Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Goal: Frugal Dining

Because we are actively using using Mint.com, we've become well aware of our spending habits on food. Not only are we spending an inordinate amount of money, but our waistlines are suffering from it (no way to track the calories really, no guarantee on the quality of foods, etc...).

We sat down and decided that in our best interest, and Mari's too, that we sit down at the table to eat our meals and spend time together preparing them. I pulled out the ol' Everyday Foods magazine from last year around this time and started thumbing through the pages for recipes. Before I knew it, I had a week and a half worth of dinners (where we wouldn't have to repeat a meal) and if I was creative, I could stretch it out to 2 weeks! I took our grocery list pad off of the fridge and feverishly checked off each ingredient and adding others. After an hours work total, I put it aside and started looking up coupons, while Don caught up on his DVDs in the background. It worked really well!

We headed to the store and bought our stuff. At $150 later, I wasn't pleased that we didn't save as much (by percentage) like we normally do, but most times, you don't get coupons for fresh produce, let alone organic. The coupons I did use, were doubled, so that was a bonus that I hadn't expected! And, we qualified for the 10 cents off for our gas purchases too. I guess all was not lost. (By the way, I LOVE THE GROCERY STORE! It's my happy place, random, huh?)

We get home and unload everything. That night because it was so late when we went shopping, we ate one of the rotisserie chickens they had on sale with some steamed spinach.

Last night, though, I get home and Don already has the food prepped! Our homemade Marinara sauce is simmering on the stove and he's getting ready to bread the chicken. He was waiting for me to pick the type of pasta and was about to saute the mushrooms.

Light Chicken Parmesan with Whole Wheat Pasta and Broccoli Rabe and homemade Marinara with Mushrooms

Chicken breasts breaded on one side and baked, lightly topped with parmesan.
Rotini pasta tossed in olive oil with blanched broccoli Rabe (thanks Simon, it
turned out perfectly!). Diced tomatoes simmering, with a touch of tomato paste,
a pinch of red pepper, and sauteed mushrooms.


We chatted while prepping our meal, catching up on the day's events. Mari napped. I went ahead and chopped veggies for Thursday night's meal. We sipped on vino. The food was ready, so I prepped the pasta while Don plated the chicken and marinara. We sat down at the table to eat and OMG, it was delicious. I can see us making this meal in the future, but possibly adding jalapenos to the top when we add the cheese, b/c the jalapenos Don grows are AMAZING! It reminded me of when we were first living together and later married. We saved a whole heck of a lot of money by cooking so much and I don't remember our fridge ever being empty. I loved that we controlled the ingredients (organic and free range!). I knew the calorie count (thank you Everyday Food!). We had some incredible quality time spent together. It was a lovely evening and has me ecstatic about the future. We calculated our meal to cost about $10 total (not including the wine, but that was actually a gift from My Michael and it was delicious, by the way. We heart South American vino!), and we had leftovers, enough for another full meal! High five!

Here's to hoping we can keep it up. Then again, I think we will. I fondly remember helping my mom out in the kitchen to prepare dinner and I want to share that with Mari as well. She already enjoys hanging out in the kitchen while we're there and she understands that the oven is "dangerous" when it is on. She's not frightened by the noises of the chopper, food processor, blender, or mixer.

Next time, I'll keep the tripod in the kitchen so you can see the prep and finished product.

5 comments:

The Potts Family said...

The grocery store is my "happy place" too. I love Sprouts and my new fave is Market Street. Kroger has the best deals as far as coupons go.
You can go online to some organic brands and print coupons. Earthbound Organics, Earths Best (for Mari), and a few others.
I cook most nights, but it is becoming really difficult because Braelyn wants me to hold her the entire time. I must have a heck of a left bicep muscle. Its just she's at the sitter all day, so I pick her up and she wants MOMMA! Not Daddy, not a warm meal, just Mommy! Even a quick meal like spaghetti is hard to do with a baby on your hip.
I think its time to start using my crockpot again.

Mrs. Bianca said...

Thanks for the tips! Mari is the same way if she is awake. Thank God for the wrap or Snugli! I just sling her on my back to where she can also "see" and away I go. I get a better workout with her that way too and not just my left bicep! LOL!! I hear on you that one. Last night I was telling Don how I thought my arms were out of proportion.

Oh, and I tried doing lunges while holding Mari two nights ago and she just kept looking at me like I was a freak!

The Potts Family said...

Ha! Braelyn sits on my stomach while I do crunches.
I need to get a sling. Where should I get a good one for her size (24 lbs) that isn't outrageously expensive?

jennawoestman.com said...

YAY! Love the grocery store too. You should grab some of the Tupperware Fridge Smart containers (I know, I know, they're plastic) because they keep produce fresh for AGES longer than otherwise.

zarlacht said...

That's awesome you guys! I have no doubt you guys will be able to keep this up - especially if everyone loves to cook, and you are doing it together as a family.

The challenge comes later as Mari grows and demands more of your attention and playtime. We helped appease this struggle by adding a table for the kids in the kitchen for them to pound, mix, and toss onto.

p.s. we love mint.com - and it is indeed a fantastic way to track and tighten those categories. One money-saving trick - cross reference your menu with ingredients you need to buy. We plan out our meals weekly and start with what's in the fridge/pantry. And add recipes we can double dip using what we have or need to go buy. This eliminates having to buy everything for one recipe and spending too much - not to mention that it can be wasteful. We saved $40 the first week we tried that, and it's been great ever since!

Happy cooking!

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