I have declared this month Frugal February, and while the Ninja would laugh at me for thinking our grocery bills are any lower, I’m at least making an effort. I tried to think of ways to make cheaper food without sacrificing taste, healthiness, or much of my whim.
This becomes slightly more difficult when Perpetual Motion Machine and I see baskets of gorgeous, organic plump blackberries and raspberries at the Farmer’s Market. We bought them despite the $14 for three quarts. To make up for that splurge, PMM spun around the market looking adorable and exuding cheer, and was given a week’s worth of free oranges by various vendors. Way to go, kid.
Since the only fish she eats is salmon (and she’ll be happy enough to eat the whole salmon, if given the opportunity), I can’t scrap that for something cheaper. I am also reluctant to trade organic chicken and meat for the non-organic kind. I’ve mostly given up worrying about chemicals in me, but the idea of putting chemicals, antibiotics, etc. in my daughter’s 33lb body revolts me. Instead, we’re going to try to add at least one extra vegetarian meal a week- aiming for at least 2. Legumes are inexpensive, full of protein and fiber, and soak in all kinds of flavors exceptionally well. It’s also more environmentally responsible to eat less meat, so there’s not much of a down-side to this plan.
This week we had a veggie lasagna and an Indian style black-eyed pea dish. We’re still unrepentant omnivorous spenders, though- at the market I also found an organic meat farm from which I purchased thick cut bacon to sprinkle over the risotto I intended for Saturday (but which will be on next week’s menu).
Week of February 5:
Sunday: Tom yum chicken (emphasis on ‘yum’)
Monday: Sneaky spinach burgers, yam ‘fries’, and fruit salad
Tuesday: Grilled veggie lasagna
Wednesday: Indian black-eyed peas & brown rice
Friday: Seafood sort-of scampi
Saturday: Farro risotto with grilled butternut squash and bacon- oops, no time! leftovers & sandwiches instead.
Sunday we usually had salmon, but we went to a different Farmer’s Market that our salmon vendor doesn’t attend. Instead, we stumbled upon a source for Kaffir limes and leaves! This won’t mean much to anyone who has never tried to make Tom Yum, but the Thai soup just isn’t quite right with standard American limes, and the Kaffir leaves are almost impossible to find at stores. Now that I have a hook-up, though, we’re going to have this soup more often.
The Ninja specially requested burgers this week, which sounded like a great plan. I usually buy extremely lean ground beef, but for burgers it’s important to use enough fat for the burgers to hold together and not stick to the grill. Either add some oil to the mix, or use 85% lean meat. I chop about 2 cups of spinach into very fine pieces and mix it- and pepper, garlic powder, and Montreal steak seasoning into a pound of beef. This means we all get some greens with our burgers. For the yam fries, I cut a bunch of yams into very thin spears (the thinner they are, the faster they cook) and heated a large skillet with enough oil to coat the pan. Mixing the spears into the oil, I cook on a low heat, stirring/flipping occasionally until they’re soft, and then up the heat to get a carmelized char on the outside. Add salt and pepper, and they’re great. Not as crispy as deep fried, but not as terrible for you either.
Tuesday: This lasagna is so good, and someone asked me for the recipe, so I’ll post it separately in full detail. It’s low-fat, as lasagna goes, and while she doesn’t eat the bell peppers, PMM eats the rest of it (eggplant and zucchini included).
Wednesday I cooked black eyed peas from my curry cookbook. I’ve made this recipe before- the details are here. This time it came out a little too spicy for PMM, so I rinsed hers, which worked perfectly. I’ve never seen a kid eat so many black-eyed peas, and so happily.
Thursday is swimming day for PMM and the Ninja, and I was planning to spend the afternoon doing something fun, like browsing Barnes and Noble for books on which to spend our Christmas gift cards. But I stayed at work late instead. Regardless, Thursday is going to be designated weekly leftover night because leftovers are easy and need to get eaten eventually.
For Friday, I wanted to use some frozen shrimp and scallops we had. In a large skillet I melted the last tblsp or so of herb butter (butter mixed with fresh herbs) from last week’s chicken and added about 2 tblsp of garlic and olive paste. It’s basically pureed garlic and oil topped with a tapenade; a good substitute would be tapenade, with a tsp or so of minced or smooshed garlic. I made angel hair pasta- against all rational explanation, I believe angel hair tastes better. About 10 minutes before dinner I added the thawed shrimp and scallops to the butter/garlic/olive pan and cooked until the shrimp started to look pink around the edges- then I flipped everything over and cooked another 3 minutes. To serve I mixed the pasta with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic salt, and grated parmesan/romano cheese and topped it with the shrimp. It’s not the most balanced meal I’ve ever made, but sometimes I just want pasta, without the sauce or side of veggies.