Week 29 Budget and Menu

We are in high tomato and fruit season here in central North Carolina. Our constant rains are gone and the sun is bringing everything back to life. It’s going to be a super tomato-licious week this week! We are having tomatoes in all kinds of ways–baked, sautéed, in salad and in sandwiches. I can’t wait! I love tomatoes! What is your favorite summer vegetable?

Our budget this week is coming back into line with our goals. It is taking a LOT of self-restraint on my part because everything looks so wonderful! The thing that saves me is that it is so hot, I do NOT want to cook anything.

I do have some fun plans this week. For the first time ever, I am roasting a whole fish. I’ve never done that before, but I hear it is very, very good. We had whole fish all the time in Paris, and somehow I managed to figure out a fish fork, but at home we usually buy fillets. Fillets are easy, but they are also more expensive than buying a whole fish, so I hope we like it! I’m also going to try a terrific panzanella salad idea that I picked up from Gravy, a Raleigh restaurant. The salad involves peaches, tomatoes, whole grain bread croutons and pork belly–I mean really, how could that combination possibly go wrong??? Will post recipes for whatever is successful this week!

Enjoy this summer weather and get out to those farmer’s markets!

Budget [$100.37]

  • The Produce Box (eggplant, heirloom cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, blackberries): $24.50
  • La Farm (sandwich bread): $6.75
  • Locals Seafood (red drum, white perch): $17.30
  • Various organic vendors (peaches, blue potatoes, green beans, zucchini, squash, tomatoes): $21.50
  • Trader Joes (limes, avocado, frozen fruit, organic butter): $24.32
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (jam, barbecue sauce): $6.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Pulled chipotle chicken sliders, corn, garden cucumbers
  • Thursday–Egg salad
  • Friday–Roasted whole red drum, green beans, corn
  • Saturday–Eggplant and tomatoes al forno
  • Sunday–Pan seared white perch, roasted baby blue potatoes
  • Monday–Tomato and peach panzanella salad with bacon
  • Tuesday–ABT sandwiches (avocado, bacon and tomato), parmesan zucchini chips
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Week 28 Budget and Menu

This week I am playing catch up of sorts. I haven’t been blogging as regularly because I have been canning and freezing much of our summer fruits and vegetables. I have recipes to share coming up! We’re slowly getting closer to our budget goal of $100 per week, but we are still a bit high. Due to the heavy rains and unseasonably cool temperatures this summer, many of our farmers have lost their tomato crops and watermelons aren’t doing so well either. Hopefully things are turning around, but the end result is that prices at the farmer’s markets are a bit higher than last year. That’s life, right? We still have some great summer treats in store this week–a wonderful local shrimp salad, fruit salad and grilled kabobs. I can’t wait!

Budget [$111.32]

The Produce Box (watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, peaches, blackberries): $25.00
Locals Seafood (shrimp): $10.00
Mae Farm (bacon): $8.00
Rare Earth Farm (kabob beef): $12.00
La Farm Bakery (sourdough bread): $6.00
Various farmers market vendors (onion, okra, tomato, peppers): $12.00
Trader Joes (avocados, organic rice, organic chicken, organic sugar, frozen fruit, yogurt): $38.32

Menu

Wednesday–shrimp chili lime salad
Thursday–BLT sandwiches, roasted baby okra
Friday–tuna salad in tomato cups, fruit salad
Saturday–birthday party (out)
Sunday–grilled beef kabobs, rice, grilled peaches
Monday–pasta with ceccha sauce
Tuesday–chipotle chicken salad in avocado, fruit

Week 26 Budget and Menu

It is officially hot here in North Carolina. Summer came in with the customary heat and humidity that defines much of the South. I don’t care though, I love summer. Love it, love it, love it. We’re moving our cooking outdoors and to the fridge this week, with more grilling and chilling and less oven cookery.

Crazily, I signed up to run my first real 10K tonight,when the temperature will be a muggy 90 degrees. Will I make it? Will a thunderstorm wash me away? And what was I thinking??? Stay tuned to find out if I gas out or actually cross the finish line. Really, it could go either way at this point.

Have your farmer’s markets gone berserk with produce? Our farmer’s markets are bursting with goodness right now and I am planning to carve out time next week for some full-on canning and freezing. Can’t wait!

Our budget this week is horrible!!! Whaaaat??? $145.54 is way above our usual spending. I am finding that food prices–even at Trader Joes–are increasing quite a lot. The Ezekiel bread I love to eat for breakfast has gone from $3.99 a loaf to almost $5.00. Milk, cheese, yogurt have all increased as well. We are stocking up a bit on organic beans to use in salads and such, but still. Oi! So, chalk this week up to a menu win, but a budget fail! With July 4th on the horizon, I’m not sure next week will be much better.

Budget [$145.54]

The Produce Box (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, bell peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, smoked cheddar): $34.60

Trader Joes (frozen fruit, almond milk, Ezekiel bread, organic canned beans, organic lemon, canned tuna, guacamole, shredded pepper jack cheese, taco seasoning, organic chicken, buttermilk, organic corn chips, organic lime, yogurt, raw almonds, shredded cheese): $62.34

Locals Seafood (shrimp, fresh yellow fin tuna): $32.60

Black Hoof Farm (organic ground beef): $6.00

The Mitchell Family Pantry (jam, tomato salsa, pickled jalapenos, frozen peppers): $12.00

Menu

Wednesday–Out, pre-race dinner
Thursday–Tuna white bean salad–10k race and softball night!!!
Friday–Shrimp and string bean pesto pasta
Saturday–Softball team party (healthy taco salad)
Sunday–Grilled local hamburgers w/smoked cheddar, summer corn salad, eggplant
Monday–Grilled soy tuna steak kabobs, roasted potatoes, eggplant
Tuesday–Leftover buffet

Week 25 Budget and Menu

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My treat from the market–fresh strawberry agua fresca from Bo Ku!

The blackberries are here! The blackberries are here! I am so glad to see blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches and melons all making their market appearances this week!!! And corn. Yum. This is the time of year I just eat myself into oblivion.

This week’s budget takes advantage of some wonderful produce that is available, as well as some lovely, locally made pimento cheese ravioli! I hope to be posting the recipes for the fish, spicy blackberry sauce and eggplant this week, so watch for them!

Our budget this week is over by $11.71, but we are out of some key staples like organic cane sugar, kosher salt and olive oil, so we are stocking up this week. Thank goodness for Trader Joes!

Did you know you can keep up with SOLE Food Kitchen on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? Follow us, “like” us and be a part of the conversation!

Budget [$111.71]

  • The Produce Box (grape tomatoes, eggplant, ORGANIC: blackberries, blueberries, chard, yellow potatoes, string beans, beets): $39.50
  • Melina’s Pasta (pimento cheese ravioli): $6.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (mozzarella): $6.00
  • Mae Farm (brats): $8.00
  • Locals Seafood (red drum fillets): $18.00
  • Trader Joes (prosciutto, frozen fruit, yogurt, butter, Parmesan cheese, organic cane sugar, salt, olive oil, Ezekiel bread): $34.21

Menu

  • Wednesday–Leftover pasta with cauliflower sauce
  • Thursday–Working late
  • Friday–Roasted beet salad with goat cheese
  • Saturday–Fish with cherry tomatoes, green beans, potatoes
  • Sunday–Healthy eggplant “lasagna”
  • Monday–Grilled brats with blackberry ketchup, roasted potatoes
  • Tuesday–Pimento cheese ravioli with crispy prosciutto and pecans

Tutorial Tuesday #3–10 Tips for Efficient Farmers Market Shopping

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Welcome to another Tutorial Tuesday!

Note: The photo above is from one of the many little neighborhood fresh markets in Paris. Interestingly, families in Paris don’t shop once a week or once a month–they shop several times a week and buy what is fresh. This is easier because most people walk to and from work (or the metro) and the markets are everywhere. If I could walk past a bakery and purchase fresh bread every few days, I certainly would do it!

Shifting your food shopping from the grocery store to the farmer’s market can present some challenges. You don’t always know what you’ll find at the market (especially when you’re first starting out) and you do need to have a bit more flexibility in your meal planning. Continuing the theme of how to shop efficiently and affordably while still eating local, I have 10 tips from our own family experience!

Tip One–Know your farmers, know your farmers, know your farmers.

Before starting our locavore journey, my only experience with asking produce questions was asking the “produce manager” in our local grocery store, who usually knew almost nothing about produce or cooking. So, I was pretty shy and hesitant about asking farmers information. I thought it might be rude. But you know what? Farmers LIKE answering questions and they LOVE talking about what they grow. And guess what else? Many of them cook this food themselves! Also, farmers, in my limited experience, are pretty practical folks. If you say you’re on a budget and you have xx to spend on vegetables, they can give you lots of ideas for how to stretch your dollars and feed your family. Try THAT at your local grocery store!

Tip Two–Use Social Media

You know those picture books with Farmer Brown plowing a field with oxen or riding in a horse and buggy? Well, those books need a major update. Most farmers who sell to local markets are pretty media savvy (or at least they are getting there). They probably have a Facebook page, an email newsletter and/or Twitter account. Crazy, right? I get weekly postings on what is available from local farmers and farmer’s markets in my area. That saves me a LOT of time when planning menus because I’m not guessing at what I’ll find.

Tip Three–Pre-order the Important Stuff

Related to Tip Two, I’ve found that I can easily pre-order cuts of meat, types of cheese, seafood, eggs and large amounts of produce (like strawberries for jam) and pick them up at my local farmer’s market. Farmer’s like this because they know they are bringing items to market that will be sold. And I love it because I don’t have to get to the market only to find out that no one has any chicken breasts left.

Tip Four–Allow Flexibility for the Unexpected

From menu planning/shopping system, you might think I’m a control freak. Well, that would be partially true, but I also love getting to the market and finding out that something new is available. If I’ve planned my menu right (see below), I may be able to add something unexpected into our menu. Or maybe it becomes a lunch snack. I can also make a note of it and work it in next week. The point is, don’t make yourself so controlled that you miss the beauty of the market.

One example of this is my Slightly Badass Blackberry Jam. Be open to the possibilities as long as you can use the produce!

Tip Five–Incorporate Some “Go-To” Flexible Recipes

I have plenty of recipes (roast chicken) in my culinary tool box that are pretty straightforward, simple and easy on the brain. I like to have some other, flexible, veggie-loving recipes that are always in rotation and can use almost anything in the refrigerator. These recipes are a good way to use up what’s left at the end of the week and a great way to incorporate those unexpected purchases. Here are some examples:

  • Stir-fry (one protein + chopped up veggies + onion + a whole grain)
  • Quiche/frittata (basic quiche/frittata recipe + 1 c. vegetables)
  • Pizza (one whole wheat crust + 2 c. chopped veggies + sauce/olive oil + cheese)
  • Roasted vegetables and pasta (16 oz. pasta + 2-3 c. roasted veggies + sauce/olive oil + cheese)
  • Saladpalooza (bowl of washed greens + assortment of chopped veggies + 1 protein + dressing)
  • Soup (4 c. chicken stock + pasta/rice + 3 c. sautéed vegetables)
  • Quesadillas (2 tortillas + fat-free refried beans + 1 c. sautéed vegetables + cheese + salsa)

These are all recipes that can use unlimited combinations of vegetables, grains and protein, making the most of what is seasonal and available!

Tip Six–Shop With a List

Now that I’ve addressed flexibility, once you have your list, stick to it unless you are POSITIVE you will use it. Back away from the impulse purchases that have no relationship to your menu. If you don’t have a recipe that will accommodate, say, rutabegas, and you can’t freeze them for later (see below), then do not buy them. I mean it…scoot, scoot!

Tip Seven–Make Use of What You Have

Americans throw away an obsene amount of food each year. Sometimes it happens that I get a huge amount of one vegetable in our Produce Box and it’s more than we can eat right away. Or maybe we have a last-minute change of plans and we don’t end up eating all our meals. In this case, the freezer is your best friend. Rather than throw away chicken because we didn’t make a big dinner, I can roast or bake it while we’re finishing up homework, take it off the bone and freeze it for later. Or, like last week when I received WAY more spring onions that we needed, I chopped them up, bagged them in freezer bags in 1 cup servings and froze them for later. Greens, like collards, mustard greens, kale and turnip greens, can also be cooked and frozen to eat later. Don’t waste that produce!

Tip Eight–Stock Up and Put It Up

Eating locally does not mean surviving on nothing but sweet potatoes and collard greens all winter. You can enjoy local peaches in February, delicious local corn in December and turnips in July. You just have to plan ahead. We’re new at this, but it’s already become a very enjoyable part of our farmer’s market trips. Food preservation is one of the oldest culinary skills around and guess what? It’s fun! You have three options when preserving your precious bounty–canning, freezing and drying. When fruits and vegetables are at their peak, stock up (prices are also lowest at this time) and save those wonderful flavors for later. You will save money and get high quality, delicious food all year-long!

Tip Nine–Ask. And Then Ask Again!

The local food network in my area (and I’m willing to bet in yours, too) is a close-knit community of farmers, chefs, bakers, cheese makers, etc. If you want something and can’t find it, ask around. I was amazed at what I learned once I started asking. Somehow in my mind, I thought that our local food producers would be highly secretive and competitive. While there may be some competition going on out there, the people I have found are pretty straight up. If I want something they don’t have, they don’t try to sell me something else. They tell me who has it. Sometimes they’ll actually walk me down to the other vendor and help me out. Crazy. And lovely.

Tip Ten–Realize That Sometimes You’ll Blow It

I’m human. And I love seafood. So when fresh seafood starts coming to our local market in the early spring, I go a little crazy. And going a little crazy usually means I blow my budget. Maybe even by a lot. I think this spring we had an entire week of nothing but seafood. At the end of the day, though, it’s like a fun celebration of the end of winter and the beginning of lighter foods on our menu. As long as it’s not a usual occurrence, we’re ok. We make up for it over the next few weeks and we calm down our purchases. So stay on budget, but don’t let an occasional celebration ruin your joy.

What are your tips and strategies?? I’d love to hear them!

What would you like to see in next week’s tutorial?

Week 23 Budget and Menu

We have had a wonderful spring and early summer so far. The constant rains have tapered off and now we actually have some sun and warm weather. The farmer’s markets are filling up again with all kinds of delicious fruits and vegetables–I just wish I could slow down time a bit so I could really take it all in! Our budget is back in line with our $100 or less goal at $90.20. The pulled pork is actually from last week (Mae Farm in Louisburg sells fabulous frozen, smoked pork barbecue made with their amazing pork!)–we never had a chance to defrost it, so we’re moving it on over to this week! As usual, we are “paying ourselves back” for our canned and frozen foods from last summer.

With Tom and Ellie both playing softball, and me ramping up my running (toward a 1/2 marathon, maybe?) we’ve had a lot to cheer on this spring. We are heading toward home plate now, with the last of this season’s games and tournaments, plus end-of-grade testing (hate.it) and all the special events that the end of school entails. This means dinners need to be quick, portable, nutritious and light. The “quick” and “portable” aspects are the most difficult for me, but it’s a nice challenge to have.

All you soccer/baseball/soccer moms and dads out there–what to you like to serve on game nights?

Budget [$90.20]

  • The Produce Box (organic green beans, double blueberries, sweet onions, yellow squash, zucchini, potatoes, organic beets): $26.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (herbed goat cheese and goat cheese spread): $9.75
  • Mae Farm (sausages): $10.00
  • Homestead Harvest Farm (eggs): $5.00
  • Wild Onion Farm (broccoli, sugar snap peas): $3.o0
  • Trader Joes (puff pastry, shredded pepper jack, frozen fruit, soy milk, yogurt, whole wheat flour): $27.45
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (sticky fig jam, blackberry jam, raspberry jam): $9.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Roasted vegetable, fig and goat cheese tart, salad
  • Thursday–Game day! Pulled Mae Farm pork sandwiches, fruit salad
  • Friday–Pulled pork, sweet potato and caramelized onion quesadillas
  • Saturday–Game day! Salads on the run!
  • Sunday–Mae Farm grilled sausages with blackberry ketchup, potato salad, green beans
  • Monday–Game night! Pasta salad with local roasted veggies and goat cheese
  • Tuesday–leftover pasta salad

Week 22 Budget and Menu

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The farmer’s markets are once again bustling with shoppers and bursting with late spring goodies! We are also getting more fresh tuna and fresh shrimp from the NC coast and that is reflected in our budget this week (it’s too good to pass up!). We are over budget by $22.59, but we have been under budget the last two weeks, so I guess it all works out in the end. My budget was helped slightly by a terrific electronic coupon from Locals Seafood, which saved me $5.00!

This week’s budget also reflects our need to use up some of the wonderful things we canned last year–jam, pickles, salsa–and some vegetables we froze (field peas, roasted tomato sauce). Since we don’t count our “stock up” expenses in our weekly budget, we figure a “per container” rate and pay ourselves back when we use them.

What is on your menu this week? Are you finding new foods at the market? We are so glad to see sugar snap peas again! Have a healthy and happy week ahead!

Budget [$122.59]

  • The Produce Box (blueberries, broccoli, tomato, romaine lettuce, potatoes, kale, bok choi, sourdough bread): $32.25
  • Locals Seafood (yellow fin tuna): $20.00
  • Mae Farm (pulled pork barbecue): $8.00
  • Trader Joes (fresh ginger, organic butter, pasta, frozen fruit, soy milk): $25.34
  • Wild Onion Organic Farm (celery, carrots, yellow squash): $10.00
  • Homestead Harvest Farm (eggs): $5.00
  • HillTop Farm Organics (strawberries, sugar snap peas): $8.00
  • Mitchell family pantry (jam, pickles, salsa, field peas, roasted tomato sauce): $14.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Farmer’s market salad
  • Thursday–Egg salad sandwiches on local sourdough, homemade pickles
  • Friday–Grilled tuna steaks with stir fried vegetables
  • Saturday–Out for our anniversary!
  • Sunday–Mae Farm pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, greens
  • Monday–Pulled pork hoe cakes with homemade salsa, field peas
  • Tuesday–Ellie’s spaghetti tacos with homemade roasted tomato sauce

Week 21 Budget and Menu

We are gearing up for another exciting, busy week. Softball season is keeping us hopping and we are enjoying every second of it! Our menu this week reflects not only our need for quick dinners, but also our celebration of Memorial Day! We haven’t had beef on our menu in a long time and we are going to enjoy every bite of these grilled hamburgers!

Our budget is under budget, even with wine from Trader Joes 🙂 Happy Memorial Day, everyone! Let summer begin!

Budget [$88.58]

  • The Produce Box (asparagus, romaine lettuce, garden peas, cilantro, strawberries, spring onions, kale): $27.50
  • Locals Seafood (crab cakes): $10.20
  • Mae Farm (smoked pork): $6.00
  • Melina’s Pasta (spinach fettucine): $6.00
  • Black Hoof Run Farm (heritage, grass-fed ground beef):$6.32
  • Trader Joes (burger buns, organic onions, organic chicken, frozen fruit, wine): $27.56
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (roasted pepper ketchup, jam): $5.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Scrambled egg tortillas
  • Thursday–Pasta with smoked pork and garden peas
  • Friday–Salad with strawberries, pecans and goat cheese
  • Saturday–NC crab cakes, creamy grits and asparagus
  • Sunday–Grilled beef burgers with bacon-onion marmelade, green salad, fruit parfaits
  • Monday–Barbecued chicken, deviled eggs, broccoli salad
  • Tuesday–Leftover buffet

Week 20 Budget and Menu

English: cow

I am over budget this week by $7.00 and it is all the cow’s fault.

Oh, cheese, you destroy my willpower every time! While at the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market, I visited the new booth of The Cultured Cow Creamery, a sustainable dairy and cheese making venture from Durham, NC. I just went in for a sample. Really. Just a teensy weensy sample of their raw cheddar.

Have you ever had raw (unpasteurized) cheese? We stuffed our faces with it sampled it in Paris, and it is far and away better than any other cheese I’ve tasted (or maybe it was just Paris?). My mom was even tempted to sneak some back in her luggage (attention all TSA agents–she didn’t). The Cultured Cow cheddar was so creamy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious that I had to buy some. Had to, I tell you. Who wants a week filled with cheese regret? Not me, that’s who. So that is why I am $7.00 over budget this week. It’s all the cow’s fault 🙂

Budget [$107.72]

  • Produce Box (all organic: lettuce, strawberries, broccoli, kale, chard, onions, asparagus): $29.50
  • Trader Joes (organic chicken, organic limes, avocado, whole wheat English muffin, frozen fruit, organic soy milk, yogurt): $38.72
  • Hilltop Farms (organic strawberries, organic radish): $7.00
  • The Cultured Cow Creamery (raw cheddar cheese): $7.00
  • La Farm Bakery (whole grain bread): $5.50
  • Homestead Farm (eggs): $5.00
  • Locals Seafood (flounder): $15.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Chili lime chicken salad with grated raw cheddar and avocado dressing
  • Thursday–Crazy Good sandwiches (prosciutto, egg, local raw cheddar, lettuce, tomato, avocado on whole grain bread), kale chips
  • Friday–out
  • Saturday–Flounder, asparagus, Swiss chard
  • Sunday–Roast whole chicken, broccoli, sweet potato
  • Monday–Chicken quesadillas, red quinoa
  • Tuesday–Homemade egg salad sandwiches, homemade pickles

Week 19 Budget and Menu

Our little family is unbelievably busy this spring! Between softball, Girl Scouts and homework, our evenings are chock full of activity. Rather than drive myself to distraction trying to race home and cook a big supper, we are focusing on easy, healthy meals that are also quick to prepare.

We are right at our budget of $100.00 this week. While we aren’t spending a lot more at the farmer’s markets, staples that we buy at the grocery sure have gone up! Have you noticed this as well? Yikes!

Most of our budget for week 19 went to The Produce Box. I have to say, they pulled out the stops this week. I’ve never had local, fresh bamboo shoots! They take a bit of preparation, but it will be fun to try something new. We will also have fresh snap peas and local goat cheese from Hillsborough Cheese Company. Can’t wait!!!

Speaking of excitement, SOLE Food Kitchen now has a Facebook page! Click HERE to find us on Facebook and “like” us if you want to get more SOLE Food goodness!

Budget [$100.03]

  • The Produce Box (strawberries, spring onions, spring garlic, romaine lettuce, tomato, purple and green asparagus, bamboo shoots, snap peas and herbed goat cheese): $47.50
  • Trader Joes (roast beef, chicken thighs, prosciutto, rice, frozen fruit, yogurt, soymilk): $38.53
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (jam, salsa, pickles, roasted tomato sauce): $14.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Scrambled farm egg burritos with homemade salsa
  • Thursday–Roast beef wraps with herbed goat cheese spread, strawberry/pineapple salad
  • Friday–Grilled cheese and jam sandwiches, green salad, strawberry cobbler
  • Saturday–Chicken and vegetable stir fry with organic rice, leftover cobbler
  • Sunday–Pasta with asparagus and prosciutto in a goat cheese sauce, Linzer muffins
  • Monday–Chicken salad sandwiches, homemade pickles
  • Tuesday–Asparagus soup, salad

Have a happy and healthy week ahead!

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