By Julie Norman
Monday, March 10, 2014
A while back I decided to start saving all of my raw vegetable scraps. Every time I made a salad or chopped onions for a dish, I put the onion peels, carrot shavings, asparagus ends, etc into a produce bag. I kept the produce bag in the freezer. My intention originally was to use these scraps to make a vegetable broth. But...the other day I decided to throw some split chicken breasts (that I'd gotten on clearance) in the crock pot when I went home for lunch. I added a little chicken broth to the crock pot and by the time I came home we had fully cooked chicken and the start of a great broth. SO here's what I did :
This is all the chicken bones and broth with about 6 more cups of water and all the vegetable scraps. I added some salt and let it cook down for a few hours. Typically if you're making your own broth you should cook it for even longer, but I'm not that patient.
In the end I strained it all through 2 colanders (I really need some cheesecloth) and ended up with a pretty great batch of broth (about 5 cups). So even though I spend a lot on fresh produce every week, I feel like it's worth it when I use every bit of it.
What do you do to make sure you get as much mileage out of your produce as possible?
By Julie Norman
Friday, March 7, 2014
There are people out there like me and Brittany who do what we can to save a little here and there...I like to think we're in the majority. Then there are those extreme types who, somehow, seem to take on these Superhuman Acts:
Photo from Viewalongtheway.com. The folks over at View Along the Way paid off their house in FIVE YEARS. Unbelievable.
Then there's this family over at 100 Days of Real Food.
They pledged to do 100 days of real food on a budget. This meant mostly organic, non-processed foods for a family of four for $125 a week. That's only $25 more than I spend for TWO PEOPLE!
Anyway, their ideas are inspiring and I plan to do what I can to learn from them. Happy Friday!
By Julie Norman
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
So I went to the grocery store on my lunch break. I wasn't in the mood to calculate costs or think about the 2 small trips I'd made in the past few days. I just wanted to buy what I wanted and be on my way. That's not really like me. I normally love the grocery store. Still, today just wasn't one of those days.
When I got to the register I was too busy bagging to pay attention to the ever-rising total. Frankly, I was surprised (in a good way) when the cashier announced that I'd spent almost exactly $100. ($100.36). Since that is my typical weekly budget, I should have been happy. But, like I said, there have been a few small trips in the past several days for things like milk and apples. Oh, and generic Diet "Lemon-Lime" canned sodas. The BF takes them with his lunch and I am NOT paying $6 for the name brand, which is all Safeway has had lately. So they end up in a separate trip on the way home from work.
Anyway, my point being that I needed to find someway to make myself feel better about the trip and the amount that I spent. So I sat down with the receipt and started calculating how much I spent in various departments.
Grocery: around $47, close to HALF of the bill. (the only reason is because I had to buy almonds and, since we eat them every day, it's worth it to buy the cheapest per ounce container, which costs $17 but will last at least 2 weeks) This is the area that also includes random canned goods, pasta, etc. I also needed honey and mayonnaise today, neither of which is particularly cheap.
Produce: about $25. That's right. ONE QUARTER of the entire grocery bill was fresh produce. That's something I'm not ashamed of. At home right now we've got asparagus (on sale for .99/lb), apples, bananas, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, mushrooms...all sorts of healthy, fresh produce. I know I'll use it all up before my next shopping trip too!
Meat: $4.46. There was a grass-fed beef chuck roast in the clearance bin!
Fridge/Frozen: $17 - Our 2% Lactose-free milk was on sale so I bought 2 cartons. That way I'll have enough to make ice cream!
Last was just some general merchandise. It's possible I could have saved some money by getting that stuff at a drug store, but that would require an extra trip.
In the end, I know I went home with very little processed food and lots of great things for us to eat. I've got a menu planned out and uses for all those things that I bought so that nothing goes to waste. And really, in the end, isn't that what we're aiming for? Not buying more than we can use? If that's the goal then I feel like my trip was a success.
By Brittany Dale
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
This weekend I decided to exercise my brain muscles. I packed up my computer and headed over to a coffee shop downtown.
Roasted Espresso was my venue of choice. I had never been there and while it was fairly loud, the guys working there were incredibly friendly and seemed to know nearly everyone who came through the door. They had good espresso and apparently (I didn't have a chance to try any) amazing subs. There is something special about being in a coffee shop club, where everybody knows your name. Cheers. I used to pride myself on knowing as many names as possible when I was a barista.
I went to the coffee shop to start two online Photoshop and InDesign classes. These classes are completely free with a Mesa County library card. What?! I have a horribly embarrassing confession that makes me seem really dumb – I didn't know until a couple of years ago that library cards were free. I had a library card in Denver but the family I nannied for had signed me up for it. I just assumed access to all of the resources a library offers cost a membership fee. I had access to the library in college but technically, I paid a bunch for that. I don't remember having a library card before college, which is kind of sad. I am deciding here and now my children will know about the library!
Wow, I digress again.
On top of the free class, Adobe also offers a free 30 day trial and while it isn't necessary to have access to the programs for the class, it sure does help. I am able to take these classes completely free. The list of classes is endless. I didn't look specifically but there may be a breakdancing for left feet class on there somewhere.
The classes have both written instructions and a video to learn from. I am also surrounded by incredibly supportive co-workers who have given me various other resources to supplement my learning. I am excited about the thought of expanding my skills.... for free! Whether it pays off financially will be another story. Wink.
By Julie Norman
Monday, March 3, 2014
Over on the Let's Get Dirty Blog Penny has been keeping track of her gardening expenses to find out if having a garden really does save you money. So far, it hasn't saved her any, but it's VERY early to really make any sort of final determination. That'll have to wait until fall.
However, it got me to thinking about my own garden last year. I purchased 2 tomato plants, a few pepper plants, 1 armenian cucumber plant and then planted some zucchini seeds from a friend. I try to be very relaxed about gardening: whatever happens happens. I try to be that way. I'm really not that way at all. I wasn't sure the cucumber was ever going to do anything. It cost me probably $2.50 at Lowe's and I planted it right by a chain link fence so it could climb.
Here is a picture of the cucumber plant just as it started to bloom:
By the end of the season it pretty much covered this whole fence. Here's a picture of my first cucumber:
By the end of the season I can guarantee we picked over 100 cucumbers from this ONE plant. That means each cucumber cost .025 cents. FOUR cucumbers cost 1 penny.
I plan to try a different cucumber this year from seed. They were given to me by a friend. I'm definitely looking foward to even MORE savings this year from the garden!