Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's in the fridge: Chili

This week's "What's in the fridge" meal is chili. Makes about 8 very generous meals for one. Estimated cost to buy all ingredients (March 2011): $7

1 lb ground beef
1 1/2 c each of dried black beans, black eyed beans, adzuki beans, chickpeas (or about 6 cups of your favourite dried beans mix)
1/2 red pepper chopped finely
2 medium onions chopped
2 carrots chopped finely
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
2-3 tbsp beef bullion
1-2 tbsp garlic powder
2-4 tbsp italian seasoning
2-4 tbsp chili powder
1-2 tbsp paprika
1/2-1 tbsp red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Place beans into containers/ziplock bags and cover with water. Place in fridge for 8hrs-7 days.
  2. Drain beans and place in a large pot. Cover with 1-2 inches of water and add beef bullion and garlic powder. Simmer for 1-2 hours until the beans are mostly tender. Drain.
  3. Brown beef in a large pan, drain fat and add to beans.
  4. Fry onions, carrots, and red pepper until soft and beginning to brown. Add to pot.
  5. Add remaining ingredients to pot. Fill the empty can from the diced tomatoes with water and add to the pot.
  6. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer on low for 2-3 hours or until you are ready to eat.
 Add more paprika and less chili powder for a milder chili.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Planning simple menus others can follow

One of my biggest challenges is planning a menu that someone else can follow. This requires that the meals all be very easy (2-3 steps at most) and still nutritious and budget friendly. Most meals are planned to leave leftovers for the next day's lunches.

Below is my plan for the coming week, items without a cost are pantry items we have left over from previous weeks. For example, all the ingredients for bread are sitting in our cupboard, so no cost is listed.

Breakfasts: Oatmeal with sugar and cinnamon

Snacks: Seasonal fruit & homemade muffins       $5

Honey Dijon Chicken with Rice
8 Chicken Thighs     $5.00
2 tbsp honey    
2 tbsp Dijon mustard    
1 tbsp fresh thyme (chopped)    
1 tbsp cider vinegar     $2.00
1/2 tsp salt    
1/2 tsp pepper    

Mix all ingredients together(except rice). Place chicken on a hot grill and brushwith sauce. Cook 10 min per side, brush with sauce a couple times. Make rice according to package directions.

Veggie Stirfry with Rice

1 bag stirfry veggies     $3.00
1/4 cup rice vinager    
1/4 cup soy sauce    
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce    
1/4 cup fish sauce    
1/4 oil    
1 tbsp sesame oil    
2 tbsp cornstarch    
2 tbsp water    

Mix all ingredients together (except rice). Stirfry till heated through. Make rice according to package directions.

Pesto Asparagus Melts
1 loaf bread, sliced    
1 bunch/bag asparagus     $1.50
Mozzarella cheese     $1.00
Pesto Sauce              

Toast bread lightly. Steam asparagus for a few minutes until crisp tender. Spread pesto on bread, top with mozzarella, then asparagus. Toast melts under the broiler until the cheese melts.

Pasta with Tomato or Pesto Sauce
Canned pasta sauce    

Boil pasta and top with sauce.

Grilled Cheese
1 loaf bread, sliced    
Cheddar Cheese, sliced    

Make into sandwich and grill till melted.

Pizza Soup
1 jar pasta sauce (+ 2 jars water)    
1 green pepper chopped     $1.00
1/2 red onion, sliced     $0.50
1 cup slice mushrooms/1 can drained     $0.49
1 can diced tomatoes     $0.88
1 cup pepperoni, sliced     $2.50
2 sausages, casings removed     $2.00
shake of dried basil    
1 tbsp oregano    
mozzarella cheese to taste     $1.00

Put all ingredients into crockpot (except cheese). Turn on and set for 7-9 hrs on low. When done serve with cheese.

Turkey Sandwiches
1 loaf bread, sliced    
cold turkey     $2.00
mustard + mayo    

Make sandwiches

Estimated cost(allowing for items in pantry): $28

Monday, March 7, 2011

Quick Meat Pie

This is a quick recipe to use up what you have in the fridge. Because I had phyllo pastry left from earlier in the week I modified this recipe to use what I had.

1 partial box phyllo pastry
2 1lb lb(454 g) (454 g) lean ground beef
1tbsp tbsp(15 mL) (15 mL) vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped (I used the rest of my bunch from last week)
1 cup (250 mL) chopped peeled potatoes
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) dried thyme
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
1 can  tomato paste
2 cups (500 mL) water + 2 heaping tsp bullion

  1. Brown and drain ground beef, set aside
  2. Fry onions until lightly brown
  3. Add all other veggies and spices and fry for 5 more min
  4. Add water, bullion, and tomato paste
  5. Simmer covered for about 35 min or until potatoes begin to break up
  6. Working quickly, spread out a single sheet of phyllo, lightly brush with oil or melted butter and lay a second sheet on top. Repeat till you have 3 sheets.
  7. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the meat mixture near one edge of the phyllo and fold up the phyllo sheets to create a package.
  8. Place on a baking sheet and repeat.
  9. Heat over to 425 F and bake until phyllo is lightly browned.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Method of Frugality

For me, living frugally is about allowing me to do things the way I want when I want, not necessarily frugality for the sake of frugality or being cheap. Here are my 4 general principles:

Does it save money?
This might seem obvious, but some people really miss the mark. Getting the cheapest bed/furniture/etc. will actually cost you in the long term in replacement costs, whereas researching and purchasing the best quality for cost will save you from having to buy those items again.  This also applies to making food, not everything is cheaper homemade (most things are), sometimes there is no way that you can equal the cost saving power of mass producing something. My best example is gardening, gardening can save you a lot of money in fresh food costs; however, for most people gardening involves buying seeds, soil, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. By the time the food is ready to eat it costs more than buying it at the store. If you avoid the get-all-the-gadgets trap though it can be a rewarding, stress relieving, and money saving hobby.

Does it save time?
Surprisingly, because of our family's dietary restrictions, cooking our own meals and preparing homemade frozen dinners saves me time compared to spending hours reading labels in the grocery store. 1 day of cooking leads to several weeks or even months of food that's ready to go. Plus if I don't have time or don't want to go shopping one week, there are plenty of healthy meals available without heading to a restaurant.

On a different note I will happily pay for the convenience of an automatic shower  sprayer over having to scrub the tub weekly. This saves me time and despite the cost difference between doing it myself, I feel it is a better choice to invest my time elsewhere.

Is it healthier?
Sometimes cost and time aren't the only considerations. Being able to make healthier choices often coincides with more frugal options in my mind. Healthier options mean a healthier family, which probably evens out in the end. This means paying slightly more for healthier food alternatives is a frugal choice in my book over just getting the cheapest things, it could also mean a gym membership is right for someone else, despite the recurring costs.

Do we actually need it?
Probably the best money saving strategy is to seriously consider whether we actually need something. This often means waiting to buy, and thinking about whether we need the item/service or if it is something we feel we should need because everyone else seems to need it. This includes things like a stand mixer, which would be helpful given the amount of cooking and baking I do, but in reality I can make bread and other things just as quickly without the mixer and then it isn't taking up room in our kitchen.

Does it improve our quality of life?
This is a catch all category and includes things like making the shelving units for our home (because I enjoy the challenge and can do it for cheaper and a better quality) through choosing to use a car instead of the bus, but sticking to a single car. It also means that living on less so that working less is a possibility is a very important part of our family strategy.