Sunday, August 16, 2009

Call me cheap, but...

I can cook a meal for my family for less than $5!
How? Well, you've got to remember that I'm a city girl who now lives in the country and is married to a farmer. I've learned to be sparing with money. Okay, I've learned how to make a buck stretch. Stretch reeeeeeally thinly, that is! We grow much of our fruits and veggies and our meat comes from our farm since Hubby has a beef operation. Also, when the grocery store has sales, I get three or four of whatever items are on sale. One of my best friends says that I'm like her grandmother. She said it's as though I'm waiting for a war or a natural disaster with the way I have a whole bunch of things like rice, pasta, toilet paper, etc. Hey! In some countries, toilet paper is considered a novelty!

Okay, before I go on an even bigger tangent, whole wheat pasta was on sale for $0.99 not too long ago. When I see sales like that, I tend to stockpile on certain items. Our local grocery store sometimes has $1, $2, and $3 sales. It's amazing how much you can get for $50 when you get the sales.

Anyway, the Rotini was $0.99 and I made homemade pesto with the basil from my Dad's garden. Basil = free. The green beans were also from my Dad's garden. Green beans = free.

The chicken was also on special. I got six boneless/skinless chicken breasts for $5.42. Here is where some may think I am cheap. Hubby calls it being "frugal". Since the chicken breasts are HUGE, and way more than the 3 or 4 oz of meat that Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating allots as a serving, I butterfly the breasts. When I make my Chicken Parmesan or any other chicken dish, I split the chicken in half. I can do a whole meal for Hubby, myself, and a student or friend (we usually have dinner guests, because I love cooking and I love socializing) using very little meat. Because the chicken breasts are so big, no one ever realizes that they're not getting a whole breast. The meat also cooks faster this way.

For this dish, I only used ONE chicken breast for Hubby, The Student and myself. I know. Hard to believe. $5.42 /6 chicken breasts = $0.90/breast. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? This is what we had for supper:
Whole Wheat Rotini with Homemade Pesto, Chicken and Green Beans
1 package whole wheat Rotini
a few bunches of fresh basil
Parmesan cheese
pine nuts (I didn't have any, so I used almonds)
extra virgin olive oil
salt & black pepper
1 chicken breast
bread crumbs (ran out, so I used crushed unsalted soda crackers. I seem to always have crackers in the house)
a little oil for cooking
green beans

*Sorry for not adding measurements. I usually cook without real measurements. I cook by taste and judge with my eyes. Add as much or as little of everything as you wish. Like Michael Smith says, "the best recipe is cooking with no recipe".

Pasta: bring water to a boil, salt your water, add pasta, cook until al dente (or however you like it).
Pesto: In blender, puree a few bunches of fresh basil, pine nuts (almonds, in this case), Parmesan cheese, salt and black pepper (if you wish, you don't have to add salt since the Parmesan is already salty), and extra virgin olive oil. I got this recipe from Michael Smith. Gotta love a man who can cook!
Chicken: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Split chicken breast in half (as you would if you were to butterfly it), wash chicken, roll chicken in bread crumbs (in this case, crushed crackers). In a hot pan, add a little oil and brown chicken on both sides. Put chicken in a baking dish and bake in oven for 25 min (a bit less or a bit longer, depending on your oven). Once cooked, slice chicken into strips.
Green beans: wash and clean beans. Steam beans. Drain.

In a large serving bowl, add a generous amount of pesto. Once pasta has been cooked and drained, add it to the bowl and coat the pasta with pesto. You can add a few cherry or grape tomatoes for colour if you wish.

To assemble: For each plate, give a healthy serving of pasta and pesto. Add strips of chicken on top. Arrange green beans next to chicken.

Dessert: Vanilla ice cream with fresh raspberries. Chapman's Ice Cream was on sale for $1 and the raspberries were free (from our farm).

Now for a few random pics of Little One...

Beach bum! Having a blast at Providence Bay.

She loved the water, but wasn't so sure about the sand. The girl does not like getting dirty!
Little One and her Mama!
Little One, just back from church. Little One is usually a very quiet baby and either just observes everyone and everything in church or falls asleep. Today she decided that she would like to sing. She's been "singing" for the past few weeks and loves to hear her own voice. During the hymns today, she joined in...and continued to "sing" even when it was no longer time to sing. I apologized for my noisy baby and everyone laughed. They said, "She is NOT a noisy baby! Her singing is music to our ears! She is always so well behaved and never cries!". Thanks, but you haven't heard her at home when she's fighting sleep or when her gums are bothering her!


hotmommy said...

oh my god- that's how you spend so little on groceries! i spend about $300 a week on groceries. mind you i have three young children and a husband but still. very smart way to save money chris. i dont remember you doing this when you lived in the city?

yayayayayayay- school starts soon! is it bad that i can't wait for myoldest two of the three to be out of my hair and in school all day? heh heh

Jinxy said...

Wow, you are what I call a deal shopper and good for you. I;m working on becoming the same way. Its so hard sometimes.

Dina said...

yummy! that pasta looks super delish! and we normally spend between $150-200 a week on groceries- depending on whether i have to buy diapers or not (or if i need to get diapers for both kids-still working on potty training!)
i also stockpile on sales-especially stuff i can store

robert said...

Very interesting to read indeed.
Especially in a city which is pretty much only concrete and one has to buy nearly everything in a supermarket.
Thankfully we have now our own garden, growing lemons and tomatoes.
Wishing you much strength and a nice new week, as I remember sleeping only a few hours, while his teeths were growing.
Incredible beautiful child!

C said...

Wow! $300 on groceries! Does this include diapers and baby food for the youngest?

Well, I wasn't this "frugal" in the city. I had a lot more "disposable income". I ate out a lot since there were so many great restaurants in Toronto and I found my lifestyle not conducive to taking the time to make good, home-cooked meals. That's probably just an excuse I had, being a 20-something year old female working in the city. Not really an excuse at all. I think it was more the socializing part too. I don't like eating by myself. I find food is a very social thing for me. Even now, I like hosting dinner parties for friends and family. I'll take the time to prepare a good meal and share it with loved ones. Eating by myself was never fun. I'd usually not end up eating much if I was by myself. Weird. Too much of an effort to cook for one person. Maybe that's just me.

P.S. I don't think it's bad for you to want the oldest two in school :) You have your hands full with the youngest! You do what you've gotta do, sista!

C said...

:) Thanks! I wasn't always this way. There was a time when I was younger and didn't even so much as look at the price of what I picked up and put into my shopping cart. Now that I'm a wife and mom...and often cooking for one, two, or three students, I am soooo careful about how I spend. It's amazing how even if you don't spend a lot of money, you can cook healthy meals and no one goes hungry. Lots of fresh veggies and fruits that are grown on our farm or locally help. I find it's the meat that is expensive. We don't buy beef, because Hubby has a beef operation. I do buy chicken and fish though. I also get fish from when my Dad, friends, family, or customers go fishing. They often give us fish.

t said...

OK. You know I spend too much money on food because..........I don't cook! I t hink my grocery bill is sky high because I get instant stuff and that is pretty pricey. Frozen lazanga and frozen buffalo wings are expensive. so is chicken fingers and other things. I stand by my "I have no time to cook" motto. Like you when you were single in the city, I eat at restaurants a lot too.

If you did what your doing now in the city, imagine all the shoes you could buy with the money you save on food! HA !

C said...

If you get a chance, try the pesto with the pasta! It is deeeelish!! Really refreshing too, on a hot summer day. You can serve it cold and it tastes really good. I just love pesto. There's something really refreshing about basil and olive oil!

Oh! I didn't account for the diapers! I try to use cloth, but find myself using *gasp* the disposables more often than the cloth. I know...bad me! I get LO's diapers at Costco in bulk.

C said...

Oh! You grow lemons!?!? That's fantastic! I'd like to grow lemons! If only we had the proper conditions for citrus here!

Thank you so much for your lovely comments! :) The little one finally went down to sleep. Her gums have been bugging her. My husband felt inside her mouth and there's a little "nub" on the top right side of her gums. Weird, since I thought the first teeth were usually the bottom two!

C said...

True! I guess ready-made/instant food can be expensive. I don't really buy those things, so I am not sure of the prices these days. I do recall seeing frozen Buffalo wings for $13.99, which seemed a bit expensive to me for the amount in the box.

Well, when I was teaching and living in Japan, I only cooked nine times in the two years I was there! It was cheaper for me to go out to eat or stop by the 7Eleven and pick up something fast. Poor eating habits, but when you're on your own, it's not fun to eat by yourself. I used to just head out after work and meet up with my friends and we'd go to a restaurant and then bar after. Crazy how I did that for two years! Can't imagine doing that now! :)

Justagirl said...

Your daughter is so cute. I love the picture of you girls together. You are frugal by far. My mom would love you. Here in California we have the 99 cent store and it has some great deals on produce and eggs and stuff like that. It really stretches your dollars especially here in this expensive state.

J at said...

A garden or a farm sure cuts down on the grocery bill, huh? I try to grow my own veggies sometimes, but it doesn't rain here in the summer, and I get mad at the money I have to pay for the water. So I get things at the farmers' market, which is not cheap, but it is yummy.

That meal looks YUMMy, by the way. Almost as yummy as Little One. How many more times should I say 'yummy'? ;)

Uncivil said...

I guess I'll have to settle for Chick-Fil-A or BoJangles?
Makin' me hungry!

C said...

Just a Girl:
:) Well, I wasn't always this frugal. I think a lot of it has to do with my new lifestyle. In a way, I think it's a blessing in disguise. I spend a lot less, I'm a lot less wasteful, and we eat very healthy. We eat lots of fruits and veggies and very little processed stuff.

My MIL is even more frugal than I am! It's quite amazing, really!

C said...

True! True!
Since you think she's so yummy, I'll have to send her over to give you and Maya some hugs! Of course, I'll have to go too! LOL!

C said...

BoJangles? Okay, I'll be back. I'm going to have to Google that! LOL!

Ms. Mamma said...

you two are just beautiful, mama!

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City girl moves to the country, falls in love, and marries a farmer. She tries to incorporate her city ways with her new country lifestyle and blogs to keep in touch with friends, family & students who live far, far away :) Can this city girl go country? Watch as she learns all sorts of exciting things about life on the farm and in a small rural community. *UPDATE* We are now parents! Our baby girl was born on Nov. 11, 2008 (at 28 weeks gestation- 12 weeks premature, but she's quite the trooper)!!!
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