Budget vs. Tastebuds

One thing I really miss about living on my own is having my own kitchen. I think I got spoiled with knowing it was always clean, where everything was, and having a fridge with ONLY my food, instead of 4-5 other people’s.

 

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I have only had gnocchi once before. Mark made it for me and I never actually knew how to cook it. I decided to give it another try tonight, in my own way. 🙂

 

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I found a recipe for Chickpea, Spinach & Squash Gnocchi from eatingwell.com and decided to give it a try. I made a few modifications, like leaving out currants.

 

The first step was to boil the gnocchi. I brought water to a boil, plopped them in, and waited until they floated to the top which took about 3 minutes. I drained them, and added them to a skillet to brown.

 

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Meanwhile, I chopped up an entire bag of baby spinach (8 cups) into smaller pieces.

 

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I also chopped up two (2) cups of butternut squash, two (2) shallots, and drained one-15oz can of chickpeas.

 

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Once the gnocchi was done browning, I transferred it to another bowl. I added in a spoonful of minced garlic, olive oil, butternut squash, and the shallots. After a few minutes, I added a 15-oz can of veggie broth, the spinach, chickpeas, and gnocchi.

 

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While it was cooking, I sprinkled in some sage, salt, and pepper. The sage really made the kitchen smell amazing!

 

The recipe called for balsamic reduction to be drizzled over top of the finished product, but it was still cooking when the reduction was ready. I went ahead and stirred it into the pot, which made the flavors really mesh together.

 

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Wow! This was seriously delicious. The combination of the sage, butternut squash, and balsamic went very well together. The smell filled up the kitchen and made it feel like winter time.

 

Mark cooked a piece of tilapia for us to share as well. He covered it in sage, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar before searing it in the pan. It went so well with the gnocchi salad!

 

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As per the October Grocery Budget challenge, the cost breakdown:

 

Spinach $2.49
Butternut Squash $1.81
Tilapia Fillet $2.04
Sage $3.99
Veggie Broth $0.99
Gnocchi $2.49
Shallots $1.69
Chick Peas $0.63
   
Total Paid $16.13
I paid $8.00
 
Total October Grocery Bill $66.72

 

This meal was an interesting challenge. I was in the mood to cook a delicious meal (with company) but it ended up costing more than was really in the budget. I got to thinking, at what point does the cost matter enough to sacrifice doing what makes you happy?

 

Sure, we could have eaten a box of macaroni and cheese for $0.83 and saved a ton of money. My stomach would have been satisfied (as in, not hungry) but I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the pleasure of trying a new recipe, experimenting with new foods, or having a fun night with Mark!

 

Even though $16.00 for a 4-serving meal isn’t outrageous, it still isn’t cheap. Interesting thing to think about.

 

Is cooking important to you? Is it something that brings joy to your life, or simply something that you find a necessary part of life? Where do you draw the line in terms of budget vs. taste buds?

 

❤ MegaNerd

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Cornbread and Chili

Fall is in the air! Even if it looks the same outside, it sure feels nice! Today’s high was around 82, but this morning was around 68 degrees.

 

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I’m currently living with my co-worker and her family until I figure out where I’m going next in life. She and her family are wonderful for letting me stay with them, and I try to help out around the house as much as possible. One of the things I do is purchase ingredients and cook a meal for the family once a week.

 

This week, I chose chili!

 

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I stopped at the store on the way home from work to pick up necessary chili items. I didn’t include these into my grocery budget challenge because I am feeding a family of four. Since I did include myself in dinner, I am adding one-third of the cost of the chili into my budget since I am consuming two meals (one tonight, and one leftover portion.)

 

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Publix Kidney Beans $0.75
Diced Tomatoes $1.49
Tomato Sauce (2) $0.80
Corn Muffin Mix $0.45
Chili Seasoning $0.79
Ground Turkey Breast $6.44
   
Total Paid $10.72
Added to "Grocery Budget" $3.57

 

(The remainder of the money is budgeted into “rent” category.)

 

Because I don’t actually like going to the grocery store every single day, I went ahead and got enough to make more meals this week. Let’s hope that this stuff will be enough to last a little while.

 

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Kraft Shredded Cheese $2.00
Organic Apples $5.49
Green Bell Pepper $1.44
Red Bell Pepper $1.68
Sweet onion $0.85
Bananas $0.60
Mission Tortillas (BOGO) $2.59
   
Total Paid $14.65

 

My total October grocery bill is already at $58.72, and it’s only four days into the month! YIKES! This challenge is way harder than I thought it would be.

 

I used the basic recipe on the back of the Publix Chili packet to make this meal. It probably could have been cheaper had I used individual spices (if I already had them) and if I would have used cheaper meat.

 

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Along with the chili, I made honey-cornbread muffins. I mixed up the packet according to the directions, but added an extra tablespoon of butter, and about two tablespoons of honey. They were a perfect balance of moist and sweet.

 

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A delicious meal for a family of four… plus, me!

 

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I was starving by the time dinner was ready, so I had some of each. We ate our dinner with the windows rolled down so the breeze could come in. It feels so nice outside!

 

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I heart all things fall. Including fall food. Chili, anything pumpkin, fall squashes, you name it.

 

My dream is to move somewhere (soon, hopefully) with actual seasons. I want to see leaves change, snow fall, and be happy when summer finally returns. Florida is nice and all, but I’m ready for a change! I have my eyes on Washington, DC… we will just have to wait and see!

 

❤ MegaNerd

Italian Wedding Soup

Tonight’s Dinner Creation: Italian Wedding Soup!

 

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I found myself with some spare time this weekend, and decided to try a new recipe. I had to make a quick grocery trip to buy a few items, which I was sure to work into the Grocery budget challenge.

 

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Cost Breakdown:

 

Publix Orzo Pasta $ 1.19
Organic Veggie Broth $ 2.99
Can of veggie broth $ 0.99
Kraft Macaroni $ 1.83
Kraft Macaroni $ 1.83
Potato $ 1.08
1/2 lb Lean Ground Beef $ 2.42
  $ 12.33
   
Coupons $ (2.00)
   
Total Paid $ 10.33
   
My Half Paid: $ 5.00

 

I chipped in $5.00 for our meal (Mark and I split the bill), bringing my October Grocery Bill Total to $40.50. I pay for all my own food separately anyways, so the challenge works out.

 

A great money-saving tip I learned was to ask the grocer to break packages for you. My Publix packages Lean ground beef standard in 1.3 lb average sized packages, which cost about $6. I only needed a half pound, and probably won’t be using the rest before it goes bad. I asked him to break it up for me, and he did with no problem!

 

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Instead of paying $6, and wondering what I could do with the rest of the meat, I paid less than $2.50! Amazing!

 

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Once I returned from the grocery store, I gathered up the ingredients needed for our soup:

 

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First, I lightly beat an egg in a medium mixing bowl.

 

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I then added about 2 Tablespoons of Italian bread crumbs, a dash of garlic salt, and some pepper.

 

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I then mixed in the meat until it was all covered in herbs.

 

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Mark used a teaspoon to scoop out mini-meatballs.

 

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Meanwhile, I boiled nearly 6 cups of vegetable broth. I suppose chicken broth would have worked, but Mark and I both prefer vegetable broth based soups.

 

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Once the broth began to boil, I dumped in three (3) cups of spinach, chopped carrots, and one (1) cup of Orzo pasta.

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Mark browned the meatballs in a frying pan before adding them to our soup. We let it all boil for ten minutes, long enough for the orzo pasta to completely cook.

 

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After it simmered, we served, and enjoyed!

 

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This puts the canned stuff to shame!

 

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The recipe made about four (4) bowls worth of soup, but Mark managed to eat three of them and a baked potato. Somehow he remains thin and doesn’t go broke feeding himself. Oh, boys.

 

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Off to a wedding in Italy! I mean… to bed. Goodnight!

 

❤ MegaNerd