Monday, May 2, 2011
Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is.
We spend a lot of money on groceries.
Everyone says that eating healthy really costs more, because, well, it does. Buying local free range organically and vegetarian fed chicken eggs for $5/dozen is simply more expensive than... well, I don't know. How much are the battery house torture chamber eggs? I really have no idea, but I'm guessing it's a lot less than $5. Eating gluten free doesn't help matters either. Although I had one little success with bread, I'm no where near depending on myself completely, and my current loaf of choice is nearly $6. Add organic dairy, fruits, and veggies to the list, and oh! Don't forget Scott's 6-pack of micro brews and it's easy to see how groceries top our list of expenses.
We have been well aware of this for quite some time, but have decided it's worth it. It's just worth it. Some people must have expensive brand name jeans or shoes. Some people like to always drive a new car. Others put a lot of money toward their hobbies or collections. It all boils down to priority. And whatever your priority is- good on you. You have to live for what makes you happy. If you're really lucky, and maybe you are- you can have it all. We're doing okay, but we're not that lucky- we have to choose.
Eating well makes us happy. We choose food.
(It works out that eating healthy doubles as my hobby since I love to cook the healthy food we buy. See? I'm doubling up- that certainly must save money!)
That said, we do have a wedding coming up and I have been trying not to allow the grocery bill to get any more out of hand. This means going to food that will go far. When I plan my meals at the beginning of the week, I always start with what I have on hand. On Sunday, my goal was also to see how far I could make every meal stretch. How could I use the same ingredients in several meals?
I started with a can of black beans sitting at attention in the pantry. I decided that spicy black beans would be a good place to start. I'd need to buy a red and yellow pepper- I put those on the Trader Joe's list- they are always cheapest there. I already had onions, of course, and there was already a bag of frozen corn in the freezer. I'd buy a couple Romas and we'd be good to go. Salsa, sour cream, and tortilla chips are all staples for us, so we'd have all the needed accompaniments. The best news was that I knew there would be leftover beans. I already decided how to use them and that would be for breakfast cuddled inside a nice thin omelet. They could stand in place of that expensive GF bread! My guess was that I'd have enough leftover for 2 days worth of breakfasts for Scott and me.
I knew I wouldn't need 2 entire peppers in my black beans, so I thought of how else I could use them. I decided I could caramelize them with a bigger onion than I needed for the beans, then I could use some of those to top a pizza since I had a GF crust in the freezer I wanted to use up so I can make my own. (Not a huge fan of what I bought, but it was a 2 pack...) and I'd use the rest to make a jarred pasta sauce more interesting. I had a jar of Organicville sauce I'd bought for back up when it was on sale. (Making your own is super easy, and cheaper, but come on, we all need a jarred sauce in the pantry!) I also had a free bag of corn pasta to use from the beverage manager at Maggiano's. He's super sweet and we had a long GF conversation when I was in last week. He gave me a bag to try. How nice was that?
I now had 3 dinners and 2 breakfasts going from the inspiration of a $1.20 can of beans.
Time to cook. I chopped a large yellow onion and both peppers and got them started with some evoo, salt, and pepper. I cooked them low and slow until they were brown and gorgeous. I removed a little more than half to use for the pizza and for the sauce. I added a handful of frozen corn. The water from the ice, along with a few TBSP from my glass, deglazed the pan perfectly. I added a bay leaf. I let the corn cook for a few minutes, then added some spice. Obviously, I love Penzey's, but these exact spices aren't necessary. I threw in two Chili Piquin peppers- tiny little dried peppers that pack a huge heat punch, a few shakes of Adobo powder, some Ancho Chile Powder, a little Chipotle Powder, and why not? Some of their Arizona Dreaming blend... it's so good... It's got several spices creating its perfection, but cumin, oregano, and lemon stand out. I added a bit of this and a bit of that until I liked the balance. If you're not lucky enough to live near a Penzey's and don't have time for their awesome mail order, just use some cumin, chile powder, and chopped jarred jalapenos. I let the spices toast and when it started to get a little dry, I added the two chopped Roma tomatoes and the black beans and just let it simmer for a bit while I waited for Scott to get home from playing basketball.
When it was time to eat, I piled a little of the beans on my plate, put a few chips on the side with some salsa and sour cream. I did buy a treat at the store... avocados were on sale, and they are so good and so good for you... I just couldn't resist. I cubed it up right in the skin and flaked it on to our plates. It would be perfect on the eggs too.
I dug in and yummm... cheap can be so good. The best part was that there was enough leftover for 4 small omelets, and I also had the rest of the onions and peppers in the fridge waiting for their moment. I don't think our grocery bill is declining greatly any time soon, but it is oddly satisfying to know how far I could stretch a can of beans, an onion, and 2 bell peppers. Maybe one day I'll eat this well AND buy clothes that aren't on the Target clearance rack. Until then, I choose food.