Our New Adventure this year is slowly moving into reducing our foot print even more and cutting cost where we can. Because of where we live it makes recycling on a big scale impossible but there are several things we can do just in our own home so we are getting started on that.
I wanted to share some of the information that I have found and then will let everyone know how things are going as we move along.
First place to cut money was our food budget. There has been a TON of garbage being generated just through packaging alone and the cost was getting out of control. Due to the area we live in, our grocery bill was about 800 dollars a month. Now mind you that is with me cooking all of our meals. Unfortunately in this country, eating healthy cost more than eating all of your meals out of a box. Fresh fruits and veggies are very expensive and heaven help you if you want to eat organic.
So here we go..baby steps. My first move was at the beginning of the school year, we bought, each girl a thermos, a sandwich holder and a washable lunch bag so that has saved a bit right there. No sandwich packing and no juice boxes. We buy the cans of Juicy Juicy, 100% juice, you can use the can as you would an old coffee can or recycle it AND it is remarkably cheaper than the boxes. We mix our juice with mineral water to give it a bit of a fizz and it makes it last longer.
Frozen juice is even cheaper, however it is really hard to find one that is not packed full of sugars.
The next thing I started looking into was how to cut down on our meat eating, just for cost reasons and that alone, since we all love a good steak. However the cost of meat is outrageous now AND lets be honest, it is really not good for you for the most part. We buy our chicken hormone free, we eat very very little pork (the meds that they shoot them up with are making people sicker and sicker every year) and we try to limit our beef to about three times a month or so. We DO eat buffalo when I can find it, it is not much more expensive than beef, but is way better for you.
You can order it online, it is a tiny bit pricey, however if you cut cost in all of the other places that I am about to share with you, then you can more than afford it and still come out ahead.
So the number one way to cut back on meat...eat ethnic food. Most places on this planet do not eat a 1/4 pound of meat per person per meal. If we Americans put a proper portion of meat on a plate for a typical American meal we would feel cheated and our heads would talk us out of being full. HOWEVER, if you move outside of your box and start eating different foods, then you can feel full and you are trying something different.
Last week I bought one pack of boneless, skinless chicken thighs for 3 dollars. It had six thighs in it. I used two one night to make a Middle Eastern dinner. Then the next night stuffed the last four for our dinner.
Middle Eastern food is a wonderful way to cut back on meat and it satisfies you because it is packed with vitamins so, you walk away from a meal, not feeling full to the point of overstuffed but you feel good because your body has all it needs. I will share our favorites in a moment as they are all easy to make.
However, I must share the name of one wonder food right here and now. Tahini...if you have not heard of it, you should really find it and try it. Now it does cost about 5 bucks for a jar HOWEVER...one jar will last us up to a week and we eat it every single day. If you are going to eat it every now and then, it will last a long time. Most recipes only call for a few teaspoons or tablespoons at a time.
It is basically ground sesame seeds and water. (We love labels with two ingredients). It is one of the main ingredients of hummus. We do eat a lot of hummus but we use tahini like peanut butter as well. I mix, 2 tablespoons of tahini with one tablespoon of honey and one teaspoon of cinnamon. YUM...we eat it on toast in the morning, waffles, with apples. It is really good...and here is the kicker...it has NINE grams of protein in one serving. No bad fats and no sodium. It is high in calories and good fats and packed with iron as well, so it is a good food to start off your morning with. Like I said you only use a bit of it and the recipe above makes a spread for four or five servings on toast or waffles.
So you will have to initially drop some cash on the tahini. If you don't use or have a good olive oil, that will cost you upfront also, but if you leave out two days worth of meat it will pay for both of those ingredients in one grocery trip.
Of course the no brainer for a small amount of meat is oriental food. Fried rice, stir fry and more than I can list, all call for only a small amount of meat to be cooked in them and you fill up on rice and veggies. You can also use good amounts of Tofu when you are cooking Oriental and it is fine. We use the soy meat that comes in a sausage tube for eggrolls and you cannot tell a difference. We use Tofu in soups, when you are using it in fried rice or stir fry, just get the extra firm kind and sauté it for a few minutes in sesame oil and your favorite oriental seasonings, it is really good.
I love to cook and all four of us love to eat, my three people's favorite question is "what's for dinner". The girls would most likely eat whatever but I have spoiled my husband and it if did not taste good he would not eat it. He is wary of "health foods" as he is afraid of them not having taste but he has loved every one of the dinners that I am going to share with you.
I will try and share a recipe a day to give you an idea of what we are eating. I can tell you that in the past three weeks of trying this and a few other things I have dropped our grocery bill down to about 120 dollar a week so far. There are still several other things that we are going to try. I will share as we go.
So finally our dinner last night
Steak strips with yogurt sauce
One boneless sirloin steak
Half a sweet onion cut in thin strips
two cloves garlic crushed
the juice from half of a lemon
two tablespoons of olive oil
small amounts of
Curry to taste (we like a lot)
In a heavy bottomed skillet, add olive oil and get good and hot. You want the meat to sear when it hits the pan.
While waiting for the skillet to get hot cut the steak into thin strips going against the grain.
Once the skillet is hot, add the onion first so it starts to caramelize. When the onions are clear add the meat, it will only take about five minutes for it cook. Add in meat and the rest of the spices and stir to keep from burning. It is done when it is well browned and onions are caramelized.
You should do the meat last as it is the fastest and you want it warm.
The yogurt sauce
About a cup of yogurt
3 cloves of garlic crushed
the juice from half a lemon
sea salt to taste
about 1/4 cup of cucumber thinly sliced (paper thin) and then cut
When the meat is done you lay it on a warm pita, add some lettuce if you wish and then drizzle on the yogurt sauce. Eat with sides of hummus and tabouli
Half a bag of dried chick peas
two cups chicken stock
one cup water
two teaspoons garlic powder
two teaspoons onion powder
three teaspoons parsley
two teaspoons red pepper
two teaspoons lemon peel
Once cooked you will need
All of the above spices plus
juice from half a lemon
two tablespoons of tahini
All of the spices are a guess as you should work with what you and your family will like. I probably used more garlic than that. ;)
You need to start the chick peas about a day before you want hummus. You can get chick peas in the can but they are loaded with sodium and lack flavor to me. This way you are cutting the sodium, the trash foot print and you are cooking flavor into your peas.
The night before soak half a bag of chick peas in water. Put them in pan and cover completely, then add about two more cups. They will soak up a ton of water. I soak mine for a full 24 hours and it cuts the cook time.
Once they are done soaking pour off water and rinse well. Add back into put and add in your cup of water, two cups of chicken stock and all of your seasonings.
Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce to simmer. Cook until you have only about a 1/3 cup liquid remaining and the chick peas are soft enough to eat and blend.
In a blender mix, two cups of chickpeas, two tablespoons of tahini, crushed garlic, juice from your lemon. Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Put on large dish, drizzle with good olive oil and sea salt. Now you can use this as a dip for your pita. It is LOADED with protein and very filling. It will last for five days in the fridge and up to two months in the freezer. You can use it as a spread on sandwiches instead of mayo as well.
Now tabouli is a salad and it is traditionally made with parsley, as parsley will not wilt in the hot temperatures. We have used all kinds of dark leaf veggies in there and like them all. Our favorite is spinach.
You will need
1 cup bulgur wheat
1 1/2 ts sea salt
1 1/2 cups of water
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 lemon juice
1 to 2 cups Parsley, Spinach or other green
1 cup diced tomato (or more)
1 cup diced cucumber
1 cup sweet onion, purple onion or we use leek
In a large pot bring water and salt to a roiling boil. Take off of heat and stir in bulgur wheat, cover immediately with tin foil and set aside for one hour.
Cut all of your veggies.
When the wheat as absorbed all of the water and cooled mix in your veggies with the olive oil and lemon juice. Serve chilled.
This can be eaten as a salad or with pita.