Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Adventures in Eating Cheap

...especially now that we're facing our first snowstorm.

The garden has continued to fitfully produce. I cannot remember the last time in late October that I was still picking beans! The chard loves this cooler weather, and has just burst into leaf. I planted "City Lights," which comes in several vivid colors, besides just green.

This is chard -- crunchy in salads, but holds up to scrambled eggs and stirfry, too
It will be interesting to see if it can handle the cold. I've heard of it lasting through the winter...maybe we'll have chard on our Thanksgiving table!

We need greens not only for ourselves, but the chickens. Vegetables and fruit help them kick out those delicious eggs, and keeps their feathers and eyes bright and healthy. I can't pick lettuce for them anymore...but cabbage is still available, as are peppers and cucumbers. (The latter are 48 cents each at our local Sprouts.) The star of the show, however, has been pumpkin -- especially the carved versions our neighbors and friends are glad to trade now for a dozen eggs. Our chickies LOVE pumpkin, and will reduce it to a pecked shell in just a day.
    Neighbors (and friends) down the street have rabbits in their backyard, and an understanding with a local market to pick up discards. They often generously share with us -- and the chickies. (And yes, some of those goodies end up in my soup pot, as well. A long simmer does wonders.)

I still use some of the same tricks I've mentioned before, but have been employing a few others, lately:

*The election board -- where the Brick and I have been opening envelopes and checking signatures for the past few weeks -- has been chockfull of snacks, set out to encourage its tired staff. (We were putting in 11-plus hours on Election Day -- the Brick didn't get home until after midnight.) I am not a big fan of cookies, but the Brick is. Instead of eating them all week, I've been taking my share of the goodies, and stashing them away, instead. I save calories, and the Brick gets something special with his afternoon coffee.
    They also had box lunches for supper last night...with plenty of leftover boxes after everyone had eaten their fill. We weren't the only ones keeping what we couldn't eat (like half of our very substantial sandwiches, plus that ubiquitous cookie), and even were able to get an extra.
     That extra box made for a delicious -- and fast -- supper tonight, along with a bowl of clam chowder. It was much welcome; our last envelopes were filed around 5 p.m., and we were both exhausted. Plus it was gray outside. And raining. And dreary.
    Which brings up another savings:

*Eat only half. If you're at a restaurant, ask for a take-home container -- and stash half your entree or sandwich right away, before you have a chance to eat. (Haven't you been wanting to cut back and lose a little weight, anyways?) Fill up with veggies or fruit, instead -- or even two cups of coffee, instead of just one. It feels strange, at first, but will soon become habit. That doggie bag will make lunch...or its contents can be supplemented with rice, noodles or potatoes for your next supper.

*Make your meat go further. A roast of beef made for good eating Sunday, then was sliced thin for sandwiches and hot beef sandwiches...which used up the leftover gravy. Marked down ($3.59 pound in the discount bin), it's made three good meals -- and will do at least three more. In other words, $12.50 divided by 6 will make a very reasonable $2.08 for both of us per meal. (And we're eating MEAT.)

*Vary your meat when it doesn't matter. Burgers can be made from ground turkey, beef, pork or chicken. So why not get whatever's cheapest...or most nutritious?
     Another possibility is Sloppy Joes, a golden opportunity to Add Stuff. (This recipe is a good one, and makes the sandwich below.) Get away with less meat, by mixing in rice, beans, chopped onion and vegetables. (Makes them healthier, too, particularly if your family are not veggie-lovers. Our dogs do not like carrots -- but will snap them up, mixed in with Joes.)
     Fast, delicious -- and relatively painless when served on discount buns. (Or make your own rolls.)

This one...

...not this one.
That, at least to me, is way better than serving turkey gizzards for dinner,

*Using what we've got. The gracious Powers That Be decimated the Brick's first retirement check by holding back two months' worth of insurance premiums. Fortunately, we've got plenty of canned goods and frozen stuff, augmented by fresh elk (thanks to Daughter #2's partner Keith) and some other things found on sale. Relying on these items, as well as cooking at home, will keep our bills paid this month. (I've already got nearly all the Christmas presents, as well -- and 75% off Halloween candy will top off the Christmas stockings.)

*Every bit counts. Our leftover beef will go in the soup pot, along with diced potatoes, snagged at $1.49 for a ten-pound bag from a sale last month. (The rest will appear as baked potatoes -- cooked with a slice of bacon or a handful of cheese in the squeezed middle -- or mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving.) I'll add a carrot or two (50 cents/lb) and the rest of the chard -- plus a beef bouillon cube or a little mushroom soup for heft. The result will make at least two meals, with leftovers for the dogs. Delicious.
     (My Holiday Goodies blog has a number of recipes for soup -- and other budget-savers.) 

I'm already looking forward to tomorrow morning's breakfast, of fresh scrambled eggs and hash browns, a little cheese -- slathered inside a warm tortilla.

     We can stay home tomorrow in a snug house...and enjoy it. No more elections! 

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