Split Pea Soup

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Well, as intended, I’m sticking to a pretty strict budget till the end of the month.  With only $14 left as of a week ago, I knew the rest of the month would be produce-only shopping…and would rely heavily on beans.

My grocery shopping this week was very strategic: filling, nutritious, and on sale.  I knew I already had a good size bag of carrots in my fridge, so veggies to round out a nice soup, like celery and onions and potatoes, seemed likely candidates.

New Seasons
collard greens: $1.50 — on sale this week!  A heavily seasoned saute of this and come roasted chicken from the freezer and a wild rice pilaf will easily make 2+ dinners for me this week…
red potatoes: $2.56
yellow onions: $1.16
celery: $1.73
TOTAL: $6.95

It really doesn’t get much easier than split pea soup.  Start by chopping a whole onion, and sauteeing it in a healthy amount of butter with a few stalks of chopped celery and carrots.

Add 1.5 cups of dried split peas, add water, and bring to a boil.  I discovered during my annual pantry inventory that I have some powdered veggie bullion that needs to get used up, so rather than go with my regular Better Than Bullion chicken base, I decided to make this soup entirely veggie, and used the powdered stuff instead, supplementing with some necessary spices like fresh ground coriander, salt, boquet garni, and even a little garam masala at the end.

I let this boil down for over an hour, adding water as it reduced, waiting for those cute little peas to split open and puree themselves.  Towards the end, I diced a few red potatoes and threw them in to bulk it up some more.  

With a loaf of homemade bread to accompany (this week: orange rye caraway), a hearty soup like this one can easily be my lunch for a week; I heat it up at work with a few slices of bread that I toast that morning, a light spread of mayo and some cheese and maybe some lettuce or a collard leaf if I’m lucky enough to remember to pack it in the morning, and this’ll keep me going until the last customer leaves beaming with their cone of yarn at 6:00.

Other fellow Project: Food Budget-ers

Chana Masala & Indian Cauliflower-Sunchoke Roast

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This has got to be a sign.  When I sat down Tuesday morning to eat my breakfast of a fried egg on a toasted English muffin with TJ’s eggplant spread and a kale-carrot salad, this was one of the many abandoned browser tabs I’d left open the week before, for perusing while I feasted (since one of my favorite things to do is read about food while I’m eating food).  

I had just realized about twenty minutes earlier that grocery shopping was one thing I could check off my list for this weekend, after tallying it up and realizing that I only have about $14 left for the rest of the month’s groceries.

New Seasons 2/1/12
corn tortillas: $1.19
half and half: $1.69
buttermilk: $1.99 — because I made this! Yum!
yellow onions: $1.95
Japanese eggplant: $1.52
green onions: $0.99
fresh spinach: $2.31
minneola tangelos: $1.00
crimini mushrooms: $3.11
brussels sprouts: $2.13
garlic: $1.02
fresh herbs: $0.19
chicken thighs: $3.84
TOTAL: $22.93

New Seasons 2/7/12
half gallon milk: $2.99
crimini mushrooms: $1.45
brussels sprouts: $2.27
grapefruit: $3.28
eggplant: $1.87
papaya: $3.47
leeks: $1.61
cucumber: $1.49
avocado: $1.50
red leaf lettuce: $1.99
sunchokes: $4.03
ground espresso: $8.39
TOTAL: $34.34

No worries, though.  If you’ll recall, I’ve got some food on hand that I can delve into, keeping the grocery runs to produce-only.  Plus, last week I’d stocked up on some hearty, keep-well veggies that will easily last a week or two — things like a head of cauliflower, a bag of “Southern greens,” some fingerling potatoes, carrots, sunchokes, and a head of lettuce that are all still left in the fridge.  

And with a loaf of whole wheat rosemary herb bread rising as we speak, I know this means my lunches this week will be more sandwich-oriented (roasted eggplant and cheese!  Egg and fresh lettuce!  Tuna and nori!), and my dinner simpler.  Probably would have been the case anyway, given that this week not only do I have V-Day dinner with the girls, but am either hosting Knit Night or teaching a class all three weekday evenings.  

So when I started reading this recipe, and remembered that chickpeas are one of my favorite foods in the world, I jumped up and got some soaking right away.

And then, I kept reading, only to discover that she recommends accompanying your chana masala with this cumin-bathed cauliflower and potato roast (which in my world, will be supplemented by sunchokes, a.k.a. potatoes with a little bit of an attitude).  It’s like she was playing Iron Chef in my fridge or something.

And then, I remembered that, for no particular reason, the night before I’d used the remaining tub of Greek yogurt in my fridge, that I had been worried would go bad, to make a big batch of cucumber raita.  For real??  The universe is trying to tell me something, clearly.

I’m going to spare you my recipe and just send you right over to Smitten Kitchen’s instead, because not only did I forget my camera at work this week and my iPhone shots of this culinary experiment are so woefully grainy and overexposed I can’t even bear to post them online, and because while trying to drag and drop a different photo in here (note to Bloggers: don’t do that), I lost the entire post I’d just written, and anyone who’s spent 45 minutes writing something and then lost it knows that round two always feels just a little bit bitter and despondent.

Basically, both of these dishes are amazing, miraculously use up exactly the vegetables that I have lying around in my kitchen at the moment, and have already done a fine job of carrying me through my work week, and probably well into the weekend, without spending a dime on groceries this week.

Thanks, chickpeas.

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Trader Joe’s

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All right!  I came in under-budget last month, which is why I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about kicking off February with a big Trader Joe’s binge.  (Nor the fact that I technically did this grocery run on Monday, January 30th.  Monday/Tuesday is my weekend, so that’s when the shopping’s gotta happen.)

Here’s my haul:
Ak-Mak crackers: $1.69
frozen edamame: $1.69
frozen spinach: $1.49
tater tots: $2.29
Spanikopita: $3.99
frozen peas: $1.29
whole wheat pizza dough: $1.29
frozen mahi mahi pieces: $4.94
organic tofu: $1.49
frozen salmon: $7.58
Mediterranean humus: $3.99
crumbled feta: $2.79
TastyBites punjab choley: $1.99
TastyBites Indian jaipur vegetables: $1.99 
1 can turkey chili: $1.99
lemon pepper pappardelle pasta: $1.99
orecchiette pasta: $0.99
organic whole wheat spaghetti: $1.39
whole wheat fusilli pasta: $1.39
walnut pieces: $6.49
French roast coffee: $5.99
Oriental rice crackers: $2.99
2 cans tuna: $2.98
2 cans organic diced tomatoes: $3.98
eggplant spread: $2.29
1 can marinara sauce: $1.79
1 can organic tomato paste: $0.89
salt & pepper potato chips: $2.99
honey wheat pretzel sticks: $1.99
TOTAL: $78.63

I have four very clear objectives when I go to Trader Joe’s, which is usually only every few months:

1) Snacks

Salt & pepper potato chips are probably my favorite snack in the world right now. I think about these my entire bike ride home, and have a handful while I cook dinner.  It’s always exactly enough.

2) Emergency Lunches

I’m usually really good about packing a lunch — mostly because owning a store means that, as quaint I feel slapping a “be back in 5 minutes” sign on the front door, there’s not really a legit exit strategy for meals.  

However, because I’m de facto trapped at work for 7 hours every day, I’m forced to get creative with lunches, whether that means leftovers, sandwiches on homemade bread, or a slow procession throughout the day of carbs, protein, and veggies.

Of course, I’m also crazy busy and spend a few nights a week at my boyfriend’s house, and sometimes just don’t have an organized enough week to pack multiple days of lunch fixings with me, so I always like to have some of this stuff on hand — cheap, filling, and healthy non-perishable food that I can keep in the pantry and heat up using my genius double-boiler system.

3) Fridge

Some of their stuff is just too dang good/cheap/convenient to make yourself.  I know I can make this humus from scratch for like 1/10th of the price, but this is still the best damn humus I’ve ever tasted…and I lived in Israel for a year.

4) Freezer

Enough said.

5) Pantry & Miscellaneous

Those walnuts…they’re crucial to my favorite breakfast as of late: Raisin Bran with almond milk and a large handful of them.

Have you ever ripped into a package of these edamame when you’re starving, boiled them up, and tossed them with salt and sesame oil?  If not, you should.  Also, best last-minute potluck contribution on the planet.

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Taking Inventory

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Okay, I just did a super weird thing this week.  Maybe this is the retailer in me, having only recently recovered from doing a full year-end inventory of the shop, but this week, on my day off, I decided to take a full inventory of my kitchen.

This was partially motivated by curiosity, partially motivated by the fact that I had set out to clean out and organize my cupboards anyway, and I figured it couldn’t take that much more energy to write down every single thing I found along the way, and partially motivated by accountability.  

With another full time blog and four other businesses to run, I long ago accepted that I only have time to recipe-blog once a week and show you all what I’m cooking and eating within this budget I’ve set for myself.  And while I am pretty darn good at saving all my receipts (thanks, Lemon!  And how the hell did they score a 5-letter domain name in this day and age??), it’s true that you’ll see ingredients pop up in my meals that you won’t be able to find in my weekly purchases.

That’s because apparently, as my good friend recently put it, I am a pantry cook.  I have — as I now know — an absurd amount of food already occupying the shelves and cupboards of my kitchen, which leaves me with plenty of options of delicious things to cook, and lets me stick to a pretty simple grocery budget if I need to.

The cool thing that I realized during this inventory project, however, is that almost every food item in my house, with the exception of spices and condiments, is less than a year old, which means that even my pantry staples were at one point purchased within my Six Dollars A Day budget.  Which honestly makes me feel a lot more legit.

So, let’s get down to it.  Here’s all the food I have at my disposal to cook with, even without grocery shopping.  It’s pretty unbelievable.  Needless to say, when the apocalypse comes, you’d better come wait it out down here in Lindsey’s Lodge.  We’ll have a feast.

I’m blessed to have both an icebox freezer, and an entire standalone freezer in the laundry room, which allows me to do economical things like roast entire chickens, store the meat for future meals, make big batches of homemade stock, chop and save seasonal veggies, and store Trader Joe’s frozen junk food snacks out of daily sight.


(what, you don’t have sweet and savory snack cupboards?)

(subconsciously forgot to take a photo out of embarrassment?)


My lifeblood.  It has been my dream for many years to have a kitchen prominently featuring “beans in jars.”  I don’t like the taste of aluminum so any beans I make are implicitly of the dried-and-soaked variety.  I like to buy weird grains like millet and amaranth and challenge myself to make something yummy out of them.  That’s how my love affair with bulgur started.

How else do you think I could pull off running four businesses?

(The fact that I have an entire set up cupboards dedicated to this cuisine demonstrates what a large role it plays in my life…)


So, there you have it.  Why do I even go grocery shopping at all??

All the other Project: Food Budget-ers!