item we buy each week. After a very short try at buying local organic produce at the farmer's market, I have come to a strong realization that this is too expensive. We once again signed up for a CSA membership. This has been amazing. A huge variety or fresh organic veggies for $30/week. We have been able to try veggies we would have never tried, and have enough fresh veggies for every meal. I would highly recommend joining one. Check out Localharvest.org. If money is tighter than time, most CSAs offer a work share. Meaning if you work on their farm for so many hours they will give you a free bushel. I am not able to do this as paying for child care while I work the farm is more expensive than the share. We use Johnson's Backyard Garden. They have multiple incentives, such as being able so swap things you don't like for things you do like as well as one free item if you pick up your share at the farmer's market.

The new formula to keep our weekly grocery bill (CSA cost included) under $70 is:
1.Use our CSA share(use greens at the beginning of the week and tubers and ground veggie later in the week.)
2. Buy a similar list of groceries each week.

  • whole wheat flour
  • 1 type of grain
  • 2 types of beans
  • favorite versatile spices (cinnamon, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, smoked salt)
  • dry milk
  • One block of cheese
  • eggs
  • Oats
  • Various baking supplies (baking powder, yeast, sugar, vanilla)
  • peanut butter
  • vinegar
Buying these core staple items, we should be able to build up a little bit of a variety, while  keeping the bill very low. We also will not have to buy all these things every week. I will also be able to make complete rounded meals. I am going to start posting the menu and grocery list after the week has passed. This will allow me to make a rough menu and cook our meals based on what we have on hand instead of making a strict menu that requires a lot of different ingredients. I have found a weekly menu with a long list of small ingredients equals a very large grocery bill. This being said, I substitute and eliminate a good deal of ingredients in recipes. For instance my refried bean recipe calls for green pepper and onions. If our share did not have green peppers, I only use onions and I add chopped greens. 

We have also cut many things out. We no longer buy cereal, soy milk, more than one package of cheese or more than 1 dozen eggs. I make oat meal, granola bars, or sweet bread for breakfast. Oats are the most versatile food. Nutritional data is great and the price is very low!

I hope you will follow my blog again, and keep me posting! :) Ok, Ok! I will stick to it on my own. :)

Thanks for reading!