Sunday, August 30, 2009

Getting settled in my new place

The move is complete, I've met several of my neighbors, been to the farmer's market, Wegman's grocery store (24hrs! yay!) and wal-mart and now it's time to get back to blogging about learning to be cheap.

Some thoughts on setting up your apartment and how to do it cheaply.
  • Share- ask your neighbors if they are interested in sharing wireless internet- if they already have it even better- you can check the strength of the signal.
  • check craigslist for furniture or look up cheap ways to make your own. I went with the classic 70s style shelves because it's just me living here and I could carry each of the components individually.The black felt is to protect the recently refinished floors (and to prevent a heart attack in my landlord should he see concrete blocks on his floors!).
  • Unpack your kitchen and bathroom first- make a list before you go shopping for things you absolutely need. If there is a category of things you would like but could live without for a while save them for the next month. I didn't do this and spent way too much in my first month here. In the end I decided not to go back and get the paper towel holder, just one more expense that could be done without.
  • Take notes when you grocery shop. In Ithaca there are farmer's markets, a co-op, and a grocery store (that offers organic stuff, not so much fair trade, and is open 24 hours!). I have saved all my receipts so I can compare the costs. Tomatoes are cheaper at the farmer's market (for now) than at the big grocery store, same with potatoes (I got potato seconds for $1.50 a pound!). I am also comparing the costs of bulk pastas and grains. I'm not just comparing costs but also eco-footprints. I prefer to buy local because local food supports local farmers and I <3>
  • If your apartment doesn't come with things you are used to, like a microwave, toaster or toaster oven- try going without for a while and see if you really really need one. I don't have a microwave but reheating food in a skillet tastes far superior and I'm learning to use my broiler to quickly toast/melt things (nachos!)
  • Get an EZpass! Now that I have an actual address, I'm ordering mine I already have two trips to NYC planned and the ezpass will make the drive quicker, probably save gas from not slowing down and then accelerating and I will get discount rates on my tolls. How could I not get one!?
A couple foodie-on-a-budget tips:
  • Make your own salad dressing. It's super tasty and you can experiment with mixtures. My recipe is as follows (quantities vary): dijon mustard, pressed garlic (or finely diced), lemon juice from half a lemon, fresh ground pepper, olive oil. Mix together and keep in a container with a lid. It will get a little solid in the fridge but when it gets to room temp it will be runny again. You can make it as thick or thin as you like depending on how much olive oil you add.
  • If you have some ingredients and want to make something specific browse the web for recipes that use only things you have in stock, that way you don't have to make a special trip to the grocery store (so long as you keep your staples stocks) and you get what you wanted. I believe the phrase is "have your cake and eat it too"!
  • leftover roasted potatoes could be remade into mashed potatoes (really easily), add some roasted garlic to give your potatoes new flavor!

This was my dinner, reheated roasted potatoes (with way too much oregano, gotta watch that pour spout!) and romaine lettuce with my homemade dressing. I also had some guac-salad with nachos earlier today. I love having my own kitchen!

Tonight I am making an apple bread using this recipe. I changed it to make one loaf, it's just me and I don't want too much bread! I think it could potential make a phenomenal grilled cheese sandwich- granny smith and cheddar are a great combo! I will have to taste the bread before I get to excited. It had all good reviews which is a good sign, I did make some changes though. No sugar was added, I used white whole wheat flour, instead of oil I added a 1/2 cup of no sugar added applesauce. I poured a little olive oil and agave nectar in when it needed more moisture. I If this bread doesn't spread too much it could probably be made as a free-form loaf.

This could totally be made into whatever shape you wanted. The dough was super thick, it didn't rise/spread much at all. It's really tasty and hearty. I think it would be great with some whipped cream, a glass of milk or some vanilla gelato! Warm it's pretty good because of the soft apple chunks (I put in like 2x the amount of apple it called for). It's not overly sweet, would be a good hearty breakfast bread, possibly with some yogurt.. ooo or peanutbutter!

Go forth and create!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cheap seafood dinner

$3.50 for four sea scallops
Local tomato
Zucchini from farmers market
Lemon juice

Cut tomatoes in half, lay face up on rack over cookie sheet (line with parchment for easier cleanup) drizzle with olive oil and pepper. Put in oven at 350. For 1 hour. Sprinkle with salt when they come out of the oven.

Cut zucchini in quarters lengthwise and then in half. Sauté with a clove of garlic when lightly browned swirl pan to recoat olive oil, set scallops in pan and sear on both sides. Plate and squeeze some fresh lemon juice on the scallops and a little salt on the zucchini. Yum!

Also a tasty drink with leftover lemon juice; add water and a couple raspberries . Squish the raspberries beyond repair and drink up! I'm trying to avoid adding sugar so I thought I'd leave out the simple syrup or honey or maple syrup and it tasted fantastic! I think ot will be my new fave... Perhaps with buy water when I'm craving fizz!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

About to come back from a summer of uninspired meals

Grad school is about to start. The budget is still smaller than I'm used to but the desire to eat well has grown exponentially because I just saw Food Inc. It was infuriating, frustrating , though provoking and inspiring. I'm going to try to eat on a budget but eat well. I've already decided that I want to reduce my sugar intake and no HFCS so this will mean some alterations to recipes and seeking out alternative sweeteners. I already know about honey, agave and applesauce but I'm also thinking about how I read that most recipes had a lot of excess sugar in them. So I'm going to try to wean myself off sugar, eat well and still within budget. The most encouraging part is that I will have a whole fridge and freezer to myself so I look forward to trying some preservation techniques.
I hope that anyone who reads this blog regularly or in passing will leave encouraging comments and think about how they are voting with their money.