Don’t worry, I’m less pouty this week. 😉 Our groceries are usually driven by what’s in our produce box, but especially this week. Usually there are one or two veggies that don’t quite get used up, but this meal plan is on track to take advantage of every single one of them! My cart at the store felt a little empty this week, but I know I was buying slightly higher-priced items that will pack a lot of punch–whether that punch is flavor, protein, creaminess, etc. Also, more unusually, I bought three different protein items this week, and they will all be used for this week. Not too much stocking up this time, though, as always, some items will stretch! And in spite of my empty-cart concerns, you can see that when it is all laid out on the counter, we have our usual amount of food.
Our box is fairly out of season, with what I can only presume are hot-house tomatoes, cucumber, and corn. I’m more exciting for HH’s source of fingerling potatoes. We’ve gotten a them a few times recently and any new/tiny potatoes are high up on my favorites list! I took a chance on some frozen mussels this week, to supplement a “Low Country Boil”. M isn’t too keen on shrimp at the moment. So, of course, I am all about them, suddenly. Isn’t that always the way? Anyways, it’ll be a different twist to use up the corn and potatoes and we can each favor our preferred seafood.
I still didn’t have quite enough to spring for some nuts, but I still have my change from last week to build upon. Plus, I got the chance to actually note the price-per-ounce, and was surprised to find that (while Aldi wins out on pricing for most types of nuts), I can get raw walnuts for cheaper at Trader Joe’s. In the meantime, I managed to squeeze some no-sugar-added peanut butter into the budget, along with some dried banana chips. These will make another snack option for us. Plus, I’ll be able to make a super tasty peanut dipping sauce for our summer rolls this week.
I’ve also noticed that, without much effort, this $50 budget is forcing us to eat less meat. I have tried in the past to reduce our meat consumption, but never really found a my groove to sustain it. Nowadays, we usually have about 2 dinners that are meatless each week, and at least one more where meat is more seasoning that main dish. We just don’t have the budget to have a piece of meat, each, plus sides. Especially when our dinner leftovers are often becoming our lunches. So that was interesting to see that I’ve naturally adapted to the less meat.
Finally, our Hungry Harvest box always send out an email on Thursdays, listing what is in each week’s box. That’s wha kickstarts my meal-planning each week. Of course, they always note that the contents of the box may be different. Customers are able to make lists of vegetables and fruits that they do not like, which will be swapped for something else. Also, since Hungry Harvest sources from recovered produce, there is always a chance that there will not be enough of a certain type of produce to fill every box, or that an item might spoil before packing time. This week is a good example. The email listed that my box would have 2 grapefruits: we opened it up to find a grapefruit and 3 kiwis in substitution. I’m certainly not mad about it. I like kiwis, and since we eat most of our fruit raw, I don’t necessarily have a recipe hinging on that second grapefruit. In fact, the kiwis are much easier for me! M doesn’t eat much fruit, but I like to have a piece in my lunch and at breakfast, if there is enough. Last week, our apples and oranges were only enough for my lunches. I’m happy, with the one grapefruit split in half, to have fruit with some of my breakfasts this week.
Here is how I spent this week:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Trader Joe’s: $3.86
Total: $49.99 (heyyyyyy!)
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: 1 english cucumber, 2 ears of corn, 1.5 lb fingerling potatoes, 1 butternut squash, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 1 grapefruit, butter lettuce, 3 apples, 3 kiwis.
Aldi: white wine, gluten-free bread, mushrooms, almond milk, parmesan cheese, butter, kielbasa, cheddar, frozen berries, frozen mussels, peanut butter, bratwursts
Trader Joe’s: tofu, banana chips, lemon
Here’s what we are eating:
Sunday: Low Country Boil with ciabatta rolls using the mussels, kielbasa, corn, potatoes, lemon, butter, and a little wine from this shopping trip, plus shrimp and bread rolls from the freezer and spices from the pantry
Monday: Tofu Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce using the tofu, cucumber, butter lettuce, and peanut butter, plus rice paper wrappers and vermicelli noodles from the pantry and chili sauce, carrots, and peppers from the fridge
Tuesday: Leftovers The usual.
Wednesday: Cheesy Butternut Squash Pasta I’m going to try this riff on mac & cheese with half of our squash (I’ll freeze the rest), some of the cheddar, plus pasta from the pantry.
Thursday: Mushroom Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes another favorite meatless meal, using the mushrooms, white wine, tomatoes, and parmesan, plus broth, rice, and spices from the fridge/pantry
Friday: Toad in the Hole (Sausages & Yorkshire Pudding) with Gravy and Vegetables A nice, traditional UK dish for St. Patrick’s Day, for anyone who isn’t much of a fan of boiled meals… I considered a variant on my shepherd’s pie, but this was more cost effective for this week. The bratwursts, because they were the only non-italian sausages I could find, plus a lot of pantry ingredients.
Saturday: Out/Leftovers We are going to a movie with some friends. Dinner is still up in the air, but we will definitely have various leftovers, if we decide to eat at home.
Breakfasts will be yogurt, fruit, eggs, oatmeal, or toast. Lunches are mostly leftovers, with the option of cheese & crackers, PB sandwiches, and/or hard-boiled eggs to fill in. Our small, but growing snack stash includes: cheese, popcorn, PB+banana chips, and (if I get my act together today) pumpkin muffins.
Happy fall, everyone! Although the official equinox was a few days ago, today is the day that I can actually feel it. The air is just a little crispy and-finally!-not muggy. We’ve had the AC off and the windows open all day yesterday and today I keep getting lovely little wafts of cool breeze as I sit on the couch. For hours on end. Sigh. Somehow, I pulled something in my lower back that has kept me prone and couch-bound since Saturday. I’m walking like a slow, old lady, and trying to sit upright is pretty terrible. Sneezing is the absolute worst and causes some awful spasms. Today, I think, is slightly better, so I’m hoping I can go back to working at my desk tomorrow and it will be a quick heal after that. What is really disappointing, though, is that M and I were going away for this coming weekend and now kayaking is most likely off that schedule. Boo.
In spite of my pain, I was excited to come home from work on Saturday to my weekly Hungry Harvest box! I signed up for this produce delivery service a few weeks ago and I LOVE it! I’d been looking for some kind of produce delivery/CSA, since I can’t make it to the Farmer’s Market when my Saturday work schedule begins each September. A produce box was also appealing because it would force me to be creative with whatever I got each week. I found Hungry Harvest, which was extremely affordable, and I loved that they were using recovered produce from farmers and grocery stores that would otherwise go to waste. They also donate leftover produce to food banks every week. They are awesome! (This is not a sponsored post, I really do just love HH this much.)
We’ve had great success with our weekly boxes and this week was no exception. We are getting into the groove of meal planning around the box, too. This week we received: 3 (giant) sweet potatoes, a carton of kumquats, 3/4 lb of collard greens, 3 empire apples, 2 beets, an adorably tiny eggplant, 1/2 a bunch of cilantro, a clamshell of cabernet tomatoes, and a large spaghetti squash. All of that…for $15! Did I mention that this is the SMALLEST option? They have several larger sizes of boxes, even all-fruit, all-veggie, or all-organic boxes! I cannot get over how great they are! All of our veggies usually go towards dinners for the week. Since M isn’t a big fruit-eater, I take care of most of the fruit between my breakfasts and snacks. M was on a roll this week and picked most of the meals for us. Here is what we will make, using everything from the box (and a few veggies left in the fridge from last week):
Dinner Plan for Sept 25-Oct 1
Sunday: Sausage & Veggie-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Monday: BBQ pulled chicken, collard greens, cilantro cole slaw
Tuesday: Beet & Apple salad, sweet potato hash browns, eggs
Wednesday: Beef Koftas with Baba Ghanoush, Tomato-Cucumber salad
Thursday: Leftover Night (I’ll be in class)
Friday: Out with Friends
Saturday: More leftovers to clear out the fridge before we leave
Lunches are typically leftovers from dinner, and we can fill in with stuffed sweet potatoes. Breakfasts for me rotate between smoothies, eggs, and oatmeal. M usually has breakfast tacos.
We kicked of this week with stuffed squash, which M made from my directions while I was sitting in the other room. (No prolonged standing yet…) Stuffed squash is super simple, and one of my favorite things to eat, since it is so customizable. I have a very eclectically autumnal recipe for Stuffed Acorn Squash that is delicious! I love Italian flavors with Spaghetti Squash, so we paired hot Italian sausage with veggies and tomato sauce. We cut out cooking any grain, which saves a little prep work and makes this Primal (if you top it with cheese, like M) or Paleo (if you leave off the cheese, like me). This was a large spaghetti squash, but not unusually large, and this meal easily made 4 huge servings. If you scooped out the squash and served the meat sauce over top, it would very easily stretch to 5 dinner-sized servings.
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 1 lb Italian sausage (hot or mild)
- 4 oz mushrooms
- 1 medium bell pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 small onion
- 4 oz cherry tomatoes
- 6 oz tomato sauce
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning (or, about 1/2 tsp each: basil, oregano, rosemary, garlic powder)
- Optional: shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the squash in half, lengthwise. It will be very firm, but I’ve found if I can stab in the tip of the knife, I can usually get enough leverage to split open one end, then the other. Scoop out the seeds from each half, leaving a hollow in the middle. Place the squash cut side down in a microwave-safe baking dish and fill with an inch of water. Microwave on high power for 8-12 minutes, or until a fork goes easily into the flesh.
While the squash is cooking, prepare the other veggies. The chop is entirely up to you: every vegetable can be diced for a really chunky mix, or every vegetable can be chopped finely in a food processor to make a thick, but smoother sauce. We went for something in the middle. M is not too fond of mushrooms, but I occasionally work them in to fill out dishes. Because of this, we “hid” them by chopping them finely, along with the pepper and garlic, in the food processor. We diced the onion like normal and halved our cherry tomatoes.
In a large saucepan, crumble it the sausage (remove from casing if in links) and stir to further separate the meat. Cook until about half the meat is browned, then add the diced onions. (If you chose to dice the peppers, now would be the time to add them) Continue cooking until all of the meat is browned and the onions are soft and translucent. Drain off any accumulated fat. Add the vegetable mix from the food processor (or the diced mushrooms, if going that route). Stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine evenly. If the mixture is too thick, add a little water to loosen things up. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Finally, toss in the chopped tomatoes and turn off the heat. Set the squash cut side up in a dry, oven-proof pan. Spoon the sausage and veggie mixture into each squash, topped with cheese, if using, and bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melty and the tops of the sausage mixture are beginning to get crispy. Split each half of squash in half again, width-wise. Enjoy!