Procrastinating on going grocery shopping

With all the money I have been spending lately on Christmas presents, decorations, and things if the like, I have been dreading spending more money on things I really need like food and gas. It’s silly I know but what is even more silly is how empty my refrigerator has become. I don’t think I have seen a refrigerator that empty since I moved in! I will be paying a visit to Sprouts and Trader Joes tonight for sure!

Seriously Mentally Ill adults need Thanksgiving, too

ImageI work at an outpatient clinic for seriously mentally ill adults (SMI) and today was our annual Thanksgiving lunch for our clients. On this day more than any other day, I felt proud to be a part of this organization. Today was yet another example of how to show people love with food.

There were about 15 turkeys cooked, about 10 trays of stuffing, crock pots full of mashed potatoes, green beans, ham, gravy, bread, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Everything was donated and prepared by staff such as myself. It was a group effort, totally organized, and a huge success! About 100 of our clients and their family members were in attendance.

For some, today was the only Thanksgiving they were going to have. Some people have no family to spend the holiday with. Some people have a very limited income and food stamps making Thanksgiving dinner almost impossible. Others just came to get a free meal and socialize which is sometimes really difficult for people with Agoraphobia or Schizophrenia- Paranoid type. For some people who came, the food we provided may be the only meal they will have today.

When I hear some of my clients’ stories about the daily struggle with symptoms, medications, putting food on the table, of being homeless, of being abused, I have a whole new perspective on what I am grateful for. I am grateful for having life’s basic necessities at my fingertips – heat, electricity, clean running water, and a stable home. I am grateful for my car and the money I have to keep it gas in the tank. I am grateful to be able to go to the store whenever I want to buy food. I am grateful to have healthy relationships and a loving family. I am grateful that I am healthy. I am grateful for a job. I am grateful to have the opportunity to help people lead happier lives.

I have a lot to be grateful for and I only hope that my SMI clients know how much I care. Tomorrow is the big day and I plan on cherishing the time I am going to spend with my family that I am so grateful for.

I encourage everyone to take a moment to recognize something that you are grateful for. There is so much that we take for granted that lots of people just don’t have. These people may be all around you without you knowing it – at the grocery store, at the bank, at the movie theatre, or at the bus stop.

Smile, and give thanks.

 

8 Day Challenge – DONE

I was able to get by with only $20 for food for the last eight days. I barely scraped by but I did it! I was able to use up the food that I already had and actually came up with some tasty meals. I just had to invest some time and creativity.

I learned a few things about my eating and food-buying habits while I was trying to empty out my fridge. Here are a few things that I learned:

1.) I waste a lot of food.

I was almost embarrassed at how much food I ended up throwing away. I had almost a full container of tofu that went bad because it was in the back of my fridge and I forgot about it. I had only used one serving of it for a tofu scramble one day. I also threw away some lettuce that had just gotten too old as well as some snap peas that were a little too brown. All things that I could have used in a meal, I had let go bad and therefore damned them to the compost pile. Sad.

2.) I don’t plan my meals as good as I thought I did.

I love to plan my meals to keep track of my calories and nutrition. I have not been good at planning to minimize waste. A lot of food I had that I did not end up using where items that I bought because I thought I would use them. This past week I got to see the foods that I do tend to reach for on a daily to every-other-day basis. Some of the items I utilized the most where tortillas, black forest ham slices, earth balance, pasta, rice, frozen peas, olives and apples. My organic eggs did not get eaten. Also I surprised myself that a lot of the lettuce that I thought I would use for salad, I did not eat. I learned that if I am going to plan my meals and shopping to minimize waste and to be cost effective, it is going to have to be around the foods I actually eat.

3.) I need to freeze leftovers more often.

I found myself often referring to the freezer for help/inspiration and just about cleaned it out in the process. All I have in there now is some vodka, Greek frozen yogurt, my flour and sugar (we had really bad ants this summer), walnuts, and my chipotle ice cubes (see my post about this). This tells me, I really should utilize the freezer more often. With this new realization, I plan on cooking more beans, more rice, and more pasta dishes and then freezing them for later use.

Last night, since I had some money left over, I splurged and bought all the ingredients for a spaghetti and meatballs dinner including the garlic bread. I was craving it, and it was delicious.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I am not going to plan this week’s meals. I am however going to empty out my entire refrigerator tonight, clean it, and take an inventory. I want to make room for all the leftovers plus I want to start out fresh for next week.

I am a huge fan of composting but at this rate I am going to have more rotten food than soil in my bin. I would love to know what you do to save money on food and minimize food waste.

Day 3 of the $20 challenge

It is now day 3 and I have still not had to spend any money on food. Yay! Granted I did have some food in my fridge and pantry already. I have been really good about bringing my lunch to work and actually eating it. I have brought a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables so when I have a craving for something fast, I’m not hitting up the vending machine. For dinner the past two nights I have had quesadillas with cheese and avocado, salsa, and sour cream – all things I had in my fridge already. Today I have made sure to bring my lunch again and lots of snacks. So far so good. Again, the weekend is going to be tricky but at this rate I think I can do it.

Tonight, I plan on making chicken soup and brown rice. I have a chicken breast in the freezer and I’m planning on playing around with thinly slicing the chicken, while it is still frozen, on my mandolin. The reasoning behind the idea is that the chicken will cook faster and I can get more chicken to go further for me in the meal. We’ll see!

8-Day $20 Challenge

Image I have over spent my budget on food this month and now I have 8 more days in my credit card billing cycle and only $20 left for food. Do you think it will last? I have some food in my pantry and refrigerator but I am going to have to get really creative. I need to  plan on breakfast for one (me), dinner for two, and lunches for just me. On the weekend, though, I’m not sure how that is going pan out.

I’m at work thinking about what I am going to make for dinner and stressing out a little bit. I do have plenty of rice in the pantry, also a half a box of pasta, some canned beans, tortillas, and dried lentils. I have some tomatoes and romaine lettuce that I bought yesterday. I also bought apples, oranges, and bananas yesterday. I have plenty of condiments and spices, too. As I list what I do have, I realize that there are options there.

Today is day one of the 8-day challenge. I know I will not need to go to the store to buy anything today but I don’t know what will happen in three days.

I have been following some really great blogs about cooking on a budget. I am going to explore and search recipes! Also, if you have any tips please feel free to share them. I thank you in advance!

Let the challenge begin!

Recipes for Girls Night dinner at my place

I had two of my girlfriends over for dinner two weeks ago and they loved what I made so much that they begged me on hands and knees for the recipes! Ok, they didn’t beg but either way I thought I would share them with you, too. I literally copied and pasted my email entry to my friend and put it here, so that is the reason for some of the language (you’ll see what I mean when you read it).

Apple, Sweet Onion, and Toasted Walnut Salad

Ingredients:

Romaine lettuce

Raw Spinach

Gala apple – but Honey Crisp or Granny Smith would be good here, too

Sweet onion (like Vidalia), they’re at Trader Joes right now

Lemon juice

Salt and pepper

First I put the washed and chopped romaine lettuce and spinach in a big ass bowl.

Next I chopped some walnuts and put them on a skillet on medium high heat. You gotta watch these because they go from perfectly toasted to burned in a flash! They will be brown and you will smell them when they are ready. When they are done, put them aside.

Next, I sliced one smallish onion with my mandolin so they were thinly sliced – like ¼ inch. If you don’t have a mandolin, no worries just slice them with a sharp knife. Put the onions and a good amount of olive oil  – like 2-3 Tbs – in the SAME skillet that you toasted the walnuts and sort of stir fry on medium high heat until they are turning brown and caramelized, then add some salt and pepper to taste. Once they are cooked, put the skillet aside and let them cool.

Now you’re ready to assemble. Chop or slice the apple – however you want – and top the lettuce with the apple. For the dressing, add the juice to the skillet with the onions and stir a little bit with one of those rubber spatula thingy’s. Scrape the onion mixture over the salad then take tongs and toss the salad so everything is well coated. Don’t worry if everything falls to the bottom of the huge ass bowl because you’re going to plate these salads and everything will be on top again. Wait to assemble the salad until right before you are going to serve it because the lettuce will get too wilty otherwise. After you have plated the salad, top with the roasted walnuts.

*Tip* If you like blue cheese, crumble a little on top of the salad at the end. I would have done this but I just didn’t have any when you guys came over.

 

Rosemary Garlic Chicken

First, you should know that I took the chicken breasts and cut them in half so they weren’t so big and would cook more evenly.

Ingredients:

Boneless skinless chicken breast – I used 6 half chicken breasts so adjust depending on how much you wanna make

Rosemary – I used the leaves from two long sprigs and chopped them (fresh!)

Garlic – two cloves, diced super tiny (also fresh!)

Olive oil – a few drizzles, depends on how much you’re making

Salt and pepper

I marinated my chicken in the rosemary, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper overnight in a ziplock bag in my fridge.

The next day, get your grill pan hot and put the chicken on. I cooked them about 4 minutes on each side. I think it helps to leave the chicken out of the fridge for 10-15 minutes so they are not super cold when you put them on the grill.

And that’s it!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Vegan Cumin Aioli

There is a difference between sweet potatoes and yams but for this just use the longish orangish potatoes that are usually called “garnet yams.”

Ingredients:

For the fries:

Sweet potatoes peeled and chopped into fry-like shape

Olive oil

Chili powder (not to be mistaken with cayenne but you could use that too to make them spicy – Yum!)

Paprika

Garlic powder

Salt and pepper

For the aioli:

Veganaise (but you can use regular mayo)

Juice of half a lemon

Cumin – about 1 tsp or to taste

Once your sweet potatoes are all cut up how you like, get your baking pan ready with parchment paper or foil sprayed with cooking spray – you don’t want these guys to stick. Get your oven ready at 400 degrees so it is nice and hot and ready to go – just like your man will be after he eats these ;). Next, toss the potatoes in the oil (about one Tablespoon), and the spices. I used about 1 tsp of each spice but just eyeball-it. Once the potatoes are all coated and covered evenly with the spices, put them on your baking dish and put them on the middle rack of your oven. Timing is tricky because every oven is different so I would recommend checking them every ten minutes or so to see if they are done to your liking. Shake the pan every now and then to get them moving.

While the potatoes are baking make the aioli. Put the mayo (however much you want but I used about ½ a cup) in a bowl and add the juice and cumin. Stir and let sit. The longer you let it sit them better it will be. You could always make extra and use it for dip or a spread on your sandwich.

And that’s it!

PS everywhere I say “Olive Oil” I actually mean extra virgin olive oil

Weeknight stir-fry veggies

Weeknight stir-fry veggies

Brocollini, carrots, edamame, onions… all the veggies I had in my refrigerator that were screaming at me to become a delicious and QUICK weeknight dinner. Warmed up some brown rice that I had already cooked and dinner was done in like 15 minutes!

Snap pea, radish, and edamame salad

Snap pea, radish, and edamame salad

This is another gem out of the Kind Diet book. I had these radishes in my fridge for over a week and needed to do something soon or they were going to start growing roots in my crisper drawer. This wonderfully simple recipe has a yummy lemon “butter” sauce that perfectly compliments the salad. I added some chopped fresh parsley and it was perfect. I ate a little of this salad with some brown rice tonight for a light dinner. I am going to do the same for my lunch tomorrow but more of it!

Homemade pizza and wine night

Homemade pizza and wine night

This past Friday was a big day for me so I decided to celebrate with pizza, wine, and friends. I bought some pre-made pizza dough from Trader Joe’s (but dough is super easy to make – just didn’t have yeast) and used what I had in the fridge to make a delicious mushroom, arugula pizza with truffle oil. I had fun showing my friend Monica how to stretch out the pizza dough. I also made a pepperoni and mushroom pizza for the meat-eaters. Fun night with friends!

Quinoa Breakfast

Quinoa Breakfast

I made a big batch of Quinoa for the week and ended up eating most of it for breakfast. It’s a brilliant thing to eat for breakfast because it has everything you would want in a breakfast – fiber, protein, whole grain, low-fat. I warmed up my already cooked quinoa with some vanilla almond milk and cinnamon. Then, I topped it with fresh chopped green apple, walnuts, and more cinnamon. I sweetened my breakfast with a little drizzle of real maple syrup. It was so good and filled me up. My whole oats may be sitting in my cupboard for a while now that I have discovered that quinoa is great at breakfast.