So I have been obsessed lately with the blog www.frugalwoods.com and for good reason. She is sweet and funny and very insightful. Mr. and Mrs. FG live in rural Vermont on their homestead with Babywoods and Frugal Hound. And thought their life is totally different than mine, I am entirely jealous. I am definitely a city girl, but I read the blog and all I want is to move to a homestead in the middle of nowhere. Now, I’d probably go stir crazy after a few weeks, but in my head I would LOVE it.
You guys, I have a new favorite snack, or meal, let’s just call it a food choice. Take some rotisserie chicken, shred it up, smash up an avocado with it, and serve atop a cracker of your choice (my favorite are La Panzanella’s Garlic flavored crackers). And I’m obsessed. Not only is it healthy (protein, healthy fats) it’s filling and fairly inexpensive. Now, I realize that you can’t get avocados easily everywhere and often they aren’t cheap. But if you shop seasonally you can get them for thirty cents a piece sometimes. Buy all the avocados. Seriously.
This is so delicious. Let me explain: how many of you like chicken salad or tuna salad with mayo? It’s the same concept, but using avocados (good fat) instead of mayo (less than ideal fat). And I PROMISE it’s delicious! Allergic to avocados? Ok you’ve got me there, best not to try this. Vegetarian? Smash up a half an avocado with some chick peas, equally delicious and filling!
See, I try to eat 4 or 5 times a day. I don’t eat a lot at each sitting, just something small so I never get especially hungry. This prevents me from over eating and getting full (because I LOATHE feeling full. Weird, I know.) I snack, all day long. But I do sit down for almost regular size meals at least three times a day. If it were really up to me, I’d have a small breakfast, medium snack around 11am, another medium snack around 2pm, light snack around 4 or 5pm, and dinner by 7pm. I realize that’s a lot of eating for some people, but again, it’s not a big meal. We are talking less than a cup of food, sometimes less than half a cup of food. (I am actually eating my smashed avocado and chicken combo right now, at 4:15pm!)
Speaking of food, whilst out on deployment for work, we get lunch catered daily (I think I’ve mentioned this before). I mention this because today we had sandwiches delivered. I love sandwiches. I mean, it’s basically bread with toppings. Drool. But fairly recently I have discovered that not all lunch meat is created equal, and most additional toppings don’t sit well with my delicate Crohn’s riddled body. So I don’t eat many sandwiches, unless I know exactly what is in them. So while I moaned and groaned over my inability to partake in delicious looking sandwiches, I noticed two jugs of tea. One marked as sweet tea (we are in the midwest after all) and the other unsweetened. I had a glass jar which contained lemonade until about 30 minutes ago, so in went some unsweetened iced tea and bam! Free, delicious tea for the whole afternoon. I will of course be adding ice as it’s a balmy 87 degrees here with 70% humidity (bleh).
But I digress, yet again. Go have a snack guys, you’re probably hungry. And consider adding avocado to some
I don’t always win. Especially when it comes to being frugal. I have my moments where I fall off the proverbial wagon and royally f*ck up. And that’s ok. We all make mistakes.
However, I was super pleased with myself yesterday as I flew cross country for work. I packed bagel chips, goat cheese, and olives for my trip. Oh, and a bagel with shmear to eat as breakfast. See, my flight took off around 6am and for those who don’t know me I am most definitely NOT a morning person. I ate my bagel shortly after takeoff and enjoyed free tea and biscuits from the airline. I landed in MSP (Minneapolis St. Paul) and had two hours to spare. My company reimburses my expenses that occur during my time, so I quickly stopped to pick up LARGE cold brew coffee (in order to stay awake) for a whopping $2.50 and I have never loved anything more. It wasn’t fabulous, but I REALLY needed coffee.
Then on to my next short flight and I landed in my destination (can’t tell ya where that is, we are working on an active case.)
I landed 30 minutes before my coworkers were due to arrive back at the hotel. So I got all checked in (had my very own fancy king size room for the night) and went to the grocery store with my colleagues. I love that we have mini fridges so I can store snacks and other things while away at work. We are allotted money to eat out every night but I still hate waiting to be reimbursed. Our breakfast is at the hotel daily and our lunch is catered.
You know what I did today? I picked 6 lbs of strawberries. Aren’t they pretty? And it cost me all of $14 (which for those keeping score at home is WAY cheap! Especially since these are the famous Hood Strawberries, only available for a few short weeks each year. Best. Strawberries. Ever.)
Any who, I went to Sauvie Island, my fave, and enjoyed an hour or so of pleasant berry picking. I got a little dirty and a little wet (because it rained, in Oregon, shocker) and it was super cheap! They do offer cardboard baskets you can fill, but I came prepared with my own tupperware for my pickings. They weight it before you go out into the fields, explain their new system of flags (super clever btw guys!) and off you go! I plopped my tupperware and backpack in one of their big wheeled wagons and off I went!
This is something I enjoy doing at least once a year. It’s a beautiful piece of land, always a lovely time, and I walk away with a ton of fruit. Usually I make jam, but since I already made a batch this year, I decided to freeze these berries. Roomie and I make smoothies regularly, and now we won’t have to buy frozen berries for probably a good 6 months, maybe even a year. I definitely call that a win!
I make stock (of the chicken and vegetable variety) all the time. Like, at least once a week. Why you ask? For a number of reasons.
1) iI’s super good for you. The nutrients you can get from drinking stock are fantastic, and easier to absorb. I personally have a hard time getting proper nutrition (thanks Crohns!) So I try to drink a cup of broth daily.
2) It’s way tastier than anything store bought. Store bought stock is traditionally a faint yellow color, where my stock is a deep brown. It’s so beautiful! And tasty, so much more tasty.
3) It’s inexpensive. To buy the amount of stock I can produce in my crock pot would cost me about $10, on the low estimate. However, it costs me less than a dollar. I have the chicken bones anyway, as I roasted the chicken and saved the bones, and the veggie scraps are from whatever we have eaten and produced through the week. Usually a few carrots, celery stalks, and half an onion or so. I use stock to cook with all the time (soup, rice, risotto, meat dishes, pasta, everything) so I would spend a small fortune on stock if I didn’t make it myself. If I save minimum ten bucks a week, that’s over five hundred bucks a year. That’s a nice chunk of change!
So really, if you aren’t making stock, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s beyond easy (put all ingredients in the crock pot, cover with water, and cook for 24 hours. Leave it alone, it’ll take care of yourself).
After it’s all cooked, I use tongs to pick out the large pieces, and then strain the stock (don’t want tiny little bits of bone floating around in there, do you?) Then I use a ladle and my canning funnel to put fill some jars, let them cool at room temp on the counter, and put in the fridge. You can also freeze it. I like to fill ice cube molds and freeze a few batches as it keeps longer that way. If I don’t have a plan to use it within a week, I will definitely freeze it.
Tonight I knew I was going to make posole for dinner (chicken and hominy soup) so I didn’t freeze it. Simply put in jars for a few hours and it went into my soup this evening. I think there are two remaining pint jars in the fridge for me to drink throughout the week. Yum! (What, am I the only one who drinks chicken stock from a mug? I really recommend it, give it a try!)
I had a plan. I looked up the USDA guidelines for spending, it’s pretty handy actually. It tells you based on how many people are in your household and their ages, how much you should be spending on groceries for a week. My number hovers right around $50. There are different categories (super frugal, penny pinching, somewhat safe etc.) So you can decide just which bracket is most appropriate for you and your situation.
My roommate and I share some food expenses, in that we both assume the other is welcome to anything we buy. The exception being if I purchase something specific for a recipe, she won’t use it, and vice versa. But general things like milk, eggs, cheese, butter, bread, jam, fruit, is free to be shared. The nice thing is we both tend to buy similar things anyway, and so rarely do we create much waste (and rarely do we run out of food). I really couldn’t ask for a better system.
Any who I digress, I try to set my food budget at $50-$60 a week, and up to $20-$30 for eating out and the like (coffee with friends, snack out, ice cream, dessert etc) But this week I totally threw the budget out the window (unintentionally). I stocked up on a few things we were out of, and refilled the pantry and fridge with some things we were missing. I also bought a few random ingredients to make a chicken and hominy soup that were out of the scope of normal. I also got a few things for my upcoming work trip out of state. Airplane food! Thus preventing me from buying food on the plane or in the airport. Thus saving me money.
So what exactly did I buy? I went to WinCo, New Seasons, and Fred Meyer.
First I went to WinCo. If you haven’t been, go, go now. It’s awesome. It’s always cheaper than any conventional grocery store. They have a huge bulk section and great prices. You pack your own bags and only pay with cash or debit card. I don’t usually buy fresh produce there, but today I needed a few products that I knew I could find only there. They have a good selection of peppers and Mexican products as there is a large hispanic population in the area. Here’s what I got:
2 cans of hominy
1 poblano pepper
1 lb tomatillos
1 bunch cilantro
yukon gold potatoes
funyuns (don’t judge me)
boxed mac n cheese
total cost: $42
Then I went to New Seasons. I needed cold brew and a whole roasted chicken. But rarely do I make it out of that store with only the 2 items on my list, so…..
1 jar cold brew coffee
1 whole chicken
goat’s milk gouda
grapefruit beer (only available during the summer and a special treat that I absolutely adore)
2 jars peach lemonade (on sale, I use it in my smoothies)
1 box of bruschetta crackers
total cost: $42 (well balls, had I just bought the chicken and cold brew it would have been under $20)
Then I had it in my mind that I would get some smoked salmon for tapas. Coincidentally, roommate texted asking me if I might be able to pick up her granola for her morning yogurt. So, off to Fred Meyer I went!
total cost: $9
So I think that puts my grand total for everything just around $103 for the week. absolutely not where I had hoped it would be. I was hoping to land squarely around the $60 mark but that went out the window (oh and I forgot to include the $10 or so I spent at Trader Joe’s yesterday on cereal, milk and something else, which i cannot remember)
So I kinda blew it for the week. Which is especially unfortunately as next week I will be traveling for work and won’t really be in the position to buy groceries. We get breakfast at the hotel during work trips, and lunch is catered daily. We are given a $20 allowance for dinner daily, which I use to buy dinner and lunch for the next day. We get reimbursed afterwards so I try to not go overboard. But it would be a lot easier if we had access to a kitchen and fridge to store everything. luckily there is a Whole Foods in town so I can find foods that agree with me.
That’s all for now. I have the chicken bones and veggies in the crockpot making stock for my soup tomorrow. Frugal win!