Week 48 Budget and Menu

It seems like January was just a few weeks ago–not sure how this year flew by me! Here we are at the entrance to the biggest food holidays in the U.S.–Thanksgiving, Hannukah and Christmas. What are your plans? Are you going traditional or shaking things up a bit? Are you planning a Thanksgivukah meal this year? Share!

Week 48 of this year features some great local produce and seafood. We will also celebrate Tom’s birthday with his requested collard quiche and sweet potato pound cake, which fits into our seasonal rotation of food! Our budget is helped by some carryover in our freezer. We have some swordfish that was parked in the freezer due to a previously crazy week and we are using some of the last of our canned tomato soup from last summer.

Budget [$93.27]
The Produce Box (chemical free lettuce, organic sweet potatoes, organic kale, organic beets, organic persimmons, organic arugula, apples and pears): $39.75
Farmers Market (spinach, collards, eggs): $9.00
Trader Joes (lemon, pie crust, frozen fruit, yogurt, almond milk, chia seeds, cucumber): $27.52
Whole Foods (raw cacao powder): $17.00

Menu
Wednesday–Apple, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad
Thursday–Out attending a fundraiser
Friday–Sweet Potato Kale Pasta
Saturday–Swordfish with Arugula Pesto, Braised Kale and Beet Greens
Sunday–Collard Quiche, Roasted Beets, Sweet Potato Pound Cake
Monday–Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Tuesday–Pasta with Roasted Tomato Sauce

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Week 43 Budget and Menu

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Our weather has been perfect for mushrooms! The markets are full of fresh Shitake mushrooms this week!

October! October is here!!! It’s still in 80’s here in North Carolina, so we’re not exactly feelin’ the fall weather, but all the same, we know fall is approaching. Leaves are starting to turn, the often oppressive humidity is gone and mosquitoes are fewer in number. Every region has their own seasonal benchmarks. You may have fall hayrides, we have a decline in blood-sucking mosquitoes.

I’d love to have nothing but chili, stew and baked pasta this week, but it’s too warm for such cozy fare. Instead, we are focusing on lighter foods that still feature our seasonal fruits and vegetables. I am especially excited that I found fresh, organic Shitake mushrooms at our downtown farmer’s market! Apparently, our fall weather has been perfect for them!

I also had great success with making my own refried beans this week! It was very easy, and I used some heirloom beans leftover from making chili, so it was a good use of extra food. I made the refried beans  on the bland side so I can add whatever spices I want later. We’re using them on bean tostatas later this week along with some leftover tortillas and cheese. We also have extra corn and leftover crab meat (now frozen) from a few weeks ago and that will make a lovely corn and crab chowder. Don’t you love it when leftover foods come together in something that approximates a meal?

Our budget this week is definitely helped by Tom’s fishing success and a weekly coupon from Locals Seafood. Every little bit helps, especially when the cost of food keeps rising.

Breakfasts this week include Ezekiel bread, muffins, and probably some whole wheat buttermilk pancakes. We are using our homemade jam, which is wonderful and we will get another jar of local honey in this week’s Produce Box!

I hope you are taking advantage of some wonderful fall produce in your area (or spring if you are in the southern hemisphere!). Have a happy and healthy week!

Budget [$109.51]

  • The Produce Box (acorn squash, honey, sweet onions, lettuce, apples, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash, green beans, mixed sweet peppers): $48.00
  • Locals Seafood (shrimp): $10.00
  • Hilltop Farm Organics (Shitake mushrooms): $4.30
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (jam): $3.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (goat cheese): $6.00
  • Trader Joes (pasta, organic rice, organic chicken, frozen fruit, almond milk, almonds): $38.21

Menu for Week 42

  • Wednesday–Roasted red pepper, mushroom and shrimp pasta, salad
  • Thursday–Leftovers (we have some left from last week!)
  • Friday–Game night–Refried bean, mushroom and cheese tostatas
  • Saturday–Corn and crab chowder
  • Sunday–Roast chicken, acorn squash with honey and sage, green beans
  • Monday–Game night–Chicken and vegetable quesadillas
  • Tuesday–Roasted whole fish, squash and zucchini saute

Week 42 Budget and Menu

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I know I resisted fall for as long as possible, but I am finally embracing it (which is good since I can’t do anything about it anyway!). We are all about warm, cozy, plant-based suppers this week, and I’m looking forward to trying out some new ideas, like acorn squash soup with heirloom beans, which is an invention born of necessity (I rehydrated too many beans for another recipe!), and pizza with pumpkin, sausage, fried sage and gruyere cheese, which has been on my mind a lot lately. Do you ever dream about recipes?

Our budget this week is helped by Tom’s big score! After a day of fishing, we have some lovely bluefish and mackerel that we will be enjoying over the next couple of months. We have a busy week ahead, but it should be fun as well! Have a happy and healthy week!

Budget [$111.63]

  • The Produce Box (lettuce, yellow squash, tatsoi, string beans, eggplant, bell peppers, potatoes, heirloom tomatoes): $41.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (mozzarella): $6.00
  • Locals Seafood (NC shrimp): $12.00
  • Coon Rock Farm (Italian sausage): $10.00
  • Trader Joes (organic rice, curry simmer sauce, pepperoni, sage, shredded gruyere cheese, frozen fruit, yogurt, Ezekiel bread): $42.63

Menu

  • Wednesday (scout night)–Green salad with hard boiled egg
  • Thursday–Girls night out
  • Friday (softball night)–Acorn squash soup with heirloom beans, cornbread
  • Saturday–Shrimp and vegetable stir fry with organic rice
  • Sunday–Curried eggplant, green beans and potato over organic rice
  • Monday–Make your own pizza night
  • Tuesday–NC bluefish, sauteed squash, green beans

Week 30 Budget and Menu

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Some weeks are full of culinary inspiration and others are just pure survival. We are in the throes of back-to-school, so this week’s menu is nothing extraordinary, but it is mostly healthy and local food. Ellie starts school on Monday, so we are busy this week celebrating her birthday and getting ready for 8th grade! We are also on a major household purging mission–getting rid of old toys, appliances we don’t use and anything that is not of use to us, but may be of use to someone else. It’s a good feeling to pare down to essentials, but it is also exhausting going through everything. And it is hot. Very hot. So our menu is more survival than exciting, but it still focuses on the local and organic foods that are fresh here. We may not be making anything adventurous, but we are still eating healthy! Our budget is helped along a bit by some carryover items purchased for previous week dinners that we never made. The pimento cheese ravioli from Melina’s Pasta and the chorizo from Mae Farm have been in the freezer, so we’re going to use them up this week.

Speaking of using things up, I have, like 7 pints of pickles left from last summer. This is after eating pickles during the winter. Why on earth did I make so many pickles??? I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’m making a note this year to chill out on the pickle business. I mean, they’re good and all, but we do not consume that level of pickle. Guess I’ll have an office giveaway this week!

Budget [$110.93]

The Produce Box (cantaloupe, watermelon, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, herbs, organic garlic, sweet onions, eggplant, new potatoes, heirloom cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, and bell peppers): $54.00

Trader Joes (organic roasting chicken, tortillas, avocado, frozen fruit, yogurt, almond milk, Ezekiel bread, organic frozen pizza, crescent rolls):$47.63

Mitchell Family Pantry (pickles, jam, salsa): $9.00

Menu

Wednesday–Pimento cheese ravioli w/corn and cherry tomatoes

Thursday–Chorizo, corn and black bean ring, fruit salad

Friday–Sandwiches, pickles, fruit

Saturday–Sandwiches for lunch, Out for Ellie’s birthday dinner

Sunday–Roast chicken, potatoes, eggplant and cherry tomatoes

Monday–Chicken quesadillas

Tuesday–pizza

Tutorial Tuesday #4–Preparing to Shop at the Farmers Market

36/365 Produce

I am a “list person”.

Not to label myself or anything, but I do love a good list (I also have a label maker, so maybe I will label myself). To-do lists, errand lists, shopping lists and yes, menu lists. There is something very satisfying about crossing off something on a list. Also, I am slightly absent-minded (I prefer to think of this as “intensely focused elsewhere”), so lists help me keep track of things that might otherwise get overlooked. I also keep a list of blog topics. And one that has risen to the top is how we plan our meals around local foods. A friend posted in wondering about this as well, so now seems a good time to dive in.

We don’t have a lot of parameters around our eating, but we do have some loose rules for our journey:

  1. At least 75% of our food should come from local sources.
  2. We should keep spending to $100 or under
  3. No processed foods, unless absolutely necessary (see “Girl Scout Cookies”)

In the second week of our journey, I had a major “uh-oh” moment. I had carefully crafted a list of recipes I wanted to try, based on what I thought might be available at the farmer’s market. As it turns out, almost nothing I wanted was available, so I ended up buying all manner of random food and then trying to create a week of meals out of it. If you’re up for that challenge, go for it, but it was a stressful learning experience for me and I discovered that I need more order than that. I’ve developed a system for locavore menu planning over the past year and a half, and I’ll share it with you. It probably sounds more complicated than it really is. I’m not recommending anyone adopt my system, but it works for me. And if it works for me, I am probably more likely to be successful, so finding a system that works for YOU will do the same. Here goes:

Friday–On Fridays, I get an email from The Produce Box letting me know what is in the various boxes for the next week. I usually go ahead and order my box on Friday and, based on what is going to be in my box, I start my menu for the next week, and make a shopping list of the remaining items I will need from the farmer’s market and from Trader Joes. Since what I get in my Produce Box is similar to what is available at our farmer’s market, there aren’t many surprises here.

On Fridays, I also read emails and Twitter posts from our local farmers markets and farmers so I know what will be available over the weekend. These posts help so much. I highly recommend getting on the e-mail lists of any farmers markets or farmers near you. I can find out what vendors will be available, what they will have, what’s coming up soon and (if I want) I can even order specific products or cuts of meat ahead of time.

A note about our weekly menu: I try to make sure we have a balance of vegetables and proteins throughout the week and I try not to have pasta or starchy dishes more than once or twice a week. This doesn’t always work out–some weeks have been heavy on seafood and others heavy on chicken or pork–but mostly it works out ok. I always try to plan at least one meatless meal each week.

Tuesday–On Tuesdays, I do a final tweak to our menu and check my shopping list. I look at how much my Produce Box order is and try to assess how much in our budget I have left for the farmer’s market and for grocery store items. I get my draft post for the blog ready on Tuesday night.

Wednesday–On Wednesdays, I go to the farmer’s market (sometimes I do this on Saturday, but whatever). Since I know pretty much in advance what will be available to me, I pick up what I need as well as any orders I have placed for meat, fish, etc. While I’m at the market, I make a list (!) of new items that are available or anything interesting that I might consider for next week. Then after work, I go to Trader Joes and get whatever else I need.

Unless something happens and I forget something on the list (see “intensely focused elsewhere”), I try to shop once a week, and keep the extra purchases to a minimum. I do make exceptions for canning over the weekend. If I know I’m going to be making jam or pasta sauce, I’ll head out to the farmer’s market Saturday morning (early) to get what I need so it is very fresh.

So far, this system has worked out relatively well. It does mean that I spend a LOT more time thinking about food, although the longer I do it, the easier it is and the less time I spend planning and shopping. I don’t necessarily mind spending the time, but if you don’t like to cook or if you don’t want to sit around and think through a weekly menu, this may not make you happy. To date, we have been pretty good about not wasting food and making good use of the produce and meat we buy. Some weeks are more successful than others, of course. That’s life.

So that is our system for making sure we have local foods and that we eat what we buy. If you are eating local, how do you plan your meals?

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

Week 12 Budget and Menu

This week, we are continuing our “use it up” mode from last week. We are using lots of ingredients from our canned and frozen summer foods as well as what is in our garden (will the greens EVER die????). Our budget is low this week because we are celebrating a very successful grading period for Ellie, who is tracking out this week. So, she gets to pick where we go to eat, which should make things interesting! As a result, we have one less dinner on the menu.

Our budget this week is $73.35, so we are below our goal for the week. Overall, we are doing much better with our budget than at this time last year!

Budget [$73.35]

  • Farmer’s Market (cabbage, potatoes, carrots, apples): $13.00
  • Whole Foods (corned beef roast, salmon): $19.00
  • Trader Joes (Ezekial bread, lemon, frozen fruit, soy milk, yogurt, breakfast burritoes): $43.35
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (fig preserves, strawberry preserves, frozen peas): $8.00
  • Garden (Chinese cabbage, Swiss chard): FREE!

Menu

  • Sunday–Happy St. Pats! Corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots
  • Monday–Working night–Last of the frozen ribollita soup
  • Tuesday–Leftover corned beef
  • Wednesday–Baked and stuffed sweet potatoes, sauteed Swiss chard
  • Thursday–End of quarter celebration–Ellie picks!
  • Friday–Chili dusted salmon with figs, rice and peas, sauteed Chinese cabbage
  • Saturday–Pasta with sardines and lemon

Week 10–Budget and Menu

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All the food we canned and froze is coming in handy now that our market options are limited!

This is not my favorite time of year. Winter weather continues long after I lose patience with it, the lack of variety at the farmer’s markets is wearing thin, and I’m ready for spring. But spring is still a month away, so for now I’m focusing on using what we stored over the summer and planning for spring even though it isn’t here quite yet. This week’s menu uses up some of our canned and frozen summer food as well as what is in our garden. Thankfully, even though our markets are still heavy in root vegetables, we have lots of variety in our canned preserves, salsas and other yummy treats from summer!

Even though we are paying ourselves back for the stock up foods we put up over the summer (these items were not counted in our weekly budget since they were not consumed during those weeks), we are still looking good at $86.58 for the week! Here is how this week’s budget looks:

Budget [$86.58]

  • Farmers market (baking potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, onions): $12.00
  • Mae Farm (pork barbecue): $15.00
  • Mitchell pantry (corn, tomato sauce, field peas, peaches, salsa, jam): $18.00
  • Mitchell garden (collards, Swiss chard): free!
  • Trader Joes (dried cherries, dates, almonds, oatmeal, soy milk, yogurt, frozen fruit, organic coconut milk, pepper jack cheese): $41.58

Menu

  • Sunday–Cookie booth (dinner out)
  • Monday–NC pulled pork, collard greens, summer corn, peach cobbler
  • Tuesday–Pasta with roasted tomato sauce
  • Wednesday–Jacket potatoes, green salad
  • Thursday–Pulled pork quesadillas with field peas
  • Friday–Leftover buffet
  • Saturday–Family Pizza Smackdown Competition
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