Detoxify With Veggie Wraps from Delicious Living

Detoxification is always a hot topic in food blogs and natural living circles around this time of year.  Spring has sprung!  Time to stop eating savory stews and casseroles, and perk up your diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, and broths.  Start the exercise regime, and eat some chia seeds if you know what’s good for you!

I was exhausted last night and my “meal plan” consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, and, if we were lucky, some organic chard I had in the fridge.  I was perusing this month’s issue of Delicious Living, however, and saw a recipe for detoxifying chard veggie wraps that didn’t look too hard.  I modified them slightly by adding leftover lentils in place of the almond filling, and adding leftover cold chicken and some chopped bacon.  The wraps as written in the recipe are vegan, and I’m sure they would be completely delicious that way.  You could substitute hummus for the soaked almonds, too, which would be pretty awesome!

Here’s a picture of what the wraps looked like unwrapped:

I made a simple dressing for them out of some vinaigrette I already had in the fridge, plus some lemon juice, flaxseed oil, and fresh ginger and garlic for some antioxidant punch.  It was very zesty!  Perfect for spring.

Here is what the wraps looked like wrapped!   They were SO GOOD.  Making wraps is a great way to eat more vegetables, or to include vegetables you know you should eat, but don’t really love, like chard.

Remember the very last post when I was bemoaning the high price of organic peppers?  Behold!  A “dollar bag” of three red peppers, organic, from the Vitamin Cottage.  Now that I think about it, this meal really was a budget meal (especially if you make it vegetarian), unlike the other “budget” meals in the Delicious Living from last month.  You are forgiven, Delicious Living, and thank you for detoxifying me for at least one night!


Anniversary shopping at Whole Foods

When I first started this blog, I wrote a little bit about frugal shopping at Whole Foods.  Almost everyone I know agrees on two things:  One, they love Whole Foods, and two, they can’t afford to shop there.  The thing is, Whole Foods is actually very affordable as long as you aren’t planning on doing your entire weekly shopping trip there.  If I had to guess, I would estimate that at least 50% of the items I buy regularly can be found at Whole Foods for the same price (or even cheaper) than at “regular” grocery stores.  Bulk foods, yogurt, milk and eggs, and bread are just a few categories that are perfectly reasonably priced at Whole Foods. 

Yesterday’s trip to Whole Foods was a bit of an abberation, however, because Justin and I chose yesterday to celebrate our 7th anniversary!  The real date is January 18, but it’s been a hectic few months so we only got to it yesterday.  I couldn’t think of anything to get Justin as a present, especially since we don’t really exchange gifts very much, so I picked two things I know he loves:  Olives and deli meat. 

Olives and… deli meat?  That’s a present? 

Well, it is for a guy who loves olives and deli meat!  I have stayed away from deli meat for quite a while now because I’m not a fan of the high sodium and high price of processed meat.  Also, the fact that lots of deli meat is just minced up meat pressed back into meat-log form, well – you gotta admit that’s weird.  Too bad I love salami so much!  Anyway, this is all to say that we haven’t been eating a lot of Whole Foods BBQ chicken breast.  1/3 of a pound cost me $3.72.  The olives came from the olive bar, and they were amazing.  They were completely worth the $2.40.  You can’t really beat $6.42 for a very appreciated anniversary gift.

I also picked up some budget-friendly items like corn chips ($0.50 with in-store coupon), bananas, organic zucchini for $1.99/lb, and two yogurts at $0.89 each. 

Tuesday total:  $11.83.  Total without gift:  $5.41

Weekly total – groceries only:  $44.61

Weekly total – groceries + eating out + gift:  $65.03

Five Tips for Reducing Food Waste and Using Leftovers

The Fruit Stand, by Snyders Frans (16th c)

My office gets a copy of the Wall Street Journal every morning, and I hardly ever never read it.  Yesterday, though, I noticed an article about using leftovers and reducing food waste, titled “Leftovers:  Tasty or Trash?”  Finally, a finance article I want to read!  It was a really great article and touched on a key aspect of food budgeting, which is simply to stop wasting your money by throwing good food away.  According to the article, food is the “second-biggest component of the solid waste stream after paper and paperboard” – yikes!   I was also struck by the fact that we need to be reminded to use all of our food.  It’s not an earth-shattering idea by any means, but one that we know in theory but often don’t put into practice.

I spent some time thinking about the most basic food-saving tips, ones that I wish I always put into practice, too.  I realized that if I stuck by all of these, I would have a lot less food waste and a lot more money!  Well, maybe not a lot more, but a little more for sure!

1.  Buy only what you need.*

If you buy a large quantity of something and then only use part of it, you’re wasting a bunch of money.  It’s bad for your wallet and our landfills.  Rather than going to the grocery store and trying to guess at how much of something you have, take a few minutes to assess your grocery situation before you go to the store. According to the article, almost all of us grocery shoppers underestimate the amount of a particular item we have,(Do I have enough eggs for breakfast tomorrow?  I think I have four… no, maybe three?  Oh crap, I had eight!), leading to unnecessary buying and wasting.

*Unless you can successfully stockpile.

That said, I’m not against stockpiling at all.  The article was slightly against stockpiling in the sense that buying huge quantities of food and then letting half go to waste is, well, a huge waste.  Of course that’s true.  My finest stockpiling moment happened last year, when I was getting boxes of Nut-Thins for twenty-five cents each. Every time I bought four boxes, another coupon popped out of the machine making the next four boxes twenty five cents each as well.  I bought four boxes every single day for two weeks.  The only reason I stopped was because Justin finally said DON’T YOU THINK WE HAVE ENOUGH NUT-THINS ALREADY?  They lasted us for months, and it was amazing.

2.  Label perishable foods.

It’s easy to tell if fruits and veggies are past their prime – they get squishy, brown, or moldy – but for me, at least, it’s harder to tell if meat or dairy products are still good.  I often buy things like dairy-based boxed soups, and each box is big enough to be part of two meals so I put the unused half in the fridge.  I almost always forget when I bought the darn thing – was it a week ago, or two weeks? – and I throw the other half out.  It’s a huge waste!  I feel like a budgeting failure when that happens.

3.  If you’re not going to eat it in time, freeze it!

If you think you’re not going to have time to eat everything you’ve bought or prepared, stick it in the freezer!  I freeze meat, veggies, bread and beans all the time.  I know other people freeze milk, cheese and eggs, but I haven’t tried that yet.

4.  Make a big batch of soup, stew or chili.

I know how to make exactly two kinds of soup:  black bean and “everything.”  (I can also make chili – yee haw!)  In fact, when I made Everything Soup last night, Justin sniffed the air and asked, “What kind of soup is this?”  “Chicken, rice, zucchini, cabbage, carrot…” I said.  “Ahh,” he replied.  “The usual.”  A big batch of soup is perfect for using up odds and ends of veggies, meats and grains that you might otherwise toss in the trash.  (Or better – the compost!)  Other good meal ideas for leftovers include fried rice, stir-fry, omelettes with veggies, and bean/taco/veggie and rice bowls.

5.  Make a meal plan – even a general one.

I’ve never been one to make a detailed meal plan, but I usually have a vague idea of what I want to make for two or three days in a row, including lunches.  It’s always changing depending on what I actually use up on a certain day, but I usually have a pretty good grasp of what is in my fridge.  The worst problem for me in that area is hidden items – I put half a zucchini in the crisper drawer “for later” and then forget it’s in there.

Besides contributing less to our nation’s overstuffed landfills, using up the food you buy can save you a significant amount of money.  The WSJ article concludes that “the average U.S. family of four spends from $500 to $2,000 a year on food they never eat.”  If you’re a family of two, that means you could potentially save $250 to $1,000 a year – woo hoo!   Imagine you spend $100 a week on groceries, but waste $5 of that – that’s a savings of $260 a year!


Unrelated, but a funny thing happened at work:

Setting: Phone call between Angela and Man Presumed to Be Dave

Man:  Hello?

Angela:  Hi, is this Dave?

Man:  Dave who?

Angela:  Dave Johnson?

Man:  Uhh, no.

Angela:  Um…

Man:  You must have the wrong number.  Bye!

Thoughts:  a) his last name wasn’t really Johnson, I just changed it for publication on the Internetzzz, and b) if your name IS Dave, why would you say DAVE WHO?

Most boring post ever, part 2!

I made a batch of garbanzo beans the other day, and I finally took some pictures of the process.  Preparing dry beans takes two days; first, you have to sort the dry beans and then put them to soak overnight.  The next day you simmer them until tender.  You only have to simmer garbanzos for about an hour, but other beans, like black beans and pinto, take 3-4 hours.  It isn’t hard at all, but it is time consuming – another reason why busy people have a hard time sticking to a budget.  Now, though, I have about a quart of garbanzos in my fridge, and another two pints, frozen in Ball jars, in the freezer!  In the end it will save me time and money.  Since I bought these particular garbanzos at Sunflower on sale for $.99/lb, they will probably save me quite a bit of money in the long run.  Photos forthcoming!

Today, though, you get to read about another exciting adventure in grocery shopping!  I went to Whole Foods and found that it’s pretty easy for me to spend $13-14 in one go, but pretty difficult to pare it down to $10.  Why is that extra $3 so tricky?  It must be like trying to loose that last 3 pounds, or run that extra 3 miles a week.  Or to run 3 miles a week, period!

I love Whole Foods.  It is often labeled as snooty, elitist, and above all, expensive, but I love it anyway.  It’s beautiful, vibrant, and just feels healthy.  Sometimes I succumb to feelings of frustration there, though – like when I see a teeny tiny artisan salami that sells for $15.  Today, though, I admired the salami and moved on.  You don’t need salami to live (I’m pretty sure), but you do need things like bananas.

For $13.72, I got:

  • A dozen eggs:  $2.79
  • 1/3 lb sliced Jarlsberg, for omelettes:  $2.38
  • 1/4 lb bulk coconut flakes:  $.88
  • 1/3 lb bulk honey roasted peanuts:  $.81
  • 1/2 lb bulk flaxseeds:  $.88
  • 1/3 lb bulk almond meal ($5.99/lb):  $1.92
  • Bag of corn chips:  $1.99
  • Snack size bag of Sun Drops (m&ms!):  $.99
  • Three bananas:  $.66

I’m pretty satisfied with this, especially the bulk purchases.  The things that got me off track were, as always, treats – the Sun Drops (Justin spied them and said, “Hey honey, can I eat those off-brand m&ms?”), the honey peanuts, the corn chips.  Separately they are pretty cheap, but all together… they turn into my $3 nemesis!  Check out the prices for flaxseed and coconut… both super healthy, and both SUPER cheap.  I love that combination!

With the bulk items, I’m going to make a new type of cookie I learned about yesterday.  You just mash two bananas, add 2/3 cup oats (GF for me), a cup of grated carrot, 4tbsp butter, and some cinnamon.  Bake at 350 for ten minutes.  They’re actually pretty good, considering there’s no added sugar, flour, OR the half stick of butter we’re used to in cookie recipes.  I’m planning to add some ground flaxseeds, coconut, and almond meal.  A high protein, low-glycemic dessert or breakfast.

Culture of Want and Grocery Shopping

Awash in a sea of people wearing head to toe North Face and driving brand-new Subarus, it’s easy to think that the Boulder lifestyle should be achievable for everyone when it really isn’t.  Boulder is beautiful, sometimes frustratingly so; the people of Boulder are also beautiful, and they have a lot of beautiful… stuff. Sometimes I spend an hour at Goodwill just to regain my sanity and remind myself that no, spending $68 on a t-shirt is not normal.  Phew!  People here are crazy, you guys.  The nearest Dunkin’ Donuts is over 50 miles away, although there is a rumor going around town that Dunkin’ is coming to Denver.  I will do whatever it takes to get there!

Sometimes, though, it’s just so easy to want things.  Riding my bike on a chilly day I might think:  Man, that awesome Nissan Leaf would be really great right now!  Or passing by the umpteenth coffee shop filled with people busily typing away on their laptops and sipping espressos… I want that life!  Well, to be honest, I do actually want the life of a writer, but so far that hasn’t happened yet.  More frequently, however, I just want the lifestyle of a writer with its (so I imagine) trappings of funky coffee shops and lattes.  The actual work of a writer is so much more difficult than that.  So difficult that even though I profess to love writing, I have not actually dedicated significant chunks of time to, you know… doing it.  I think about writing a lot, but thinking isn’t doing!

Anyway.  I think the whole culture of wanting really extends to our grocery shopping as well.  Especially in the natural foods aisles, there are just so many beautiful products!  Even though we rationally know that the packaging of a product doesn’t really have anything to do with what’s inside, we still get suckered in by advertising.

I was walking around the natural aisle of King Soopers today (yes… that is the actual name of an actual grocery store) and I paid specific attention to the pastas, cereals, tomato sauces and such that I would buy if price were no consideration.  Without fail, they were absurdly expensive, and made me curse my decision to major in English and then in religion.  Where was my inner accountant when I needed her?  Nowhere, that’s where.

These olives look amazing.  I am 100% sure I could eat the whole jar right now.

Here is an example of two products that would really tempt me if I had kids.  Or… well, okay, they really tempted me anyway!  But $4.99 for 12 fruit strips isn’t so great a deal for someone like me, because I would eat four a day.  On the other hand, it’s a better deal to buy the box of 12 rather than one or two individual strips (different brand, non-organic, also in the natural foods aisle), because those are $.49 each, slightly more expensive than their organic counterparts.

One last example – a jar of pasta sauce for $7.79, on sale from $8.19!  I bet you it doesn’t cost that much in Italy.

I’m interested to hear how other people resist advertising in the grocery store.  Do you give in, or just plow ahead on your shopping mission?

It’s not Whole Paycheck after all!

Yesterday I went to Whole foods to check out their one-day sale on organic whole chickens.  The sale price was $1.99/lb, which is a dollar off.  Their non-organic “natural” chickens are $1.49/lb, so that sale price for organic chickens is pretty good.  There was a limit of ten chickens per person, so I bought… one.  But it was a big one!

I also needed dishwashing detergent, so I spent a while in the cleaning aisle looking at the prices and ingredients.  I spotted one that was on clearance for $2.47, down from $4.99.  It also had a short list of ingredients, most of which I would feel comfortable eating. Even the ones I wasn’t exactly sure about didn’t sound too intimidating – actually, this dishwashing detergent has more normal ingredients than my shampoo!

Last, I picked out two boxes of almondmilk.  These were a good deal because I could use three coupons on two items!  Whole Foods prints a coupon booklet every two months, and sometimes the coupons make for really good deals.  In the Jan/Feb “Whole Deal,” there is a coupon for $1 off of two boxes of Almond Breeze.  I was in a different grocery store earlier this month and picked up two $.55 off one Almond Breeze coupons.  These coupons are “manufacturer’s coupons” which means the producer, i.e. Almond Breeze, not the grocery store, pays for the discount.  That’s why you can use a “store coupon” (from Whole Deal, or a Safeway coupon, or whatever) and stack it with a “manufacturer coupon” (i.e., a coupon from a specific company).  This works out great, especially if the items you want are already on sale, which these almondmilks weren’t 😦  Despite that, they ended up being $1.64 each rather than $2.69 each.

The total price for my Whole Foods trip was $13.65.  I’m already over my daily limit!  But a whole chicken will stretch to several meals, and two almondmilks will last a few days, so overall I think I will still make my $70 goal this week.

On the way home, I also swung by Sprouts to snag some of their good organic deals.  For $2.17, I got a bag of carrots, two apples (organic), a pear (organic), and a medium-sized zucchini.  It just goes to show that if people were to really eat mostly fruits and vegetables, and some beans/rice/lentils and a little meat, it would certainly be possible to eat for $5 a day for two.

The point, of course, is to take control of your shopping trips.  Whole Foods IS really expensive, but it depends on what you buy.  If you buy things that are on sale, or that would become a good deal with a coupon, then Whole Foods doesn’t have to be Whole Paycheck.