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Broiled Tilapia

Last night’s dinner was an easy one that I just threw together.

Broiled Tilapia, Asparagus, and Quinoa

3/4 cup quinoa – $0.94

1 1/2 cups chicken stock – $0.00

0.9 lb organic asparagus – $4.47

2 tbsp lemon juice (bottled), divided – $0.20

4 cloves (4 tsp if jarred) diced garlic, divided – $0.20

2 tsp olive oil – $0.40

pepper

1. Mix stock and quinoa in a pot. Bring to boil, lower heat, let simmer 15 minutes or until stock absorbed. Or use your rice cooker :)

2. Meanwhile, snap ends of asparagus and put in saute pan with 2 tsp garlic and a little water. Put lid on. Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until crisp tender. Sprinkle with 2 tsp lemon juice.

3. While that is cooking spread oil in baking pan and put fillets on top. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tsp each lemon juice and garlic. Sprinkle with pepper to taste. Put in 400 degree oven about 5 minutes, then turn on broiler until fish flakes easily (about 5 minutes).

Total Cost – $6.21 for 2 full adult servings and a serving of quinoa for the Kid

The asparagus was a MAJOR splurge for us ($4.97/lb? are they crazy?), but it has been so long since we have had it and the husband requested it when we were at the store, so I bought it. With another vegetable instead this would have been a pretty cheap meal, though it was still much cheaper than if we had ordered the same thing at a restaurant!

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Freezer Cooking Update

MoneySavingMom posted her Freezer Cooking roundup on Tuesday, but I can’t do anything on time. So I am posting mine on Thursday. Only I am not done, so it is just an update. I posted earlier this week about everything I wanted to cook/bake, and I knew that I was not going to get everything done in two days. But I have gotten a few things done and I will continue to work on my list. That is usually how my freezer cooking goes. In case you were wondering (I know you have been anxiously awaiting this post), here is what I have gotten done:

disclaimer: These are horrible pictures. Shield your eyes from them and only read the words if you must.

I made Ellie Krieger’s Nutty Granola recipe, only using 3/4 cup each of almonds and peanuts, omitting the walnuts. This is really, really good. This isn’t all it made, of course, but this is what I have kept out.

Breakfast Cookies (adapted from Heavenly Homemakers)

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup honey

2 eggs

1 t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

1/2  cup buttermilk (I used 1/2 cup milk with a tbsp lemon juice)

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups whole rolled oats

1 cup raisins

1. Mix everything from oil to milk.

2. Stir in flour and oats. Fold in raisins or chocolate chips.

3. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Allow cookies to cool 3-4 minutes on cookie sheet before removing cookies to cool on a wire rack.

Making them the size I like I get about 14 cookies.

Here are a dozen (minus one…I wonder where it went) breakfast burritos rolled and ready to go in the freezer. Once they are frozen I will transfer them to bags. All I did was brown up a pound of ground sausage, scramble 8 eggs, and mix it together. I then wrapped a little of that up in each of 12 tortillas. And I did make the tortillas.

I quadrupled my favorite pancake recipe. The kid and I tasted them while the other batches were cooking – we approve.

I also have two big bags of cooked rice, two bags of pinto beans (both of which are in 4 cup portions), and three meals worth of shredded chicken. Not pictured are three cans worth of white beans that I froze in mason jars.

Not pictured is a batch of peanut butter cookie dough in the freezer. I used the easiest peanut butter cookie recipe ever:

1 cup peanut butter (I used natural)

1 cup sugar (I used sucanat)

1 egg

1. Mix.

2. Roll in balls and lightly press down.

3. Cook at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

If freezing, stop after step 2 and freeze individually on a cookie sheet before putting in a bag. Pull out as needed and bake.

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White Bean & Quinoa Chili

In case you have never seen quinoa before, I wanted to give you a visual reference. Pronounced KEEN-wah, this yummy whole grain is actually a seed from a type of grass. It has a light texture and almost nutty flavor and can be used in place of grains such as rice and cous cous. It is a complete protein and a good source of fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, and potassium. In one word it is AWESOME.

My chili tonight was supposed to have black beans in it, but I did not take a bag (that I had cooked and frozen) out beforehand, so I used white beans (which I had just cooked yesterday). I liked this and thought it was a great meal. We were supposed to have a veggie to go with it on the side, but we were hungry and I figured we would be OK 🙂

White Bean & Quinoa Chili

1 cup quinoa – $1.25

2 cups chicken stock (you could use water) – $0.00

onion, diced – $0.50

2 organic carrots, diced – $0.20 (guessing…I’m not doing the math 🙂 )

32 ounces organic diced tomatoes – $2.78

4 cups white beans – $0.75

chili powder, oregano, red pepper flakes, cayenne, pepper, cumin, garlic powder to taste – $0.50

1. Mix stock and quinoa in a pot. Bring to boil, lower heat, let simmer 15 minutes or until stock absorbed. Or use your rice cooker 🙂

2. Meanwhile, saute onion and carrots in a little bit of water.

3. Mix in rest of ingredients (including quinoa when done) and bring to simmer for as long as you can stand to wait.

Total Cost – $5.98 for 6 servings

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On Being Green

Being “green” is the thing to thing to do now. Whether you are driving around in a new hybrid car or sporting a “Save Our Planet” t-shirt, the trendy thing these days is to be eco-friendly. But what does it mean to be eco-friendly? Wikipedia says it “refer to goods and services, laws, guidelines and policies considered to inflict minimal or no harm on the environment.” That sounds good, right? In short, yes. The problem, however, is that there are new products put out everyday with “safe for the environment” and “green ingredients” slapped on the label, even though there is no international standard for these claims. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has even said that these labels and claims are useless in determining the safety of a product and its ingredients.

There is also another term that has come out of this green movement: “greenwashing.” This term refers to companies marketing their products or their companies as green and safe for the environment. Did you read that? Marketing. Selling. At the end of the day all many (note I did not say all)  of these companies care about is the bottom line, so they spin their data and their product to make it look like it is a much better choice to make, even if it is not much, or any, better than the non-green alternative. These companies spend a lot of money tailoring their products to consumers and right now, green is in so green is what these companies are giving their customers.

I have always had a problem with these “green” products that started coming out a few years ago. One look at the label makes me wonder how the company can even give it that label. What about the harsh chemicals used in the cleaning products, the toxic waste produced as a result of creating and packaging these chemicals? I am always pretty skeptical of any claim made by a company (since their goal is to make money), so I never really bought into these product claims. Until recently.

Even after I was just talking to my husband about how the ingredients in a popular brand of green cleaning products actually weren’t all that safe and how it is important to look at the labels before buying a brand (or maybe I just had this discussion in my head…either way I was thinking this), I bought a green product without reading the label. I bought some foaming handsoap (yes, I know I have the Dr. Bronner’s in my house for this, but there are a couple guys in my house who don’t like the smell/lack of lather from it) from Company X that I just assumed was safe. Company X has been around a long time and has always been a popular brand among the eco-friendly crowd (even before all the greenwashing). It is marketed as being safe for you and the planet. But one look at the ingredient list made me regret my decision. The first thing that made me regret buying it is the fact that it is a very long list, and I do not like products (be it cleaning or food) with long ingredient lists. When I got home that day I sat down and actually looked at the ingredients, most of which were foreign to me. I will admit that while the list of ingredients is very long, most of these are harmless. The problem, though, is that there are still ingredients that I choose not to use in my home. While they may be “nontoxic” and “safe,” there are still concerns over them. And I like to err on the side of caution.  I thought about still using this product, since I did buy it, but the husband told me that I should not use a product that I am not completely comfortable with; it is just money. To me, being “green” isn’t just about saving the planet and being seen as eco-friendly, it is about saving my family. I like to use products that I know are safe, and while I know there are probably better options out there than what I use, I feel pretty confident in my choices.

So with that said, what is the point of this post? Is there even a point to all my ramblings? Yes. My point is that we should all be educated consumers. Don’t take for granted what a company tells you is safe or best, do your *homework and figure out what it best for you and your family. Don’t just blindly buy products because you like the claim made on the packaging or because it is what so and so always used.  A product that has been around for 100 years may not be the safest for the environment or for you. And remember that what works for one person or one family may not work for another. Company X (which has many products I would happily use, by the way) may be a great source of hand soap for one person, but not for me. It is also important to remember that even though a company has one safe product, the rest of their products may not be as safe.

*My favorite place for doing research is Skin Deep, a database put together by the researchers at the EWG (Environmental Working Group). I love this site because it takes two seconds to type in an ingredient in a cosmetic or cleaning product and see how safe it is. Skin Deep gives ingredients (and products based on their cummulative ingrdients) a score of 0-10, 10 being the worst. This is an easy way to research your products, especially is you don’t have much time.

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Grocery Shopping

I will admit it. I LOVE grocery shopping. Every bit of it. From getting the sales flyer in my mailbox each week to pushing my cart around the store, scouring the aisles for deals. I used to do my shopping every Monday morning, as that is when Bi-Lo does all their good markdowns and it is just easy to do it that way when menu planning. But I stopped doing that a few months ago, choosing to shop at two more expensive stores (though never in the same week), and my grocery budget has shown. I may not always choose Mondays, as I do like to combine trips since I live so far from a good grocery store, but yesterday’s shopping trip re energized me to make it a priority to shop for deals. I had forgotten what it was like to go to multiple store and use coupons; I enjoyed watching my total go down.

First stop was Bi-Lo and I bought:

  • Asian Bean Threads (I thought they would be interesting to try) – $ 1.14
  • 2 Dry Roasted Peanuts –$6 – $1/2 coupon (newspaper) = $5
  • Raw Almonds – $6.29 – $.50 coupon that doubled = $5.29
  • 2 Organic Rice Mix – $4 – 2 $2 coupons = $0
  • Organic Tamari Sauce (I didn’t need this as I have soy sauce but I am trying to stay away from GMO  soybeans) – $2.19
  • 4 Almond Breeze Milk ( I stocked up since they are good until March 21) – $11.56 – 4 $.75 coupons(found in store)= $8.56
  • Half-Gallon Organic Whole Milk (for yogurt) – $3.99 – $.55 coupon that doubled = $2.89
  • 4 Kiwis – $1.76
  • 2 5 oz clam shells of spinach close to date – $1.98
  • Pack of 2 portobello caps – $1.49

Total after coupons and sales – $31.69 (subtotal was $50.40)

I then went to Food Lion to use a $1/$5 produce coupon.

  • 10+ (I lost my receipt so I’m not exactly sure and I don’t feel like doing the math) lbs bananas

Total with tax was $4.31

Then came EarthFare for what I couldn’t get at the regular stores.

  • Organic Cottage Cheese – $4.19 – $1 coupon = $3.19
  • Organic String Cheese – $3.49
  • Organic Salad (could have gotten at BiLo but was a better price here) – $3.00 – $.75 coupon = $2.25

Total = $9.04

These prices may seem crazy expensive and it is true that I could have gotten the conventional versions for much, much less, but organic dairy and lettuce are a priority for us so I am willing to pay more.

I also went shopping at the end of last since I was already going to be out and we were completely out of fresh produce:

I got a TON of produce  and the rest was really good food, but if I had stuck to only buying what I know is cheapest at a store (in this case the Wasa crackers and the organic apples), loss leaders, and had gone to just one more store, I could have spent much less.

Total – $73.## (I lost my receipt)

I am linking this post to The GCC Shopping Round Up.

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Ways to Save – Amazon

One of my favorite places to grocery shop is not even a place I can physically go to – it is Amazon. That has always been a favorite place of mine to shop and find good deals on toys, pots and pans, CDs, movies, and books, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized what a great resource it is for food, in particular organic and natural foods.

Now of course you cannot buy fresh produce over the internet, but for pantry staples and hard-to-find ingredients it is the place to go. Last month I ordered coconut oil for a much better price than I can find in the stores around here and just last week I ordered 12 cans of organic oatmeal. I bought a case of old-fashioned oats for slightly less than what I pay for conventional and then I ordered a case of steel cut oats for half the price of regular, conventional oats in the store. What made the deal even better is that products ordered directly from Amazon are eligible for free shipping if your order is over $25!

Many prodcuts also have a “Subscribe & Save” option where you can order a product once and continue to have it shipped to your door every month at a 15% reduced price. This would be good for products that you use on a regular basis.

You can further reduce your cost for food from Amazon by paying with Swagbucks.

Really, if you have never taken a look at the groceries on Amazon before, I suggest you go do it now. Unless that is, you don’t like saving money.

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Menu Plan Monday

I went grocery shopping today but almost let the day go by without menu planning. Woops! I am only going to include dinners this time I will be going out of town later this week and since the husband and I eat differently for breakfast most of the time. I will be  leaving the husband to fend for himself, so I have individually frozen chicken breasts for him that he can just throw on the George Foreman so his meals will pretty much be grilled chicken and salad the week I am gone 🙂

I have written the dinners next to the days since I know what will be going on that day.

Monday: portobello pizzas, sauteed collard greens, roasted carrots

Tuesday: Sesame Maple Ginger Tofu over sauteed garlic spinach, roasted carrots, edamame

Wednesday: meatballs (over egg noodles for me), green beans, apple/carrot/banana smoothies

Thursday – Sunday: grilled chicken and salad 🙂

For more great menu ideas visit I’m An Organizing Junkie.

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