23 June 2011

An Itty Bitty Update

I have a notebook. It is green. I got it from my boss. It houses all of those numbers that no one wants to read but I post anyway. So I'm trying a new tactic for a while: not posting each individual number. I have so many things that I would rather post on this blog. There are the Product Reviews, of course, and more Recipes. I'd also like to start a section on Produce: how to care for and when to buy your favorite fruits and vegetables. Another section I'm toying with is a section about having an entire meal under $1—and I mean something from each of the food groups per serving.

I will still post weekly and monthly totals and averages, but I think that that part of this blog is more personal, and no one reallywants to read those. Actually, it's more that a part of me doesn't think anyone wants to know those sorts of things. If you think differently, let me know and I'd be glad to re-start those postings.

Anyway, ttfn!

21 June 2011

French Baguette Pizza!

So, I made an awesome pizza a few nights ago by using a french baguette, lots of cheese, and garlic. And you can make your own, too! One baguette makes about four individual pizzas (I cut mine into eights to make them easier to eat, but I'd say fourths for the hungrier people out there), and can be bought pretty inexpensively.

What you need:
French baguette (as low as $0.88 from Walmart)
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
Tomato sauce
Cream cheese
Parmesan cheese
Shredded cheese (preferably with provolone in it)
Any meat or veggie toppings you may want

So cut the baguette in half horizontally (using your serrated knife, of course!) and then again vertically for as many pizzas as you would like. Then, spread a layer of butter over the crumb of the bread. Sprinkle with garlic and Italian seasoning(french baguettes make awesome garlic bread, too). Cover with tomato/pizza/spaghetti sauce. Following that was a layer of chive and onion cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and then the "pizza" mix I got from the grocery store. I put the pizza in the oven for 10 minutes at 420 degrees. Then I feasted.

I didn't use any meat, but that doesn't mean that you can't. In fact, I would love to see some meaty, delicious French baguette pizzas. You can also use a bagel as the crust instead of a baguette, but most other breads end up not having the same consistency or texture as a pizza crust, which makes your dinner "Stuff on Bread" rather than "Pizza".

The total cost for me ended up being about $0.30 per little section (so, an eighth). A lot of my ingredients were from before I moved, and I hijacked the baguette from my work. For pizza, that's a really good price.

Now some people may ask why I didn't just make my own crust, and there were several reasons. Firstly, the baguette was free. The baguette is similar (though not the same) as having a slightly tough pizza crust. It's a little on the thick side and you don't have the crust's edge to keep your toppings from falling off. You can use the rest of the baguette for other meals if you don't use it all in one sitting (sandwiches, garlic bread). Baguettes are delicious.1

19 June 2011


So, I've been going to the grocery store once per paycheck, which seems to work out rather well. Last time, I went with a list. That technique went well enough, though I was hard pressed to curb my impulse buying. This round, I gave myself a set amount to spend—just $20. And I fully succeeded, spending only $19.94.

This tactic worked a little better for me because I was able to look at something and put it in the basket without feeling bad for not following that darned list. Of course, I had an idea of what I needed, so I wasn't completely unprepared. I knew I wanted potatoes and snacks, but the rest was up to my stomach.

Just a short update, I suppose. Later this week, I'll be posting a recipe of sorts that turned out really well. Hope to see you there!

15 June 2011


6/6Granola bar$0.42
Cookie Mash$0.50
Fried Rice$.68
Fried rice$0.68
6/8Toaster pastries$0.35
Fried Rice$0.68
6/9Toaster pastries$0.35
Stroganoff Creation$0.75
Ice Cream with Strawberries$0.90
6/10Toaster pastries$0.35
Stroganoff Creation$1.50
Cereal with Strawberries$0.61
Ice Cream with Strawberries$0.61
Cereal with Strawberries$0.61
Stroganoff Creation$1.50
6/12Toaster pastries$0.35
Stroganoff Creation$0.75
6/10Tater tots with cream cheese$0.40
Steak N Shake$9.00

As a note, do realize that I'm not starving myself. In fact, if we added in the numerous bagels and pastries and such, the list would be a lot longer. In fact, It would be so much longer that I'm thinking about putting some sort of worth to the items that I don't have to pay for since the second goal of this project of mine is to eat less because I'm spending less.

10 June 2011

Ham and Hot Dog Fried Rice

Why, yes, I did put hot dogs in my fried rice. It was delicious. And, for about $0.68/serving, who could argue? I don't really keep track of the ratio of spices that I put in my food when I cook, but I will tell you what sorts of good things I put in the dish.

Day-old rice
Soy sauce
Frozen veggies
Hot dogs
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
Chili powder
Black pepper
Onion powder
Brown Sugar

09 June 2011

When You Were Young

I used to hate when Mom put extra noodles in the Hamburger Helper. I understand why she did it—when we were kids, my brother and I knew how to eat; we could put away two boxes of the stuff between us. Feeding just yourself is expensive—feeding kids even more so. Unfortunately, she just added noodles without compensating for how thin the sauce would be spread afterward, so we were always disappointed with this version of our favorite food.

Adding noodles, however, does save some money per serving, even if you're just using the off-brand (Kitchen Creations!) like myself. So, here is how I make my meal in a box taste just as good as the original.
  • Extra meat.
    This one may sound a little silly. Why buy more meat when it's already the most expensive part of the dish? My reasoning is this: most packages of ground chuck (when you're not getting the stuff that comes in tubes) don't have exactly one pound of meat. Instead of searching for the package closest to one pound or under, I look for the package that has 1.21 pounds, 1.36 pounds. This gives you a little more meat to play with, so your extra noodles don't overwhelm the burger, and you're not paying too much extra.
  • Spices.
    This may seem self-explanatory, but my mom forgot to add extra spice every time. The simplest solution is to add salt and whatever spice is most abundant in the recipe. Garlic salt and seasoning salt also work really well. I also like to at a little cayenne pepper.
  • Water and butter.
    When I use most meal helpers, I tend to replace the milk with water and butter. This was not originally because it brought down the price. I started making recipes this way because the milk in my fridge was bad, and I didn't want to run to the store for more. Instead I added two tbsp. butter and replaced the milk with water. I haven't had anything taste terribly so far, so I'll continue to do this until I create something too foul for consumption.
  • Noodles.
    I try not to add more than enough to make two extra servings. Otherwise, the flavor becomes too thin, which is the reason why I hated when Mom added noodles in the first place. Also, when you're boiling the noodles, add a little of the flavoring packet to the water as well as your salt. That way, just like with the noodles in the original, your new noodles have picked up some of the flavor from the sauce.
So that's how I help my meal helper go further while still tasting great. What ways do you make prepackaged food go further than the maker intended?

06 June 2011

Product Review: Banquet Sweet and Sour Chicken

So I've decided to start a new section to this blog. I'm trying lots of inexpensive foods trying to see which ones are keepers and which ones are not to my liking (there's a part of me that wants to call them "studs" and "duds"...so I might label them as such). This will include mostly my thoughts on generic-brand offerings and frozen meals. The first victim was $1.00 from Banquet's line of frozen meals.

The Sweet and Sour Chicken

I'm a huge fan of (American) Chinese food in general. There's something about the grease-and-frozen-vegetable combo that is almost always a hit with my taste buds. This? Not so much.

I think the biggest turn off was the dark-meat chicken nuggets. Yes, they were chicken nuggets. No, I was not aware that they were dark meat when I bought them. I have never been able to stomach dark meat, regardless of how many times I've been told that it's flavor-filled and juicy. And, while I've never encountered dark meat that I liked, I've also never encountered dry dark meat which is the foe I faced with this meal.

I will tell you that the sauce was very good, and I've never met a rice I didn't like. In fact, the sauce saved the nuggets from being inedible. This particular item will never see the inside of my freezer again, but I am holding off my judgement of the Banquet line in general until I try some more of their (probably non-chicken) products.

Final Thoughts

With frozen food, I understand that you get what you pay for and that frozen meals are generally more expensive than making your own food. I also understand that half of it is so processed that the creatures the food originated from have actually changed both gender and species before the food ended up in my shopping cart. With that thought in mind, I never mind being disappointed by a frozen meal so long as I eat it all. I am also working to cut these types of food out of my life and to eat more leftovers. Of course, heating up something frozen is simple, so it may take some time to wean myself from the meals.

Days Go By

I may not have been updating, but I have been keeping track of the food inhaled. Today, then, will be kind of a mass update.

6/2Granola bar$0.35
Frozen Meal$1.00
6/3Granola bar$0.42
Frozen Meal$1.00
Tater tots$0.40
6/4Granola bar$0.42
Stir Fry$1.50
6/5Granola bar$0.21
Stir Fry$1.50
Frozen Meal$1.00

01 June 2011

So Small Radio

Well, it's that time of night. Totals time. I'm going with something new, so it may look a little ridiculous until I finally get around to changing the CSS, but that's all right.

Food Cost
Tater tots $1.00
Cola $0.65
Frozen Meal $1.00
Cookies $0.60
Total $3.25

The tater tots were spread out along most of the day. They were delicious and worth every penny.

The First Week

I'm actually quite surprised at what I spent this past week. I was expecting to use up every cent of the money that I allowed myself. Instead, I spend about twelve dollars less. I'm not going to change anything for this next week, though. I fully feel that I should take another week to look at my spending habits and see where I can improve (nutrition-wise, mostly) before I cut back on what I want to spend.

On average, I spent $4.16 per day, which is $1.84 less than anticipated. If all goes well, I would like to cut back to $4/day starting next week. I want to use the opportunity to create yummy recipes (although, I don't lie when I mention that I generally use garlic and chili powder/cayenne pepper in everything I make unless it's sweet. And even then...) on the cheap. I have so much pasta I could bathe in it, and so much rice that it would bathe in me, so many of my concoctions will probably include those as well.

I would also like to figure out a way to have a steak dinner (with mashed potatoes and green beans, I'm thinking) and my normal amount of food for under $4. That may involve some "Manager Special" meat, but it all eats the same.


All right, yesterday was spent with more and more moving. I drank a lot of my life away, I'm pretty sure—in both cola and vodka, admittedly. At least the booze ended up not costing me anything because we found it in the house. What a nice going away present.

So, yesterday.
Breakfast stuffs: $0.59
Afterwork noms: $0.56
Dinnerish: $0.69

There's a part of me that thinks I should have eaten more, especially considering that only one of those totals includes food bought. I know that there were some work foods consumed, but I have no idea what. Oh the joys(?) of alcohol.