Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Art Of Stretching The Grocery Budget

Yes I know....it's been a while...I'm sorry, I have so much I want to share with you but I hadn't gotten around to writing any posts! 

My crazy wedding season has ended (whew!) but I'm still working full time planning next year's weddings as well as lots of holiday parties and corporate events. 

 

Plus, in my 'spare time' (such as it is) I managed to stack two cords of wood and put the garden to bed. 


There's never a shortage of things that need to be done around my house, that's for sure. I'm ready for a little break from the garden for a while...my body needs a rest! 


I  cut back all the herb boxes right before the first hard frost, which was a darned shame as they were still so robust. 

 
I hung some to dry in the stairwell to the lower level, on the unused coat rack.


Others are in water on the dining room windowsill, allowing me some fresh herbs for another little while, I hope. 

And still others were made into garlic herb butter, and in the freezer for winter use. 


We dine well around here, but we do it on a tight budget....and I'm really proud of the meals I produce on my limited grocery budget!


Yes, you certainly did notice fresh roses on my dining room table! Those are from my sweetie for our anniversary, along with lovely chocolates and a beautiful serving tray - the man sure knows his way to my heart! 


I've been going off the mountain and doing my grocery shopping at Aldi for the past few months, after my beautiful daughter introduced me to the magic of Aldi. 

They have absolutely fabulous whole chickens by the way....they usually cost about $6 or less, and have a tremendous amount of meat on them. 

I always roast my chickens using Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken recipe....it is without a doubt the most scrumptious roast chicken, another one of her foolproof recipes! 


That one chicken will produce about ten meals for us. Two dinners on the night of the roast, two lunches for the next day, and the rest of the chicken is stripped from the bone and frozen for future meals. The carcass is also frozen, along with the vegetable scraps, to make homemade broth. 

The broth was used to make this wonderful soup, and I threw in cooked bow-ties left over from another meal. Served with crusty bread it's a perfect cold weather meal. 

I also use it for my amazing Chicken Taco Soup, Creamy Chicken Orzo Soup,  and The Most Amazing Split Pea Soup....not to mention about a billion other home made soups!


I made my Very Best Pot Roast recipe also over the weekend (there it is, ready to pop in the oven), and I have tricks for that also. When my market runs their 'family meal deal' they often feature a chuck roast, which makes the most flavorful pot roast hands down. I immediately cut it in half, and freeze half for another day. 

This half roast made two dinners, plus two lunches, with some left over for another meal. 

The leftovers are currently in the slow cooker becoming Beef Barley Soup, which will make another two dinners, two lunches, and a quart for the freezer. 


Since I'm always stashing bits of food in the freezer, it was time to take everything out, take inventory, and give it a good cleaning and organizing. 

 
The freezers are all full, so we will be eating out of them for a while to make some room for new creations. 

I'm fine with that, there's lots of good stuff in there! 

I cleaned out the fridge while I was at it, again to take inventory and toss anything that might be out of date. 

I seriously hate having to toss any food, it's so darned expensive! 


Last night's dinner was out of the fridge and freezer, and absolutely delicious. 

I had a partial head of romaine lettuce that needed to be used, and some leftover Caesar dressing. 

There was also a half bag of tortellini and a little container of my Summer Garden Bolognese in the freezer, and two herbed biscuits. 

Bingo....perfect meal. Caesar Salad and Tortellini Bolognese. Served with a lovely red blend, it was heavenly. 

Obviously the fact that Sweetie and I each have a small vegetable garden is super helpful to stretch the grocery budget when the garden is producing. But it's equally as important to preserve that bounty as it comes out of the garden, to help keep our grocery bills down for the long winter months. Yes, it's a lot of work....but I have slashed my grocery bill down to about $120 per month as an average (thank you Aldi!!), which is such a huge savings from what I used to spend. My biggest tip? Stay out of the store! Look in your freezer/pantry/fridge and see what needs to be used! 

What are your favorite tips for stretching the grocery budget? 

37 comments:

  1. You should be needing to rest some with your schedule. Mercy, even Wonder Woman should have to sometimes and you have her beat coming and going! Those herbs do look healthy for late harvesting. I cut a lot and brought in and put in glasses and vases but they didn't last too long before going limp. Next year I'll hang them to dry like you did. For a week I had vases of large dill flower heads as pretty as any florist flower and then they started drooping, even with daily changes of water. But oh my did my house smell good! I do the same thing with roast chickens but with Pat Conroy's recipe. I'll have to compare his to Ina's but I've never had an Ina recipe to fail so bound to be good. I come nowhere near your success with a grocery budget so must study your way better. Even without the large vegetable garden that you have I ought to be able to do better. Keep on inspiring us, and for heaven's sake, get some well-deserved rest!

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    1. My dill didn't do well at all this year, Dewena - isn't that weird? It never really got large enough to even use. So strange, in other years it always did fantastic - and I bet your house sure did smell great with those dill flowers indoors! It's so pretty when it flowers!! Ok I'm going to have to look up Pat Conroy's recipe for roast chicken now....you've got me curious!

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  2. Debbie, you have my utmost respect girl! You work hard and benefit from it daily. Thanks for sharing your great ideas and keep them coming!

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    1. That's the ticket, Stacey - I work really hard in spring/summer/fall so that I can eat well all winter long!! It's a wonderful feeling knowing that what's on our table during a snowstorm was something I grew from seed, starting the seeds the previous winter.

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  3. I do many of the same things you do. I save veggie scraps and chicken bones, etc. I don't have a big enough garden to can though.

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    1. I can in small batches, Penny. I canned a bunch of little jars of zucchini relish this year, as last year was the first year I tried it and we absolutely loved it! The pickles I make are refrigerator pickles, not canned, but I did make about 50 jars this year I would guess....nuts! Most of the stuff I freeze....I have a stand up freezer in the garage and it's stuffed solid. I also have the freezer in the kitchen, and another downstairs. The one downstairs is horrible though, the only thing I can keep in there are breads. Plus Sweetie has 2 freezers at his house....and they are ALL full at this point!

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  4. I'm lucky to have an Aldi a mile down the road. I was there yesterday and thinking how wonderful that it saves me so much. Like you I can make a chicken I buy there go a long way. I have individual servings of soup in the freezer for the cold days ahead. xo Laura

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    1. Oh that's really fortunate, Laura - I have to drive to a town about 35 minutes away to go to Aldi....but I just go once a month, so it's not too bad. Gets me off the mountain top!!

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  5. Wow, you're a master of gardening and preserving the bounty! I'm in an apartment and herbs are about the max here. I do love reading how you create so many options from 1 major meal. You could be the soup Nazi from Seinfeld! 😉😅😂🤣

    Please continue to share!
    xo
    Pat

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    1. I could be, Pat, that's true!! We love soup, and it's since we have such a long winter up here I make it often. I always make a big pot so we have leftovers for the fridge, and I love experimenting with new soup recipes. I'm fortunate that Sweetie loves my experiments - in all the years we've been together he says I have only had 2 failed experiments!!

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  6. Deb you are so organized and all ready for meal right out of your freezer and from your own garden too. Amazing! I bet you do save tons of money doing this. Everything sounds so delish. Glad the wedding season has calmed down and you have a little more breathing space. Hope the fur babies are good too. Winter is here for us too early. We are having January temps in November. Should be in the 50's here and it has only been in the 20's. I think we are in for a long winter. Have a great day.
    Hugs,
    Kris

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    1. Same here, Kris - January temps in November! It was 12 when I woke this morning but the 'real feel' was negative 5!! I did NOT want to crawl out of my cozy bed! The pups are good, they don't love going out to do their business in this weather but at least they are back in quickly, to get their cookie and lay in front of the fire!

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  7. You do so well with what you grow in your gardens! My friend, you work too hard. Have you considered (I know you probably have) opening your own event planning business? You could work from home, be able to deduct a portion of your bills, and not have all the strain of going back and forth.
    Brenda

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    1. My colleague was trying to talk me into that, and another person tried to get me to join him in his event planning business, but I like the security of a regular weekly paycheck. I think I'd be more stressed if I was worrying about bookings on my own....remember, it's just me to pay all my bills. And I do love my job, it's just sooooo busy....which is also a good thing, it means job security!

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  8. Hi Debbie

    I'm going to get Ina's recipe. We live roast chicken. You had a wonderful harvest this year. I d6like to throw food away either. Luckily for us what gets thrown away is condiments which I don't keep around anymore.

    Enjoy the fruits if your labor

    Cindy

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    1. It pains me to throw away food, Cindy! You can google Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken and find the recipe online....it's absolutely foolproof! However, I do use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp to make sure it's cooked thoroughly, that's the only difference. And I don't always have fennel in house, so I often leave that out!

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  9. This is always one of my favorite posts of yours....when you finish up the harvest and have all that beautiful colorful bounty laying out on the counter!! I love that picture of the herbs in the glasses on the window sill....you should crop that and enlarge it, frame it, and hang it up to enjoy on a cold frosty winter's day to remind yourself of the growing season! all the food pictures look delicious too. You do deserve a rest, its that time of year. However, by March or so, I know you will be eager to get those seeds planted and going!!--even if it's inside and under the lights. LOL Love the post, thanks for sharing with us. And STAY WARM my friend!!!! Fireplaces and blankets, fireplaces and blankets......are your friends. LOL

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    1. Last year I started the first seeds on Valentine's Day, Debbi - this year I will start them maybe two weeks earlier. So my 'break' from gardening isn't very long, is it? Once the holidays are over I start planning my seed starting, but until then I'll enjoy a bit of a break!

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  10. PS....goodness gracious, that's alot of wood!! LOL

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  11. I am lucky I live in an area with so many different grocery stores within a 15-20 minute drive...Woodmans (which just opened 2 miles down the street and is massive!), Meijer, Aldi, Walmart, Jewel, Trader Joe's and Costco...and then within 25-30 minutes, we also have a Fresh Thyme, Mariano's, and Whole Foods.

    I like Aldi, but honestly, I don't shop there often because of limited items. I always have to end up going across the street to Meijer to get what Aldi doesn't have. So I only go to Aldi when I need to stock up on certain things that are cheaper than other stores, such as organic olive oil. And the only meat I buy at Aldi is organic ground beef. Otherwise, I buy my chicken either at a local farm (grass fed, organic) or the organic frozen chicken breasts at Costco. Maybe in the near future, Aldi will start selling organic chicken. I know they've really improved with expanding their organic selection of grocery items.

    I do need to look in my basement freezer and use up what we have down there - thanks for the reminder!

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    1. I sometimes have to make a second stop on the way home if I can't get everything on my list in Aldi, but I'll always try there first. I pass a Price Chopper on my way back up the mountain, and there's always my local market too....but prices are higher there, as it's the only one on the mountain top.

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  12. Oh my, what an inspiration you are. I also shop Aldi for certain things, they have great prices. I'm trying to get 'back into' cooking/baking/freezing so that I can just pull things out of the freezer, instead of figuring out what to fix which can get depressing for just one person. I've tried growing tomatoes and pepper here, but critters enjoy taking a bite out of them and leaving the rest on the ground. There is a veggie market near me that has very good prices. You are one busy lady and I would like some of your energy. Happy holiday season. ~ FlowerLady

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    1. I've been pulling stuff out of the freezer all week for our dinner and my lunches and it's kind of boring, Lorraine! I enjoy the art of cooking, but I guess there's no harm in taking a break every now and again. Honestly when it's just me I eat something simple....but most nights Sweetie comes over for dinner, so it gives me a good excuse to be creative. Today it's a batch of bean & bacon soup, which I put in the slow cooker before I left for work. Plus some home made cornbread, which I pulled out of the freezer this morning. Yummmmm!!

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  13. I am thoroughly impressed by your ability to stack all that wood, and even more so.. .keep your grocery bill down that low and yet have so much delish in the freezer! That's a lot of work!

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    1. It wasn't fun Karen Ann, and I was dreading it but it always feels so good when it's done and I have a good supply of wood to get me through the next couple of months. I'll need another cord at some point....sigh I'm already dreading it. I make it less awful by listening to an audio book while I stack...makes the monotony of the chore more tolerable.

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  15. I am so impressed with your cooking and gardening talents. I'm also in awe of your energy -
    full time job, a sweetie, the pups, the house, the garden, the kids, the birds, the bears and the blog!! You are truly superwoman!!

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    1. Hardly!! I do what I can but I feel pretty tired at the end of the season....I'm ready for that long winter's rest they speak of!

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  16. Happy belated anniversary! The produce on your counter and also the herbs on your cupboard make such pretty pictures. I love to see herbs hanging. I also do a lot of shopping at Aldi's. Nancy

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    1. Thank you, Nancy!!

      I ran out of thyme the other day (recipe called for dried thyme) and used some of the thyme that was drying on the coat rack - it's not dry enough to jar yet, but it did the trick!

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  17. The votes are all in and you have been selected as Superwoman! Seriously, I am most impressed with all that you do and how well you do it. Even in my younger days I wasn't this energetic. You are truly blessed, my friend. Isn't fresh produce the most beautiful thing? Your recipes are "pinnable".

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    1. Pin away, Donna!! I'm honestly worn out at the end of a season in the garden, and glad for a bit of a break. Of course there's always other things to be done....winter weekends find me catching up on some chores I only do once a year. This past weekend I took all the bottles off the bar, polished the bar, and wiped down all the bottles. That won't get done again until next winter!!

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  18. We hate to throw food away too, and we stretch it as far as we can, but you have us beat. It really takes talent, creativity, and organization to do what you do. Those meals all look delicious. I love your cut herbs on the window, what a great idea! My Mom did something surprising with her tomatoes that worked well for her: I usually just bring in my green tomatoes at the end of the season and put them in a bag with an apple to ripen. But she had lots of clusters of green sweet millions, so she cut off the whole vines with the clusters on them and just laid them flat, with paper towels under them, on those plastic nursery flats and put them in her sunroom by the window. And they ALL ripened! She did this weeks ago and is still eating rip and yummy sweet millions. My paper bag method was, well, hit and miss :-)

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    1. I've heard about that paper bag method, Heidi, but have never tried it. We usually just lay them out on our windowsills until they ripen....it works pretty well! We're still eating tomatoes from the garden even though we've had snow three times already - that's pretty good! I sure will miss them when they're gone!

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  19. Oh bless your heart... stacking that wood, there is no job that seems more exhausting that wood. I know and remember it all too well! Good workout for sure. Your garden was super productive this year, such a good feeling to stock away all that food! It just pained me too to see my beautiful garden really just begin producing in September, and our first snow on the 28th of September. Such is the cycle here though. I too enjoy cooking a large amount of meat at one time, and then reusing it through the week, or freezing for future meals. Cook once, eat twice is my motto, lol. We don't have an Aldi's here. I would love to have one to shop at though. Have a great week :)

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    1. Oh that's rough, Marilyn - that's wayyyyy too early for snow! I was upset bringing in all my wonderful herbs....I so miss having fresh herbs right outside my kitchen door for cooking. So far they are holding up well in the water, however...and I added basil to the mix yesterday. I'm praying some of them will take root so I can plant them in pots!

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