Welcome to the end of April when our garden starts to take off. We have been celebrating the emergence of our asparagus and planted many flowers and I am super excited for the summer when all of our plants start taking off. I am still […]
One Year of Blogging Done! Last weekend was the one year anniversary of Oscoey. I can’t believe how quickly the last year has gone! I have learned a lot about blogging over the past year and gotten to know many fabulous bloggers as well. […]
Meal Planning to Save Time and Money
I have heard of the wonderful idea called meal planning many times over the past few years and every time I read a post about it I love the idea of having all of our meals planned out at the start of the month but quickly come to the realization that we are not that great at planning out our meals. We are very last minute dinner makers and our only “planning” is to decide what meat and vegetables we want during our weekly Costco trip and then cobble together a meal based on what else we have lying around. And let me tell you, that is after years of making a serious effort at not just going to the store the day of to buy whatever we want for dinner. I will confess that we used to go to Costco multiple times during the week, sometimes daily, to pick up one or two items (at least we were good at only getting what we needed right?) and make dinner that night. There was no planning involved. It was all very haphazard and as you can guess we ended up throwing out a bunch of food because we would forget what we actually had at home.
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I went back to work a couple of weeks ago so I thought we would try a little bit of meal planning to reduce the stress of trying to figure dinner out every night. I got a full-time job which I am really excited about but I have not worked full-time since my oldest daughter was a preteen so needless to say it will be a huge adjustment for our family. I worked very part-time before and after our 4 year old was born and quit when she was about a year to stay home and I am really appreciative of my time as a stay at home mom but it is time for me to go back to work. I did not have my act together enough to have all of the meal planning ready for all of April but we are going to try it out for a couple of weeks and see how it goes.
Planning Out Grocery Trips
We have made a genuine effort to cut back on our Costco trips and most of the time we are really good at going once a week now. I am still going to the store more than I would like but we have discovered that certain items are cheapest at a particular store and many of the dairy-free items we buy are not at the same store so it leads to multiple outings. Generally throughout the month I go to Target, Whole Foods, and Fred Meyer once or twice each depending on how much dairy-free milk and cheese we go through. Target has the cheapest price on the milk our kids like, Whole Foods has the best price on their yogurt and cheese and Fred Meyer has the best price on soy milk for the adults, the dairy-free yogurt I like and on Luna bars which have become a great source of protein and calcium for our kids and sometimes the only thing I eat for breakfast. The morning rush out the door for us is no joke and many times I do not have time to eat so I always keep a couple of Luna bars in the car to munch on during my morning drive. They are also great for those morning when the kids sleep in and are too tired to eat before we leave. Hands down the family’s favorite flavor is the Chocolate Peppermint flavor. They go super fast in our house!
Once every few months I make a trip to our local Franz Bakery outlet to purchase massive quantities of bread. This particular run netted me so much bread I had to do quite a bit of rearranging to fit everything in the freezer and it only cost us $19.98. It would have been $10.00 but I bought two loaves of gluten-free raisin bread for my peanut butter toast in the morning and they are sadly $5.00 each but they are way more in the regular grocery store and I was able to get an extra pack of hot dog buns out of it so it saved us an extra couple of dollars that way too. Most of it goes in the freezer as soon as we get home and we slowly work through it over a couple of months. My kids love bagels and sandwiches on hot dog buns and at 4 for $5.00 and a free loaf of bread for every $10.00 you spend it is a bargain you can’t beat. Having a freezer full of bread is also a great way to always have a meal on hand. You just need a few extras stored away and you are set for a week even if you have a week where grocery shopping is not in your budget. For this reason we always have peanut butter, sun butter, jam, frozen hamburger patties and some sort of meat for sandwiches on hand. Bagels can also be made easily into breakfast sandwiches with an egg and a little mayo or of course with cream cheese (we buy this brand for our dairy-free people in the house). Since I have a freezer full of bread I also have no qualms about gifting it when requests for food due to financial stress come up in our Buy Nothing group. Sadly this has become a frequent occurrence in our group and 95% of the cases are a genuine need from families that have come upon rough times with no emergency funds.
Meal Planning Motivation
After participating in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge this past January I was amazed at how we were cooking way too much food on a weekly basis. We still have not adjusted to having one less adult in the house and having our daughter home for an extended Christmas break threw off our cooking schedule. In January we also ate less meat and for some reason we just didn’t need to cook more. Our fridge was emptier but we still had plenty to eat. We only had to cook every few days and we still had extras for lunch.
Then came February and we hit a few bumps in the reducing our food waste bandwagon. We hosted a large group of people, threw a birthday party, attended several friend’s birthdays (free lunch!), had major illness in the family and our oldest daughter was in and out for a couple of weekends and we ended up buying a lot of food we didn’t end up needing (I am looking at you lettuce I found in the back of the fridge). I am not even sure if we made our grocery budget because I have not had a chance to look at it. Needless to say we need to make some changes and make more of an effort to reduce our food waste and stay on track with our budget. Cleaning out the fridge this week and finding tons of little containers with a mouthful of food or two was a huge motivator to be more conscious of the food we are buying.
Meal Planning How-to
The basic idea of meal planning is to sit down at the start of the week or month and write out a plan of what you want to eat every day. Some people get very involved and write out breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks so that they know exactly what they will eat for every meal. There are a bunch of different ways to write out your meals and you should probably use which ever one makes the most sense to you. Some people make a spreadsheet, use a printed calendar, use a digital calendar, us a planner or even just write it out on a piece of paper and tape it to the fridge. The important thing is to look ahead and see exactly how much food you need to buy without wasting any. A lot of people do this by buying one item that can be used many different ways. For instance, we buy chicken in bulk from Costco and that is our meat for the week. One day we might have fried chicken, another teriyaki chicken, another “basic chicken” and then we would use leftovers on a salad, in soup or even as chicken salad so that the one jumbo pack of chicken lasts the whole week (or even two if you incorporate vegetarian meals as well).
This past month we did this with a ham we bought. My husband found it at Safeway with a 50% off sign and the entire 20lb ham ended up costing us about $7.50. It was a steal! Mr. Oscoey heated it up with the sous vide so it would not dry out and then sliced a large chunk of it. We then ate it over rice with steamed vegetables, in sandwiches and also cold straight from the bag (our kids’ favorite method of consumption). He also made a delicious ham broth out of the bone and used that to make a lentil soup that also used up some carrots in our fridge. We still have a lot left that we sliced and put into the freezer.
Getting Started with Meal Planning
We are going to start our mini-meal plan adventure next week. This week we have a wonky schedule due to the flu going through our house and nobody is eating their normal meals. Next week is Spring Break but neither my husband or I can take any time off since we were home so much with the kids this past week. On Friday I am going to sit down and finalize a plan for just our dinners for the week. We have sandwich stuff for lunches and I will just need to buy some fresh fruit this weekend and breakfast is usually toast, oatmeal or cereal with eggs. Baby steps are the key to making any change in our household!
Our plan will be something like:
Sunday: chicken, rice, roasted Brussels sprouts
Monday: leftover chicken, steamed peas/salad, rice
Wednesday: chicken nuggets, steamed green beans, carb (Dance Night so we have to eat quickly and early)
Thursday: chicken cooked a new way, Beans, salad/corn
Friday: My husband usually comes home early enough on Fridays to cook dinner so I will have to see what he is thinking but I have a feeling we will be having more chicken
Saturday: Grocery shopping day! We will see what new meat we buy for the week and go from there!
It will be interesting to see how the week plays out and how well we stick to our plan! Have you tried meal planning with any success?
One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the […]
Baking chocolate chip cookies with the kids is one of my favorite family activities. When we had to go dairy and gluten free I was a little upset but I found a way to make chocolate chip cookies with some easy substitutions. Back when we […]
Hello, Mr. Oscoey here. If you don’t love garlic, you should probably just move on to the next post. If you love garlic as much as my family does, or you have a vampire problem, read on.
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I don’t remember when I first ran across a recipe for a Lebanese garlic sauce called toum, but it has become a staple condiment in our refrigerator. The traditional Catalan aioli is a similar egg-less, mayonnaise-like sauce. There is some food science and a little bit of food magic which turns five simple ingredients into a fluffy, garlicy spread that is good on nearly everything (and also happens to be vegan).
Toum starts with garlic, water, and salt blitzed up in a food processor. This is where the food science comes in. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats has written about the science of garlic flavor but the tl;dr is that the compound that we associate with the harsh, hot flavor of garlic (alliinase) become deactivated at low pH (more acidic). This means that the longer you wait to add the lemon juice, the more pungent, garlicy flavor will come through. Want garlic without the punch? Add some lemon juice at the same time as the water, before everything is whizzed up.
Once you get a smooth paste, oil is slowly drizzled in, alternating with splashes of water and lemon juice. In addition to making sure you add oil slowly, it helps to hold your breath and say a prayer to the food gods because in rare occasions the entire mixture breaks, leaving you with an oily mess. It’s pretty hard to recover once broken unless you start adding egg yolks.
When all the oil, water, and lemon juice has been incorporated, let the food processor whip up the mixture until you get a mayonnaise-like consistency.
This makes about two and a half pints of sauce, and halving the recipe isn’t recommended unless you have a smaller food processor. It should last a month in the fridge, but ours never makes it beyond a couple weeks.
Toum (Garlic Sauce)
- 1/2 cup garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup ice cold water
- 3 cups canola oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Step 1 Add garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of the water, and salt to the food processor. If you want to minimize the pungent garlic flavor add 1/4 cup of lemon juice as well.
- Step 2 Turn on the food processor run until a smooth paste is formed. If you did not add the lemon juice in step one, wait a few minutes then add (the longer you wait, the more pungent the garlic flavor will be). Process until everything is mixed together.
- Step 3 Add oil in a slow, steady stream while the food processor is running.
- Step 4 After about a cup of oil, add a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a tablespoon of water.
- Step 5 Continue drizzling in oil, alternating with lemon juice and water.
- Step 6 Once all the oil, lemon juice, and water has been incorporated, run the food processor until the sauce has a mayonnaise-like consistency.
Banana bread was one of those things I always meant to make but never got around to. We would put bananas in the freezer and inevitably forget about them. I have tossed so many bananas into the yard waste I can’t even remember. Part of […]
We have always been big fans of hummus. For a long time we bought organic canned garbanzo beans and made hummus from those but we have been trying to make as much of our food from scratch as we can so about a year ago we switched to this recipe from Serious Eats and it is honestly the best hummus I have ever eaten! In a pinch you could still use canned garbanzo beans after the cooking step but the fresh ones are really much better tasting. We buy our garbanzo beans in bulk off of Amazon from a local company called Palouse Brand . They are made in Washington, non-GMO, organic and the best tasting garbanzo beans we have tried so far. We also order our Tahini in bulk from Amazon as well but I think you can find it in any grocery store. We just eat a lot of hummus so buying in bulk is much cheaper.
A few months ago we decided to both eat healthier and try to cut back on our grocery expenses so we could spend more money fixing up the house. One of the ways we have tried to accomplish this is to add beans to our diet. We tried refried beans, baked beans, adding canned beans to our dishes and hummus. Although we love all of the bean options we tried, making a batch of hummus every week was the easiest way for us to be consistent about it. We just soak the beans overnight on Saturday night and then my husband cooks them when we have time on Sunday. It doesn’t take long to cook and you can have it on another burner while you are cooking dinner to save time. I eat a hummus wrap for lunch most days with leftovers on the inside (to reduce food waste) and the kids love eating it with a spoon for an afternoon treat. You can also put it on crackers, toast with a runny fried egg for breakfast, dip vegetables in it or even add a little hot sauce and use it as a healthier dip for chips. We love hummus!
Put your beans into a bowl with double the volume of water and let soak overnight.
Soaked beans looking a little fluffier!
Drain your beans and place them into a pot with the baking soda. Cook for a few minutes then add your water and bring to a boil.
Skim off any foam or skins that pop up and cook for about 20-40 minutes until the beans are very tender but not mushy.
Drain your chickpeas and put into the food processor. Run it until you get a stiff paste.
While it is still running add your lemon, tahini, garlic and salt. Then slowly add your ice water and run for another 5 minutes until the hummus is smooth and creamy.
And there you have it! Super smooth hummus ready to eat! This week when we made it the kids ate a bunch of it still warm from the food processor with spoons. It was great to see them enjoying such a healthy snack!
Hummus by Serious Eats
Make delicious hummus from scratch!
- 1.5 cups dried chickpeas
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 6.5 cups water
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp light tahini sauce
- 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 6 1/2 tablespoons/100 ml ice-cold water
- Step 1 The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.
- Step 2 The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will need to cook between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.
- Step 3 Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 3 2/3 cups/600 g now. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.
- Step 4 Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.
My husband and three year old made these marshmallows by David Lebovitz a few weeks ago. He has made them in the past and they are delicious! Our three year old loves to cook and she is obsessed with marshmallows so it was a fun […]