Confession … I’m a Slacker (Sort of)

January 31, 2008 at 7:12 pm | Posted in Frugal Foodie Challenge | 5 Comments

I have a confession to make. Because of my dedication to the FFC cause, my dedication to making all of the entries before casting judgment (due to Rob’s enthusiasm about all the recipes), and my dedication to not getting fired from my two jobs, I’m extending the judging deadline for the FFC. Probably will have the results posted as of Sunday. I hope.

I apologize for any inconvenience … and I’ll have the new contest posted tomorrow, as promised, despite not having any winner for the January contest.

Please stay tuned!!

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Tip of the Week: Ingredient Clustering

January 30, 2008 at 5:32 pm | Posted in cost-cutting, Frugal Living, Grocery Shopping, Tips | 12 Comments

When we looked at the Frugal Foodie Challenge entries and tried to choose just three, the head judge (aka Rob) couldn’t pick just three – they all looked (and sounded) delicious! So … we’re making all seven entries!

And that brings me to my Tip of the Week. Since I’m cooking SEVEN full meals this week, I needed to buy a lot of ingredients. Thing is, all of the recipes use mozzarella, and some of them repeat on other things. So, I “consolidated” my grocery list – figured out how many of each item (for example, chicken breasts) I needed and purchased accordingly. If I had planned seven meals for the week that had no major ingredients in common, I probably would have spent $100+ dollars on the shopping trip – things like beef, chicken, fish, pork, etc all add up quickly.

However, because I was able to use the same ingredients in several different dishes (i.e. chicken), I spent less because I could buy in larger quantities.

Another great example of this is when I had first started the blog – anyone remember the Neverending Can of Tuna?? (To make a long story short, I made meals for almost 2 weeks out of a 5-pound can of tuna fish). Because I didn’t have to shop for multiple protein sources, I saved a TON of money!

The other area in which clustering can save a few dollars is on expensive specialty ingredients. For example, I never use pesto. Until this week, I’d never bought it before. The reason – it’s almost $5 in our grocery store and it takes a lot to eat it all. However, if I had three recipes (or even two) that called for pesto, I can split its cost out over several meals and use an expensive ingredient – without spending a ton or wasting food.

Have you ever tried clustering? Does it work for you? Why or why not? Leave me a comment!!

Poll Results: People In Your Household

January 30, 2008 at 5:04 pm | Posted in Poll Results | Leave a comment

Last week I wondered about how much you spend on groceries. THAT purely unscientific poll left me wondering about another question – how many people are you buying groceries for? I mean, if everyone’s spending $100 per week on groceries, but buying for 8 people, they are doing WAY better than I am on frugal shopping. Turns out, though … if you infer that most of the same people (plus a few extra) answered this week’s poll that answered last weeks, most people are spending $25-$50 per person per week. Seems logical … but here are the actual results, based on 32 votes:

Just Myself – 1 vote (3%)
2 People – 19 votes (59%)
3-4 People – 10 votes (31%)
5-6 People – 1 vote (3%)
7+ People – 1 vote (3%) … More power to you, whoever you are!!

Thanks for answering. Be sure to check out my new poll question for this week – what do you spend most of your grocery budget on?

The Foodie Blogroll

January 28, 2008 at 8:11 pm | Posted in Foodie Blogroll | 3 Comments

I’d like to introduce you all to the latest member of the Foodie Blogroll … ME!

That’s right. I’ve been officially accepted as a member of the blogroll. Which makes me a foodie. (Ha – funny to even think that!) Basically, its just a group of bloggers who all love food and have banded together – because there’s strength in numbers, right? Check it out, the full list is now in my sidebar!

Apple-Cranberry-Pecan Baked Brie

January 28, 2008 at 6:41 pm | Posted in Apple, Brie, Cranberry, Pecan, Spreads | 2 Comments

Last week I bought my first “specialty” grocery item – brie. I’ve never had it and always wanted to try it. First, let me say that I’m not entirely sure this brie was completely ripe. It seemed a little firm. However, it was yummy in its context: baked, with carmelized apples, cranberries, and pecans.

I made this recipe up as I went along … so I’ll do my best to approximate ingredient amounts.

COST: $6.09
Brie – $3.19
Apple – $0.75
Cranberries – $0.50
Butter – $0.50
Pecans – $1.00
Brown Sugar – $0.15
Cinnamon – Negligible
Salt – Negligible

INGREDIENTS:
2/3 cup pecan halves (enough to almost cover bottom of skillet)
1 smallish wedge brie – peeled
1 large apple, peeled and diced (I used Braeburn)
1/2 cup cranberries
1 stick butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
Cinnamon to taste
Pinch salt

DIRECTIONS:

Toast pecans over medium heat. When lightly browned, add butter and turn down until just barely simmering. Add brown sugar, apples, cranberries, and spices and saute until apples are slightly cooked – still a little crunchy.

Meanwhile, peel rind off brie and place in bottom of small baking dish. When carmelized mixture is done, pour over brie and place in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with crackers.

New (Old) Cookbook!

January 28, 2008 at 6:20 pm | Posted in Cookbooks, cost-cutting, Favorite Things | Leave a comment

One of my decisions at the beginning of this year was to try and make our meals healthier.

One of the cookbooks I remember, growing up, is my mother’s American Dietetic Association Cookbook. It was an old one, and, according to my mother, has gotten “too complicated” of recent years. She bought it to help my (diabetic) grandmother eat healthier. However, all of the recipes in this cookbook are simple, but healthy – not too much sugar, carbs, or fats.

So, after a quick consultation with my mother to get an ISBN for her copy of the cookbook, off to Half.com I went. This is the perfect website for frugal cookbook shoppers – I found a “like-new” copy, price tag and dust jacket still intact for $3.99. How could I resist? So … I present to you, my new (old) cookbook:

Frugal Foodie Challenge: The Entries!

January 26, 2008 at 4:11 pm | Posted in Frugal Foodie Challenge | 7 Comments

Well, the deadline has officially passed. We had a grand total of seven entries this month (more than the 5 I was originally hoping for). Here they are, in no particular order:

Pepperoni Pizza Snacks by Clara of iheartfoodforthought
Chicken Noodle Soup with Cheesy Garlic Bread by Nikki of Crazy Delicious Food
Italian Quesadillas by Beth of Supplicious
Sausage Bread with Mozzarella by Jack of Redacted Recipes
Macaroni and Peach by Mindy of Oh, Mindy!
Chicken Casserole by Chris of Mele Cotte
Tomato Pasta with Chicken, Sausages, and Garlic-Mozzarella by Jenny of I’m Hungry

If I’ve missed your entry or you know of any others, please let me know! Thanks all for entering … I’ll be starting the judging process tomorrow. Stay tuned!

(And if you should, dear reader, be inclined to try out one of these fantastic, creative recipes, let me know how it turned out by leaving me a comment!)

He Who Dies With The Most Toys …

January 23, 2008 at 6:41 pm | Posted in Frugal Living, Reflections | 3 Comments

I don’t know if this is necessarily a food-related post, but it does relate to being frugal, so I’m going to write about it anyway.

Today I was reading through my usual online forums and websites, getting caught up. A comment on a post about a man who saved money all his life and wound up a “millionaire-next-door” caught my eye. The man apparently was a janitor all his life, but through sound investments and frugal living, ended up donating two million dollars to several schools and colleges. I love stories like that … if you live quietly, cover your basic needs, and invest wisely, there will be more than enough money for you at the end of your line (so to speak). However, the comment was more than disturbing. A poster who didn’t identify himself left the following comment: “I still say that he who dies with the most toys, wins.”

I hate to be abrupt, but that one sentence sums up exactly what is wrong with our society. There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy, but when you hoard it all for yourself and give nothing back – that speaks of greed. And honestly, he who dies with the most toys … is still dead. And no one really cares, because that person never bothered to touch others’ lives in a positive way.

As Rob and I work on managing our money, getting out of debt, and perhaps accruing a little for our later use, I can’t help but think on that quote and pray that we never end up that hardened. Money is a tool – best used on others.

What do you think? Is the poster right or wrong? Leave me a comment!

POLL Results: Weekly Grocery Budget

January 21, 2008 at 6:56 pm | Posted in Poll Results | 1 Comment

The results are in – 17 people responded to this week’s poll. Here’s what they said:

$0-$50: 5 people (29%)
$51-$100: 7 people (41%)
$101-$200: 4 people (23%)
Over $200: 1 person (5%)

Be sure to answer my new, corresponding poll: How Many People Do You Buy Groceries For?

Grocery Shopping Tip of the Week: Making a List

January 21, 2008 at 6:10 pm | Posted in Grocery Shopping, Tips | Leave a comment

You know that old Christmas song that goes, “He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice …”? Well, its not just Santa Claus who needs to make a list. Right up there at the top of my money-saving grocery shopping tips is: MAKE A LIST. And even check it. Twice, if you want!

Why? Well, have you ever gone to the grocery store, bought a whole cart full of stuff, then got home and realized you were still missing the one thing you needed for that pie you were going to make (or whatever)? Or what about going to the grocery store for a couple of onions and a gallon of milk and coming home with $50+ worth of stuff??

Sure, it happens to all of us, the urge to impulse-buy. But for some reason, most of us are WAY more prone to overspend at the grocery store than the mall. Maybe because everything is so (relatively) cheap at the grocery store? Who knows. But admit it, this has happened to you.

My Solution: As simple as it sounds, I recommend just making a list and sticking to it. There are several smaller steps that are part of this process, and that’s what I’m going to expand on.

1. Make a menu for the week. I’ve been “mentally” doing this for a while. For example, this week I work Wednesday through Saturday. So I will make two meals this week – one Monday and one on Tuesday. They will have to last R (via leftovers) for the entire week. Plan out breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and drinks. Don’t go overboard, but say you always eat cereal and yogurt for breakfast (like me). You know you’ll need those two items, plus any “sides” – enough to make it through the week. Don’t forget snacks of some sort – and drinks.

2. Make a list of all the ingredients you KNOW you’ll need, and in what quantities. For example, if I’m going to make fajita chicken, I know I need the fajita chicken itself, plus tortillas, salsa, a little cheese, wondra (for the gravy) and potatoes.

3. Next, do an “inventory” of all the stuff you already have. It’s always irritating to come home from the store and realize you already have enough of something you just spent money on.

4. Finally, when you get to the store … STICK TO THE LIST. Don’t buy stuff just because they are doing a sample and you like it. Don’t buy stuff because it looks good. Don’t buy stuff just because its on sale. If its not on the list, DON’T BUY IT.

So there it is … the Tip of the Week. What do you think? Any other suggestions or strategies I’ve missed? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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