Thursday, October 30, 2014

Make it yourself - granola

I've had a few requests for a good granola recipe. Honestly, granola is way easier than it should be for how good it tastes! I like that my family isn't eating all of the junk in boxed cereals. I can tweak it to our tastes. We all love to eat it as a snack, as well! I just have to ignore its association with the word "crunchy" as a description of neo-hippies.

Here is the basic recipe:
4 ½c rolled oats (not quick cook)
1 cup chopped nuts
1/3c melted fat or oil
1/3c honey
¼c light brown sugar
½tsp salt
1-3tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon or other spice
½c dried fruit

Mix all ingredients, except fruit, together. Spread on a lined jelly roll pan or baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 15 minutes; stir; bake for 10-15 minutes more. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

My favorite variation on this recipe uses slivered almonds, and lots of cinnamon & vanilla. For my fat, I use melted coconut oil. I don't use fruit in this one.

Now, if you want my indulgent variation, hold onto your hats and try the following variation. Add ½ cup of cocoa powder, ¼ cup of chopped chocolate or chocolate chips, and dried cranberries or raspberries. Yum!

Seriously, you could make granola a thousand different ways! It's healthy, inexpensive, and tasty - a great combination!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pinto beans and rice

This is our "how low can you go?" meal. It is the cheapest meal we eat here at our house and we try to make it a few times a month. I try to intersperse it with more expensive meals throughout the month, rather than having beans three times the last week of the month - that's when morale heads south! This recipe really is tasty. Each of my kids mentioned it in our "what I was thankful for today" rounds tonight at bedtime!


1 lb dried pinto beans, soaked
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1½ tsp ground cumin
2 cups white rice
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Cheese, avocado, tomatoes, onion to serve

  • Place the beans and garlic in a large pot, cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about an hour.
I save time on this step by making double batches (2lbs) of dried beans a couple of times a month. We eat one batch for dinner and I freeze the other. When I make this recipe, I simply place the frozen beans in the pot, cover with water and boil around 20 minutes

  • As the beans begin to soften, mash them with a potato masher or the back of a spatula until desired consistency is reached
  • Set a pot of water to boil and cook rice according to package directions
I often save myself time here, as well by planning two meals a few days apart that require rice. I put half of the rice in a large zip top bag in the fridge for the next meal
  • Heat the olive oil in a small skillet, add onion, cooking over medium high heat, until onions soften and have brown, crisp edges. Add to the pot of rice. Stir to combine.
  • Serve beans over rice, and with toppings, if desired

Beans $1
Garlic 20¢
Rice 50¢
Onion 35¢
Spices 10¢
TOTAL - $2.15

Price per serving (6 servings) 36¢

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I'm not sure if I've ever recommended a blog here on mine. If not, here's a first! Go over and check out all that Tiffany has to say on her blog dontwastethecrumbs
She has some great tips on budgeting & grocery shopping (her budget for a family of four, including toiletries and paper products, is $330/month), recipes, eating real food, making things yourself (Apple cider vinegar from cores & peels?! Yes, please!) and healthy living.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Eat What You Have - days 6, 7, 8, 9, & 10

I feel like I have been cheating on this challenge. I certainly didn't take into account how many days I wouldn't even be home to cook! That's ok, though, those days will just be tacked onto the end of the challenge and the whole thing will last longer than I expected.

So, coming off of a dinner out for my mother-in-law's birthday and a lovely meal with friends on days 4 & 5, I went to Georgetown on Saturday to watch the game (they won 42-13!). We took our hungry college lineman out for Mexican food. A good break for him from cafeteria food! 

The younger boys and I headed out to Great Wolf Lodge on Sunday. Of course we had pizza. After a hard day at the water park on Monday, we picked up sandwiches and fries on our way back to Georgetown again to watch Big Brother play football (won again!). Seriously, I promise I usually cook at home most nights!

So, we got back to some normalcy on Tuesday, day 9. I made roasted acorn squash with brown sugar and house made pork brats from Lucky's. If you haven't tried the sausages from Lucky's, you need to! Delicious! I always buy enough for a couple of meals when they go on sale for $2.49/lb.

Tonight we went with our cheap-o meal of pinto beans and rice. It's one of my favorites, not only because it is so cheap that it keeps the budget in check, but because it is tasty. I'll share the recipe soon enough.

How's your challenge going?

Task #6 - Buy in Bulk

We have made our way up to task six in saving money on groceries - buying in bulk. This one can be a bit tricky, but, hopefully, I can clear a few concerns here.

I recommend that you only buy items in bulk that you will be able to completely use before the expiration or 'use by' date. I do lots of baking, cook lots of international dishes, and am feeding four males and myself, so this isn't usually an issue for us, though I think you'll be surprised at how long many items last when stored properly. You may need to track what quantities you use of certain items before buying, say, a 25 pound bag of it!

Here are the items I buy in bulk: Flour, sugar, rice, paper products, meat, oil, pasta, dry beans, and spices. I store many of the items like flour, sugar, and rice in food grade 5 gallon buckets with lids in the basement. The meat is bought in large packages and split into individual freezer bags in quantities I usually use for our recipes. Spices are poured into small airtight jars. Any that won't fit, I store in zip top bags.

Here is a list of how long each of these items should be expected to last.

All Purpose Flour - up to one year
Granulated Sugar - indefinitely
White Rice - indefinitely
Meats (frozen) - 6-9 months
Oils - 1 year+
Pasta - 3 years
Dried beans - 1 year
Spices - 3-4 years

When in doubt check this website.

Around the holidays are a great time to stock up on many of these items, so keep your eyes peeled for great sales and buy as much as you will use in the year if you have a place to properly store it. This can save you lots of money on your monthly budget.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Eat What You Have - days 3, 4, & 5

Y'all, there gonna get spoiled over here! It is a rare day that we have what most Americans picture as a "square meal" - piece of meat, vegetable, and starch. We just don't tend to eat that way, because, frankly meat is too expensive. I try to cook in ways that minimize our meat purchases. Tonight was an exception for us. I found center cut pork chops for $1.99 a pound a couple of weeks ago. I also had a cabbage from a month or so ago (cabbages keep for a LONG time in proper conditions) that I picked up for 39¢/lb., pair that with some garlic mashed potatoes and you've got quite the hearty meal. It cost about $7 for 5 servings.

I also went ahead a splurged. I bought the Provential Belgian-style ale from Trader Joe's to go with this one. Did you know that Unibroue makes some beers for Trader Joe's? This happens to be one of them and it is delicious! Beer lovers, try it out!

Now, I will go ahead and let you know what will be on our menu for the next two days. We will be going out to celebrate my mother-in-law's 70th birthday tomorrow. On Friday, we have been invited to have a meal with some dear friends. This will just extend my challenge for two more days!

How is your challenge going?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Eat What You Have days 1 & 2

We had sort of a lackluster start over here with Eat What You Have. I was making pear butter, which took way longer than it should have. The boys had Tae Kwon Do. Everything on the menu required baking and it was in the upper 70s. We ended up having a big salad. I had leaf lettuce, bought from Lucky's for 99¢. I topped it with some chicken, some of our hen' s eggs and a bit of cheese.
Tonight, we are having honey mustard chicken drumsticks with sweet potatoes from our garden. And since it's National Dessert Day(aren't you so glad I told you?), I'll be making brownies and topping them with vanilla ice cream.
What are you having tonight?