Breakfast: A simple omelet that we shared with a bit of asparagus, a few cherry tomatoes and basil (from my plant). Cost: $1.74.
Snacks: We finished off our cottage cheese today, made a dent in our applesauce and a box of Ok-Mok crackers. Total cost for the day for meals, snacks, coffee at breakfast and dinner for our friend: $11.26 Observations: This week I’ve realized how reliant I am on what’s in my fridge for small, yet critical additions of flavor. For instance, the stir fry is definitely brightened by the addition of Sriracha, but on this budget, we would have to justify that cost of buying the whole bottle, even if we’re just spending a few cents worth of the actual goo on our food. I’m glad that we’re also also not reliant on sweets. In the past year, Mike weaned himself off sodas. If I needed a daily candy bar or we were big soda drinkers, that could quickly replace some of the food in our diet. In the past year, we’ve been careful to cut our sugar intake and ratchet back our portions. We eat less food, but better quality and frankly, it’s been as good for our budget as our waistlines.
Recipe: Carrot and Rosemary Soup
The basic method for this soup can be applied to many vegetables. You can substitute in cauliflower, broccoli or squash for the carrots, for instance. If you don’t have leeks, use more onion. One tip for making this even more economical is to use the water leftover from cooking potatoes or pasta in place of stock. (Although you can make homemade chicken stock virtually for free if you regularly utilize whole chickens.) If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can simply mash the vegetables which will be decidedly more rustic. Serves four.
1 1/2 tablespoons oil or butter
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
2 leeks, chopped
¾ pound carrots, chopped to a small dice (about 2 cups)
1 large fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
1 ½ quarts chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 cup quality yogurt (optional)
Add the olive oil or butter to a two-quart or larger saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, leeks and carrot and toss with the olive oil. Sauté until softened about five minutes to six minutes. Add the rosemary and the stock and bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for about 25 minutes or until carrots soften and remove from heat.
Discard the rosemary and the bay leaf. Add about a cup of water to the soup, and then puree with an immersion blender, in a blender or a masher until smooth. Add in additional water if necessary for desired consistency. Check the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Recipe: Cabbage and Chicken Stir Fry
This is an easy weeknight dish. It’s also versatile. Try it with pork, beef or shrimp. You can add in a few extra veggies, perhaps those leftover green beans or a bit of broccoli? Just don’t omit the trio of the garlic, onions and cabbage as they’re key to the flavor.
1 ½ tablespoon oil such as coconut, olive or canola
8 oz. of skinless chicken, thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch hunks
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
A handful (about eight) cremini, baby bella or white mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
½ head of green or savoy cabbage, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup white wine, chicken stock or water
8 cherry tomatoes
Coarse salt, fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Optional garnishes: Fresh lime, Sriracha (hot chili sauce), chopped basil
Heat the oil in a three-quart or larger saucepan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with a bit of salt and pepper. When hot, add the chicken and cook until browned and slightly cooked through, about three to five minutes.
Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until starting to soften, about three minutes. Add the chili flakes and the garlic and continue to cook, stirring regularly until the onions start to brown, about three minutes. Add the cabbage, tomatoes and a pinch of salt and a few cracks of pepper and cook for about three minutes until it softens. Add the wine, stock or water and then cover and let it cook for about eight minutes.
Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with the additional garnishes of fresh basil, lime slices and hot chili sauce and with a side of rice, if desired.