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Confessions from a Frugal Heart

Photo Credit: howangcturtle via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: howangcturtle via Compfight cc

I’m the kind of person who loves to cook at home and I’ve been doing a lot of that lately since I’ve been trying to save money! A good portion of my paycheck was definitely going towards pricy restaurants and impulse lunches when I first started making money. Since then I’ve reined myself in a lot and have been making meals at home a lot more. Dinner on the weekdays is usually made at home and I also try to bring lunch as much as possible too. I haven’t cut out going out entirely, but eating out less does make me appreciate it a lot more when I do!

One side effect of trying to be frugal and making more meals at home is sometimes failed recipes! I usually follow a recipe when I’m baking or trying something new for the first time, but usually when cooking I throw things together and hope for the best. Luckily for me usually it turns out decently well and I’ve gotten to that point where I can wing it mostly. I hate wasting food though and when something comes out not quite right…I have to think of some creative ways to not just throw it out! I end up doing some really funny and weird things to avoid that. Of course if its truly inedible I’ll just toss it!

Feed it to a pet
I’m sure this isn’t good for a dog or cat…but I’m sure people do this! I don’t have any pets but I probably would try this if I did. Okay, I’m definitely not recommending this at all of course…

Give it to my husband
Yep, my husband will eat things I’m not willing to eat. He also finishes off whatever I can’t fit in my tummy. It’s a pretty good system here.

Bring it to work
Best thing about coworkers is that they eat almost anything! They might not finish everything you bring but through the day one by one they’ll at least try a little bit of whatever. My coworker just brought in these strange sweet garlic corn puffs she didn’t want. As expected we each tried a piece through out the day. Only one of us actually liked it! We ended up throwing out the rest but at least some of it got eaten. Needless to say that if it tastes really bad I wouldn’t say I made it.

Put it in the freezer and decide what to do later
Sometimes I don’t know what to do with it and I just stick it in the freezer for later. Figure I can either eat it later or try to incorporate it into a different recipe if possible. A temporary solution but sometimes it works!

Eat a little bit everyday until it’s finished
Much easier to handle in small amounts if it’s not so tasty! I bought it and took the time to make it so I always feel that I should eat it. I basically think of it like nasty cough medicine. Take the meds as fast as possible because its good for me.

 

What are some funny things you end up doing to not waste food?

Bread machine, bread machine, bake me bread!

Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight cc

I am absolutely, undeniably a bread fiend! If I had to go on the atkins diet then I wouldn’t last a day. By the end of the first day I would probably find myself finishing off an entire loaf of bread without realizing it. All the health experts say that carbs aren’t the best thing for us, but I cannot survive without! Well technically I could but I would be pretty darn miserable.

For my birthday my husband wasn’t supposed to get me anything but he did and it was absolutely the perfect gift! A bread machine! I’ve never thought about getting one to make my own bread and instead have dabbled in trying some recipes using my mixer to knead the dough. So far I’ve baked two loaves and I’m pretty hooked now. It’s extremely easy to use. All it takes is measuring the ingredients correctly, dropping them into the bread machine, hitting a few buttons and 3 hours or so later a perfect loaf of bread is ready for my consumption. Beyond the obvious benefit of having fresh bread whenever I want there’s also other reasons.

Saving mula
By making bread from scratch all I’m paying for is the initial cost of the machine, the cost of ingredients, and electricity. I have an Oster bread machine which was about $60. It’s comparable to many pricier models and my husband knew that I would’ve objected had he bought something else. After calculating the cost of yeast and bread flour and adding in small amounts to cover the rest of the ingredients and electricity, each bread load comes out to about $1.50 each. If I buy bread flour in bulk I’m sure I can cut that cost down even more! It’ll take me some time to recoup the initial cost of the machine, but with each loaf I save 2-4 depending on what I would’ve bought at the store!

Healthier without preservatives and additives
Best part about making my own food from scratch is that I have more control over what ingredients I’m using. There are no preservatives in the bread I’m baking! To make bread all I really need is yeast, salt, flour and water. There are other ingredients depending on the recipe but overall that’s really it! If I buy bread at the store I can only read the ingredient list to see what they used but I still don’t really know how good the ingredients were.

Gift option
A fresh loaf of bread would be a great gift for a housewarming party or for someone who loves bread as much as I do! People give cookies and cakes all the time as gifts. Why not bread too? A loaf of store bought bread won’t really be impressive, but a homemade loaf of bread made especially for the recipient is something else.

Better for the earth
No transport or packaging needed! I’ve saved some fossil fuels and helped keep the air a bit cleaner. I just toss my bread into a reusable container too. No more need for bread bags and twist ties or those plastic tabs. The bread bag is recyclable actually but now no need to create the bag in the first place. While twist ties and plastic tabs are small they do add up over time.

 

I’m excited to try out my next bread recipe to see what else I can devour! This is the perfect appliance for someone like me.

Do you use a bread machine for fresh bread or are you more of a traditional bread maker?

Bibimbap

Photo Credit: Chewy Chua via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Chewy Chua via Compfight cc

This morning was spent running round the house trying to get our place as ready as possible for my parent-in-laws! We keep our place pretty clean though so mostly it was things like making sure the tiny little water spots were off the bathroom mirror and sweeping any hair and dust on the extremely white bathroom tile floor. Then a quick dusting especially on any black furniture and we were done. We prepared as much food as possible before they arrived also. When they arrived they did as we suspected they would and asked a bagazillion questions and looked in every closet and corner. In the end they were satisfied gave us a seal of approval.

With so much to do and keep in mind we decided to make a lunch that would be simple and customizable for each person. My parent-in-laws just wanted a nice meal at our new home since we tend to take them our to places that cost more than they would like us to spend. Bibimbap was the perfect dish to make since each person can make it to their liking! Bibimbap is a korean dish that mixes together rice, meat, veggies and egg. We laid out all the ingredients separately so that each person could add whatever they like. We also made some green onion pancakes to balance out the store bought stuff versus homemade. They definitely enjoyed the meal and we have tons of leftovers too!

For bibimbap if you have a korean market near you then you’re set! We cooked some of the stuff ourselves but bought some of the other ingredients pre-made. Korean markets are awesome because they offer a lot of side dishes pre-made and at decent prices. We bought items that are harder to cook to make it simpler for us. We chose to just buy the sesame spinach and beansprouts because those two items can take a while to prepare.

Basic bibimbap – serves 4

Ingredients
1-2 lbs of marinated bulgogi meat (can also use ground beef)
half pound of sesame spinach
half pound of cooked beansprouts
one fourth pound fresh shittake mushrooms
6 cups cooked white rice
gojuchang sauce
4 eggs

Instructions
1. Cook the rice first to allow it enough time. Cook each item you have seasoning lightly.
2. If you bought fresh spinach and beansprouts. Prepare and cook them with a little bit of salt and sesame oil. Sprinkle on sesame seeds after cooking. Set each aside separately.
3. Wash the shittake mushrooms. Then slice thinly. Cook the mushrooms with a little bit of soy sauce. Set aside.
4. Cook the bulgogi or ground meat. Set aside.
5. Lastly pan fry the eggs so that they stay separate and the yolks are still slightly soft.
6. You can also add a variety of other ingredients depending on what you like. Bibimbap is very versatile and there are many versions of it. You can use brown rice instead of white, add some carrots, zucchini, almost anything you want basically.
7. Depending on who is eating either place the ingredients nicely into a large bowl for each person, or let each person choose how much they want of each item. The best way to do this is to add two scoops of rice, half a scoop of each additional item, top with the egg, then one tablespoon of gojuchang sauce to each bowl. Mix it all up and then adjust however you like! There’s really no wrong way to go about doing this and the best part of making bibimbap is that everyone can customize it to their taste.

 

When it comes to pleasing the most critical audience making something like bibimbap really works! There aren’t a lot of people who don’t like bibimbap and when you make it customizable then they can do whatever they like with it! I think I’ll call today a success.

What dish do you like to make that’s easy to customize?

 

 

Brazilian Cheese Bread

cheesebreadHad a pretty chill day on Sunday. No big party for us this year but we still had plenty of food to eat! We made all our favorites and pigged out to our heart’s content. One of the things we made was Brazilian cheese bread. If you don’t know what this I highly encourage you to try it for yourself. It’s not just cheese on bread…nor is it cheese stuffed inside bread…its cheese incorporated into every little bit of the bread.

The batter is blended together to create bread that is entirely chewy and cheesy. It uses tapioca flour instead of regular flour and that’s where the chewiness comes from. The basic recipe is below but you can really use whatever cheese you want and add whatever you want to it. We’ve tried adding some jalapenos and other things but sharp cheddar is usually our go to. This is good for everyone since its vegetarian and gluten free. The only people who won’t like it is people who don’t like cheese. In that case more for you to eat!

Ingredients
1 egg (room temperature)
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup milk
1 and 1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup packed cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tin.
2. Place all ingredients into blender and blend smooth. Can store batter in the fridge for up to a week.
3. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until all puffy and just lightly browned. Remove and let cool on rack.

 

What do you make when you need something that will please everyone?

Six Dollar Cheeseburgers

Photo Credit: Viewminder via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Viewminder via Compfight cc

Burger joints can be found in every single city in the US. From cheap fast food ones to gourmet $100 fancy ones, it’s really entrenched into American culture. There are the ones that cost a few dollars and then there are places that allow you to do a fully customizable one. I was almost lured into going to a dive bar because I heard about their $6 cheeseburgers that were supposed to be amazing. My husband was at home cooking dinner at the time though so of course I couldn’t fulfill my burger craving.

When it comes to food I’m willing to try anything. I love my quick fast service places and the fancy gourmet restaurants that can run over a hundred per person. The only thing I do try to avoid is fast food as much as possible. When it comes to the subject of burgers I’ve paid as little as $1 per up to $15 for one! It’s such a versatile food that it’s easy enough to make at home and there are so many different versions of it. The more customizable and gourmet it is the more pricey it can get. In Manhattan there is a $100 burger even! I’ll never shell out that much for sure. For that kind of money I can get so many In and Out burgers that I would have meals enough to cover a month. It depends on each person but there’s a limit to how much each person will pay for a burger.

Basics
A burger is essentially a bun, meat patty, tomato, and lettuce. When it comes to making the basic burger there’s no other place I like going to than In and Out! For people who live in Los Angeles this is the place to get a good basic burger. There are toppings you can add on also but even if I get just a simple hamburger here it is delicious. It’s also extremely inexpensive too starting at about a few dollars. It’s great for when I’m feeling like a good burger and I don’t want to spend a lot for it.

Specialty and customizable
This is when burgers start getting pricier! When burgers start getting crazy ingredients added in then the price started moving up to that ten dollar mark. Being able to customize your toppings also usually makes it about $10. Mostly I think I tend to eat burgers in this category actually. It’s a lot of fun to be able to choose whatever you want and it makes a good old burger just a bit fancier and more like dinner.

Fancy ingredients
When I start seeing the meat patty changed out for ingredients like lamb or bison then I know it’s going to be a pricey one. Most likely $15-$20 even. I really don’t shell out this much for a burger very often as I always think of how many In and Out burgers I could get for that. I call it fancy casual where you fancy up the burger but I can still wear jeans and a t.

Cooked at home
Of course if I make a burger at home I can control every single little thing! Plus I can make my own patties and stuff the inside with cheese. Yummy! Definitely a great way to go when cooking because it’s easy to go fancier when you have all the ingredients at your fingertips without spending a ton. Well…I guess if you get expensive ingredients it’ll be an expensive burger. I still have the choice though of keeping it simple and inexpensive or going all out and spending more.

 

It’s funny how something so simple like a burger can have so many different options in terms of how they’re made and how much they cost. I enjoy a good burger every now and then but I try to keep it simpler to save some money. Lucky for me that I live in a city with an In and Out!

How much are you willing to shell out for a good burger?