Gross Domestic Product

Home Economics and Kitchen Engineering

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This week’s meal plan

Budget win! Got our goods for exactly $39 and some change this week! The farmer’s market was a mere $17.50 and included two special spices, pumpkin seeds, fresh eggs and the usual tomatoes, peppers, onions, and fruits. The grocery store was $22 and included some meats to go in the freezer for another week.

Also, thanks to my list of cool summer recipes, my meal plan came together in less than 15 minutes yesterday. Double win, my friends!

We had a few veggies left over from last week, so I chose meals that use those ingredients since that’s the point of my meal plans - to buy only what I need and not have things go to waste. Duh.

With the extra veggies from last week, I slated the veggies that are nearest their end to be used early in the week so they don’t go to waste. The hardier foods are lined up for the end. This is also very important when taking advantage of the farmer’s market deals on bruised items.

I’m thrilled I was able to put something in the freezer, too. I bought four servings of salmon (for $5 at the budget grocery store!) even though it’s not on this week’s list because I’m pulling beef and pork chops out of the freezer. Get it? That way I’m never completely out of proteins!

All that being said, I present to you …

This Week’s Meal Plan

Sunday

  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: Grilled pork and peaches

Meatless Monday

  • Lunch: Avocado and black bean salad
  • Dinner: Gazpacho and cheese sandwiches

Tuesday

  • Lunch: Sandwiches
  • Dinner: Chinese Beef & Peppers

Wednesday

  • Lunch: Leftovers/Sandwiches
  • Dinner: BLT “Wedge” Salads (Romaine was cheaper than ice berg and has more nutrients)

Thursday

  • Lunch: Leftovers/Sandwiches
  • Dinner: Jerk Chicken & Pineapple Slaw

Friday

  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: Chicken & Blue Cheese Burgers w/ Salad

Saturday

  • Lunch: Leftovers/brunch
  • Dinner: A great friend’s wedding!

Filed under meal plan meal planning groceries farmers market farmer's market budget

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Summer Recipes: Cool and Collected

I’m sitting on my front deck with my feet up blogging from my laptop. Boyfriend is working the grill making wing magic happen and I’ve spent the day reading recipes. Basically, I am in my happy place! Life is good and summer stretches before us …

As planned, I went recipe shopping today. I keep a notebook full of interesting recipes I find and tear from my magazines. From those, I was able to compile a list of summer-friendly food ideas. I was very surprised and pleased by the number of non-salad ideas I found!

Armed with my new list of ideas I’m feeling better about my summertime meal planning for the next few weeks. (Here is a reminder of my requirements and why I made this list.)

I’ve decided that we are going to make hamburgers one night a week - Fridays for now and we’ll see how that works going through the summer. I’m not talking normal burgers either - turkey burgers, pork burgers, chicken burgers, mushroom burgers, bean burgers … There are many, many options! (This article was my inspiration and I’m very excited to try these out!). Last summer we made pizza one night a week and had a blast trying out new toppings.

I have a dream of one day having a house with an awesome outdoor kitchen and dining area. I want counter space for prep work, maybe a even a minifridge and a sink. Also, a nice table and chairs set and even a chiminea or other outdoor warmer. Wouldn’t it be great to have entire days that didn’t involve heating up your kitchen? This is why I’m so tight with my budget - I want to make my dreams into my reality!

That being said, I need to get my meal plan made for tomorrow …


Salads:

Not Salads:

And a couple of smoothies recipes I came across:

Filed under burgers cooking grilling kebabs links recipes salads summer cooking summer recipes hamburgers

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Potluck Challenge #4 

This month’s potluck theme REALLY had me stumped. I know I say that pretty much everytime, but what do think of this: “Everything’s going digital.”

Huh?

Finger foods.

I know …

If you ask me, it wasn’t a very good potluck theme. Sure, a lot of people participated, but it was mainly chips and dips, crackers, and brownies (practically a brownie buffet, actually!). Someone brought wings and another made spring rolls, but for the most part it was just a snack attack. I wrestled with several ideas - sandwiches, tacos, nachos - but all of them broke my $5 rule.

But late yesterday afternoon an eggcellent idea hit me: deviled eggs!They only cost me $1.39 to make and I got to use my grandmother’s deviled egg platter.

Now, these aren’t your grandmother’s deviled eggs …

DEVIL’S EGGS

  • 9 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/3 c lite mayo
  • 1/3 c plain yogurt (Greek is best, but is kind of expensive)
  • 3 T Sriracha sauce (or more or less, depending on tastes)
  • 1 t soy sauce
  • 1 T mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Smoked paprika
  • Chili powder

Directions:

  1. Cut eggs in half, lengthwise, and put yolks in mixing bowl.
  2. Combine yolks with mayo, yogurt, Sriracha sauce, soy sauce, mustard, salt and pepper.
  3. Spoon mixture into yolk holes for each egg half.
  4. Add a dot of Sriracha on each for one more pop of spicy awesome. Garnish with a dusting of paprika and chili powder (I would also add some chives if you have them! Something green would be pretty).

Filed under finger foods potluck recipe sriracha deviled eggs eggs

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Dinner on the road! Leftover Italian sausage, chopped tomatoes, bow tie pasta and Balsamic vinegar. It’s a bit hard to eat while driving, but it’s cheaper and healthier than fast food!

Dinner on the road! Leftover Italian sausage, chopped tomatoes, bow tie pasta and Balsamic vinegar. It’s a bit hard to eat while driving, but it’s cheaper and healthier than fast food!

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This week’s meal plan - for real

The life I’ve chosen to lead is exhausting at times and this week was one of those times. I flipped out last night while meal planning and literally threw my notepad on the ground exclaiming, “I don’t want to do this anymore!”

Basically, I’ve taken on numerous dietary priorities and juggling them all is getting to me. I feel like I always fail in some area. Most of this blog has been about one factor: money. But a lot more goes into my meal-planning:

1. Low-budget: Lately, I’ve found us spending way too much on food. We are eating out more because I am just too uninspired to cook and don’t want to get all hot in the kitchen after a long day of work. The epic struggle of the working woman, right? It’s bad enough groceries have been averaging about $55 a week (my goal is $40), but then add in eating out and we are spending way too much (says the girl who had take-out for dinner). Sure, we mitigate the damages - we eat out on coupons and buy-one-get-ones or we order one meal and split it (there is always enough for two!), and we do take out instead of sit-down to save on the tip, but still it’s all costing too much!

2. Environmentally-friendly: When I talk about environmentally-friendly foods, I don’t just mean organics, I also mean locally-grown. It is very important to me that I buy as much local food as I can. It’s more expensive, but helping a local farmer buy his daughter dance lessons or karate classes matters to me. This is why I don’t shop at Trader Joe’s - sure, it’s organic and often low cost, but here in the Kansas City stores NOTHING is local. We sent an email addressing this when they first opened and maybe they’ve changed their ways since, but their response makes me think they didn’t plan to anytime soon. If you know otherwise, let me know! I’m open to re-evaluating. Anyway, this leaves Whole Foods or the Farmer’s Market. Whole Foods is way out of my price range so the market it is! 

3. Healthy: I’m really trying to step this up. A little more than a year ago, I lost 50 pounds. Studying for the Bar Exam, I put 10 of that back and now I’m focusing on losing those ten pounds and a few more. That means I’m trying to maximize the calories I eat and am focusing on lots of fruits and veggies as snacks.

4. Seasonal issues: Other priorities enter the mix as the temps heat up: I don’t want heavy foods that take the oven because it heats up the kitchen and causes the a/c to run more. When we use the grill, I want to do it efficiently (for more than one day’s food) because of the cost of charcoal and it’s impact on the environment (Here are some great eco-friendly grilling tips and recipes). Also, I don’t own a microwave so that doesn’t offer “easy answers” either (The idea of “zapping” my food really freaks me out. And if you want proof that it alters the makeup of your food, try microwaved coffee - talk about turning the tastiest flavor in the universe into sludge. No, thanks.).

So there you have it - basically, the perfect meal plan to me balances all of the above.

Lately, as I’ve tried to plan my meals, it’s been really overwhelming. I can do healthy and low-budget, but then the environment is compromised. I can do environment and healthy, but of course we know how easy it is to lose sight of the budget. Then there is my lack of inspiration and cool summer cooking ideas.

I am dedicated to my meal plans because they have truly helped simplify my life and my finances. They help keep my food costs down (though I’m over budget this month, it’s not nearly as over as I always got before I started meal planning). Plus, my plans help me ensure I have food in the house each day (no excuse to grab fast food!) and save me from that dreaded after-work “What’s for dinner” decision.

Despite my complaints last night, I don’t want to stop meal planning. I just need a plan (a plan to plan - ha!). Some time this week I’m going to sit down and make a list of possible dishes that will pass the summer-time cooking priorities. From there, it’s just a matter of grouping the food for maximum grocery usage and balancing the ingredients with my environmental priorities.

This Week’s Meal Plan

Sunday

  • Lunch: Sandwiches
  • Dinner: Take out (split one meal)

Meatless Monday

Tuesday

  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: Italian sausage brats and corn

Wednesday

  • Lunch: Sandwiches
  • Dinner: Going out of town - Italian sausage in pasta salad

Thursday

  • Lunch: Lunch with friends
  • Dinner: On the road - Dollar menu (or leftovers from lunch)

Friday

  • Lunch: Out with friends
  • Dinner: Pork chops and corn (6 ears for $1 today!)

Saturday

  • Lunch: Sandwiches
  • Dinner: Wings and celery

Filed under budget meal plan groceries meal planning grilling environment summer cooking

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Smooooothe operator

I mentioned that I’ve been eating smoothies every morning for the past couple of weeks so I figured I would dedicate a post to my new fave way to start the day.

First of all, let me make it clear that the idea of “drinking” my food has never, ever appealed to me. I like to chew. I like my brain to know my body is being fed. Because of this, my smoothie-drinking habit has three unique traits:

  1. My smoothies are SUPER THICK! Think banana-bread-batter-thick.
  2. I refuse to use a straw. Straws make you drink faster and don’t require eye contact. I want to watch the food go into my mouth. Otherwise, it’s too easy for me to feel like I didn’t EAT.
  3. My smoothies use 1/2 cup of oatmeal. It makes them thick, and FULL of fiber and protein.

Second, before smoothies came into the line up, my breaksfasts consisted of oatmeal, eggs, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with frozen waffles (YUM!). I rarely took it into consideration when meal planning because eggs always go on the grocery list and oatmeal costs $1.50 for a tube that lasts a month (though the waffles were a consideration). The smoothies have increased my spending by about $5 a week, but I’m now keeping my eye out for deals then chopping and freezing what I can’t use quickly.

A couple of years ago I bought this cute little Bella Blender. It’s like the Magic Bullet, only it was available at Target for $20. It’s not the best blender in the world, but it does the job and has accessories perfect for smoothies on-the-go. I am able to make my smoothie in a 16-ounce cup, put a lid on it and throw it in my bag to be enjoyed at work. My commute is about 30 minutes and I think it helps the oats absorb the fruit juices.

I’ve been kinda scared to calculate the nutritional values for my smoothies, but I’m glad I did. I’ve always tried to keep breakfast at about 300 calories and my smoothies are right in there!

Super-Thick Fruit Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 4 T Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c sliced fruit* (such as: strawberries, bananas, pineapple, peaches, blueberries, blackberries or any combination!)
  • 1/4 c skim milk
  • 1 t Agave syrup (honey would work too)
  • 1 t flax seeds
  • dash of cinnamon (optional - depending on your fruit)

Combine all ingredients in blender and, you know, blend. Enjoy!

Nutrition information (*fruit stats NOT included!): 239 calories, 38 carbs, 4 grams fat, 14 grams of protein, 5 grams fiber




Notes:

  1. If it is too thick for you (I like mine thicker than cake batter!), then add more milk and/or use fewer oats.
  2. If the oats are too “obvious” you can blend them into a powder first, them add and blend the other ingredients. If you’re doing this, might as well add the flax seeds too.
  3. If you want your smoothie colder, use frozen fruit. It takes longer to blend, but is great on hot days!

Filed under smoothies breakfast fruit recipes recipe cooking healthy vegetarian oatmeal

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This week’s meal plan

Why I love the farmer’s market: We first stopped at the coffee shop at the market for fancy coffee and breakfast burritos. This is new to our routine and something I can totally get behind! (Though it did cost $12.) Then we popped over to the Italian deli next to the coffee shop and grabbed some lunch meats. Boyfriend is very excited to have some pastrami in the house. Too bad I don’t have any rye flour or there would be some serious pastrami and rye action happening. We also snagged some fresh Italian sausage to put in the freezer.

Then we walked to local farmer stalls and bought broccoli, onions, eggs, and kale. By this time, we’d spent a bit more than usual so we hit the $1 bins for the “grocery store rejects” that were on their last leg. And I only bought two tomatoes - I’m kinda tomatoed out right now!

I took my camera with me this morning and had a blast taking lots pf pictures of the produce (see above for some locally grown peaches). I might even frame a couple for my kitchen.

Why I’m excited about this week: Because all of the veggies were so close to their death, I made it a point to chop them up as soon as I got home. As I was doing that, I decided to just go ahead and chop everything I could think of to make dinner prep easier this week. I chopped up my two tomatoes, some onions, red and yellow peppers - all that I need this week. I think I’ll do this more often - it means fewer dishes throughout the week and will make dinner and lunches take that much less time to prepare! 

We spent $22 at the farmer’s market, $18 at the deli, and another $22 at the grocery store. About $20 of the $62 went into the freezer or will be used sparingly for a few weeks (I got a big tube of tomato paste at the deli that has been very excited - I’m using a bit of it tomorrow to make sauce for the Mexican pizzas!). It’s a bit high, but we supported a local business, supported local farmers, and added to the freezer stock so I’m ok with it. Next week, however, will be a tighter week.

This Week’s Meal Plan

Sunday

Meatless Monday

  • Lunch: PB&Js
  • Dinner: Mexican Pizzas (I’m making this up as I go along - based loosely on Taco Bell using the extra tostada shells I have)

Tuesday

  • Lunch: Tostadas
  • Dinner: Chicken kebabs (got the veggies all chopped!)

Wednesday

  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: BF works late so he gets leftovers from freezer; I’m having pasta with evoo

Thursday

  • Lunch: Sandwiches
  • Dinner: BLTs and kale chips

Friday

  • Lunch: Sandwiches
  • Dinner: DATE NIGHT with a Groupon or coupon

Saturday

  • Lunch: Sandwiches/leftovers
  • Dinner: Pulled pork sandwiches and pasta salad

Filed under meal plan groceries Budget farmers market vegetables time saving

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Summertime … and the living’s cheaper!

We reset the pole for our “solar dryer” today. Now we are set for a summer of sun-fresh, line-dried laundry! 

I’ve been doing this for two years now and here are my tips:

1. Turn clothes inside out to avoid fading.

2.Hang t-shirts from the bottom to avoid stretching out the shoulders. Use at least three clothespins.

3. Hang pants from the cuff and gather as you would to fold them if you like a nice crease. Drying them in the sun is better than starch! Though you don’t want them inside out in this case. I tend to put pants towards to middle of the rack so they aren’t hit with much direct sunlight. I use two clothespins per leg.

4. If the clothes are a bit stiff for your taste, fluff them in the dryer for 5-10 minutes before putting away. It’s still better than an hour to dry an entire load!

5. Hang your whites so that the sun can hit them directly. This will keep them brighter longer.

6. Hang dress shirts from the shoulders, but use two pins for each shoulder. This will lessen the gravitational pull on the shoulders while also lessening the need to iron. Make sure you gather carefully for hanging to avoid wrinkles.

7. Don’t mow while clothes are on the line. You might think they will smell like fresh-cut grass, and the will, but they will also feel like it! Hanging them after you mow will achieve the same aromatic desire without all the grass cuttings.

Summertime … and the living’s cheaper!

We reset the pole for our “solar dryer” today. Now we are set for a summer of sun-fresh, line-dried laundry!

I’ve been doing this for two years now and here are my tips:

1. Turn clothes inside out to avoid fading.

2.Hang t-shirts from the bottom to avoid stretching out the shoulders. Use at least three clothespins.

3. Hang pants from the cuff and gather as you would to fold them if you like a nice crease. Drying them in the sun is better than starch! Though you don’t want them inside out in this case. I tend to put pants towards to middle of the rack so they aren’t hit with much direct sunlight. I use two clothespins per leg.

4. If the clothes are a bit stiff for your taste, fluff them in the dryer for 5-10 minutes before putting away. It’s still better than an hour to dry an entire load!

5. Hang your whites so that the sun can hit them directly. This will keep them brighter longer.

6. Hang dress shirts from the shoulders, but use two pins for each shoulder. This will lessen the gravitational pull on the shoulders while also lessening the need to iron. Make sure you gather carefully for hanging to avoid wrinkles.

7. Don’t mow while clothes are on the line. You might think they will smell like fresh-cut grass, and the will, but they will also feel like it! Hanging them after you mow will achieve the same aromatic desire without all the grass cuttings.

Filed under solar dryer clothesline laundry green saving energy budget money