I’m on a bit of a mission to reduce what we spend at the grocery store without compromising the healthfulness or quality of our food (I know. Who isn’t? Or, who hasn’t read 900 blog posts on the topic?). At the same time, I’m trying to reduce the amount of waste we create through unnecessary packaging and such. My efforts to do so over the past year have led to two super-successful compost bins; improved meal-planning; and lots of large tubs of plain Greek yogurt (as opposed to any sort of fancy, pre-sweetened, individually-packed yogurts.). That’s about all.
So over the past week, I’ve redoubled my efforts, leading to a successful cabinet-raiding mission; a Crock Pot purchase; a major grocery haul that was cheaper than any in recent memory; and a tasty new recipe (at what point does “random kitchen invention” become a recipe? Perhaps when I post it on this blog?).
Here’s what I tried to do, and how it worked out for me:
- The goal: Use a slow cooker (which only cost me $32!) to cook dried beans, make homemade soups and do other money-saving stuff I don’t even know is possible yet.
- How I did: My first attempt at white-chicken chili in the slow-cooker was disappointing. Did you know it’s possible to overcook meat—at least boneless, skinless chicken breasts—in a slow-cooker? I can confirm that it is. This first attempt made me realize it’s going to take a while to get the hang of this thing, despite it supposedly being idiot-proof. My attempt to cook dried chickpeas worked out far better, and let to some super-tasty hummus yesterday.
- Goal: Buy food in bulk. This includes oats, beans, rice, quinoa and other grains. (Cheaper, less packaging=less waste).
- How I did: I didn’t. I bought dried beans, but not in bulk. Maybe next time?
- Goal: Get back in the habit of making my own stuff to further reduce the amount of processed food we buy.
- How I did: Super-duper awesome. I bought a bag of cornmeal for a buck or so, and made cornbread from scratch rather than using the Jiffy mix. It was super-simple, and the delicious, cakey cornbread totally made up for the dried-out chicken in my chicken chili. I made a batch of homemade Larabars, which I haven’t done for, like, two years. During my trip to the store on Tuesday, I bought tahini to go with those dried chickpeas to make my own hummus (when did I get too lazy to do this?). And then I realized I wanted hummus right away, though the chickpeas were still dried at that point …
- Goal: Raid the cabinet rather than shopping
- How I did: Awesome. See below.
1 cup black beans (which I happened to have in the cabinet)
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp chopped, fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cilantro, fresh
Spices, to taste: Cumin, chili powder, onion powder
Water, as needed to smooth out mixture
Combine in food processor until smooth. Devour. (Note: All measurements are inexact, and should be adjusted according to taste).
Have you tried to do the grocery-bill-slashing thing? How did that work out for you? How do I avoid overcooking my boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the slow-cooker? What’s your favorite slow-cooker recipe?