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Eats for the Week: 11/1/2009

by Shawanda Greene

Actual eats for Sunday, November 1, 2009

For a while, I thought menu planning was something only women with children did. Why would a young, sexy, and single urbanite like myself even consider such a thing? (I’m joking; twenty-eight isn’t that young.) As it turns out, menu planning is a great way to save money. The weight loss that usually results is just a bonus.

Back in the day, when I was trying to crawl my way out of debt, I’d cook. Lately, I’ve since reverted to my old ways of paying someone else to prepare practically all my meals. Last month, I spent over $700 on food and, er, alcohol. I don’t feel guilty about spending what many people would consider an outrageous sum of money on food and drinks. Eating out has always been an enjoyable experience for me. However, we should take a close look at what we’re spending our money on every now and then to determine whether our limited financial resources can be put to better use.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never left the United States. There was that one time my mom and I went on a cruise to the Bahamas, but you can’t count that. I’m at a point in my life where some world travel will do me good. And that’s why I’m cutting my food and alcohol budget to $350. Yeah, it’s a drastic cut. But I’ve done it before. The savings will be redirected to a travel fund.

Here’s where the menu plan comes in. If I don’t have any idea what I’m going to cook, I’ll just wait until I’m starving then buy the most convenient, most delicious, and, almost by default, most fattening food I can get my hands on.

So, without further delay, here’s my menu plan for the week of November 1st:

Sunday – Pepper Steak & Onions over Basmati Rice (pictured above)

Monday – Salisbury Steak and Green Bean Casserole

Tuesday – Chicken Fajitas

Wednesday – Pork Chops with Garlicky Broccoli

Thursday – Leftovers

Friday – Barbacoa Bowl with Guacamole

Saturday – Chicken Posole

Although I’ve included links to the recipes in my menu plan, I modify them quite a bit. Everybody’s different. If you’re interested in how I change the recipes, then just shoot me an e-mail.

You can find other menu ideas for this week hosted by Laura at Org Junkie on Menu Plan Monday.

I really do like to eat. Do you mind sharing a recipe or two from your collection? No desserts please. Let’s reserve the temptation until about a week before Thanksgiving. Oohwee! My mouth is watering thinking about sweet potato pie. BUT, we’re not discussing desserts yet.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Menayan @ Dyalogues November 2, 2009 at 1:37 AM

As a child of immigrants, I tend to retreat to the comfort foods of my parents when the days get short and the temperature drops. Here’s a recipe I posted that my aunt shared with me on swiss chard with potatoes.
http://hubpages.com/hub/Biserkas_Recipes
(also vegetable soup with little dumplings)

I also believe in trying to cook at home as much as possible. It’s a lot more time-consuming but the finished product is all the more satisfying and healthy, and if you made stuff from scratch, much cheaper than eating out.

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Whitney November 2, 2009 at 8:54 AM

Great blog/website! I have loads of links on my blog “Thanks for the Food”, which you may like. One of my favorite blogs is Cheap, Healthy and Good (http://cheaphealthygood.blogspot.com/). Check them out for more tips.

Do you have a crockpot and freezer? Both tools necessary to living well on a budget.

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Karin November 2, 2009 at 9:28 AM

Looks excellent! I love the diversity in your menu plan.

And I just wanted to say that I menu-planned before I had kids but, of course, I was taught to do so by a mom (mine!)…so perhaps it is a matronly thing to do but hey, whatever works! :D

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Tia Jones November 2, 2009 at 11:07 AM

I started meal planning (my goal was the weight loss though) and money saving. One thing that I did do, is up the ante on my frozen dinner for work. Although its tempting to grab the 1.00 budget meals, I decided to get the 3 and 4 dollar meals. Its still cheaper than eating out, but atleast I won’t be a slave to the vending machine or hunger.

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Stephanie November 2, 2009 at 11:53 AM

Welcome to Menu Plan Monday! You have some delicious meals planned.

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Ashley November 2, 2009 at 12:01 PM

I had the exact same revelation this week when I realized I’d spent over $500 on meals and drinks out with friends.

The thing about spending a bunch of money on eating out is that you often don’t have anything to show for it but an empty wallet and a larger waistline. I went grocery shopping yesterday and planned a few different things I wanted to eat during the week, cooked them all up, portioned them out, and threw them in the freezer. My fave is the butternut squash soup I made. The recipe is here: http://vegetarian.about.com/od/soupssalads/r/savorysquash.htm

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Debbie November 2, 2009 at 5:09 PM

You are definitely right about the planning part. Since there are only two of us at home now, Hubby and I do have our date nights when we eat out. We are good about eating leftovers, however, so I don’t feel guilty on those evenings when we go out. I host a weekly blog event called Crock Pot Wednesdays. You are welcome to participate. I know you will find lots of great, appealing suggestions there. Come check it out.

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Shawanda Greene November 2, 2009 at 8:50 PM

@Jason Menayan – Thanks for sharing! I’ve never tried Swiss chard. My mom cooked it for the first time a few months ago. She tells me it’s delicious. I absolutely love garlic, so I’m looking forward to trying your recipe.

@Whitney – Thanks! I immediately gravitated to the Jerk chicken video on your site. I generally shy away from marinades (I’m impatient), but I’ve wanted to try my hand at jerk chicken for while.

I don’t have a Crockpot or freezer. I assume you’re referring to something like a deep freezer. My kitchen is really small. Many budget minded people swear by their slow cooker. I’ve held off on getting one, because it seems like the sort of thing I’d buy and never use. If I stumble upon a free one on Craigslist or Freecycle, I might give it a try. Can’t say I’ve never dreamed of coming home to a hot meal.

@Karin – I appreciate you dropping by. Growing up, it seemed like my family ate out most of the time. Which explains the stratospheric food bill. Although I enjoy the experience of eating out, there’s nothing like a home cooked meal. I just don’t want to be the one to have to cook it all the time. :)

@Tia Jones – Mmm. Michelina’s. I used to love those $1 frozen dinners. I’ve tried more expensive ones, but I think Michelina’s taste better. Maybe it’s all the extra sodium and preservatives.

Vending machines can get expensive. I’ve sacrificed my laundry money to the vending machine too many times. What’s most egregious is that you consume all those calories and spend all that money to end up hungrier than ever 45 minutes later.

@Stephanie – Thanks for welcoming me. My Sunday and Monday meals turned out well. We’ll see how tomorrow and Saturday goes.

@Ashley – Thanks for sharing a vegan recipe. Now I have to try it.

@Debbie – Now I’m feeling the pressure to get a slow cooker. I checked out your most recent Crockpot Wednesday. Everything looks so good. There’s something about the colder months that make me crave potatoes. Plus their cheap.

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Jason Menayan @ Dyalogues November 9, 2009 at 3:33 PM

There are a few types of Swiss chard, but if you can find the “Italian chard” variety (lighter green, more tender leaves) that would be best. (Some other chards can be bitter and/or tough) But good chard is really, really delicious!

If you do like your greens bitter, you can try ‘fave e cicoria’ – this Italian dish that I saw prepared on Molto Mario years ago which I make every few months. It’s really delish – sweet, creamy fava bean mash contrasts nicely with the bitter greens (chicory is fine but beet greens work beautifully).

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Whitney November 3, 2009 at 10:40 AM

That jerk chicken recipe is awesome! I didn’t have to buy anything special for it since I had everything in my cupboards. First time, I sub’ed in crushed red pepper the first time I made it and put it on wings-since that was what was on sale that day. I used scotch bonnets the second time, along with some ginger and put it on pork chops (again, since that was what was on sale that day). Both times I cooked in the oven, but on the grill would also be great. Second time the marinade was better but the wings were a lot less greasy!

Her recipe for Jamaican rice and peas (beans and rice) is also good but I used boil in the bag rice (out of the bag obviously) and small brown chickpeas in the can since both are south beach diet friendly and were what I had in my cabinets. Very good side dish to go along with the wings and the pork chops (plus a side salad).

I meant kitchen freezer or deep freezer. In Europe, it’s not so common to have a freezer and fridge combo like it is in the States. When I lived in Germany, a lot of folks didn’t have any freezer type anything to preserve food in-just one medium or “dorm sized fridge” depending upon family size. I know a family of four that survive on a “dorm sized fridge”-but they basically only stored condiments, dairy and leftovers in there and everything else they buy is fresh. I love freezers because I can make soups and stews (like the West African peanut stew on my blog) and freeze portions. It’s very expensive to get whole fresh peppers (jalapeño, habaneras/scotch bonnet/thai/the little green ones in Indian cooking) in Norway, so I buy in summer and freeze for winter.

Don’t even get me started on the crockpot! I grew up with one but we only made pinto beans in it-nothing imaginative like ciders, coffee cup cakes or ribs or fish! They do not sell crockpots in Norway, but luckily I brought one from Germany when I moved here. I make stuff like homemade yogurt and homemade granola-all in the crockpot at a ridiculously low cost. I thought it would be too much food for my single person household-but when you can freeze or things stay edible for a week or two in the cabinet or fridge-it’s a big cost savings.

You can also halve some recipes so you don’t have so much food. Stephanie O’Dea writes brilliant (mostly gluten free) recipes on a blog called A Year of Slow Cooking” (http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/ ). Check it out when you have time.

I’ve also become very keen on making simple condiments and starter pastes like mayo, peanut butter, salad dressings and curry pastes from scratch because they are much, much cheaper to make on your own, don’t have artificial ingredients plus a lot of those ones here do not taste anything like the originals. I couldn’t find lemon curd for a simple pie recipe this summer, so I made it at home. I’ll never buy it again. Mayo-same thing. For the cost of one egg, one TB of vinegar, one cup of oil and some seasonings like salt, mustard and sugar you can have a cup of the good stuff after 2 mins in the blender.

In the States, I bought Trader Joes crunchy all natural peanut butter (without all of the hydrogenated oils and sugar) but a comparable product here is unbelievably expensive. I can buy 500 gr. of roasted and salted peanuts for less than half the price of a 300 gr. jar of peanut butter. I simply whip the peanuts with a bit of oil in the blender and after 3 mins, I’ve got exactly what I wanted.

Salad dressings-the same. Jamie Oliver has some good ones (albeit a bit greasy, so I usually cut the oil back a bit) as does cooks.com. Got a ranch mix recipe from them which is great-you can premix, store in a jar in the cabinet, then take out and use what you need when you want. You wouldn’t believe how cheap onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, dried parsley and etc. are when you buy from ethnic markets! A 100 gram bag for $2-3 (which is extremely cheap for Norway).

I’ve even seen recipes for homemade ketchup and bbq sauce, too but haven’t tried them.

How to Cook like your grandmother has a killer flour tortillas recipe and since the store bought tortillas here suck-I only make mine from scratch now.

Anyway, enough of my blabbing but if you have some free time have a look around for the above.

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Shawanda Greene November 4, 2009 at 11:54 AM

Wow! Thanks for all the info! Seems like I’m destined to get a slow cooker. I received this blog post in my inbox last night: How to Buy a Slow Cooker or Crock Pot.

I heard about the 365 Crock Pot lady on Frugal Coast2Coast a while back. Now that it looks like I’ll be getting a slow cooker, I’ll have to take a closer look at her blog.

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Courtney Lloyd May 5, 2010 at 7:38 PM

if you have a lot of articles or content on Hubpages, you can really get lots of traffic and in turn you can make lots of money from it.-”:

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