How to Prep for a No-Buy

20170313_204947-01

This post is probably well overdue. If you’ve been following me for a while then you probably remember that I did a 35 day no-buy stint from May-July last year and truth be told, I am on a food no-buy right now as well.

Yep. It’s been seven days since I last bought food, and no signs of buying anything soon. I actually had started about five days before that, but there was a wiiiiicked sale on sirloin beef that I just couldn’t pass up. I bought them using Airmiles, but I believe in transparency. I bought the beef (and potatoes!). I’m planning on not buying any food for at least another month and here’s why:

a. Life is expensive

b. I owe tax money (damnit)

20170313_204846-01

c. It’s a great way to make sure you’re investigating what’s lurking in your freezer and cupboards and not wasting through expiration or freezer burn (food waste is like throwing money in the air on a windy day, it’s just dumb). Think of it like an edible freezer and cupboard spring cleaning.

People ask me all the time how I do this. My number one tip is pre-planning (take a look at what you actually have. If you have no veggies in the freezer, this isn’t going to be healthy) and my number two tip is to schedule it during a busy time. What could feel like a shitty time of not allowing yourself to purchase food becomes “thank God I have these meals made and ready for myself”, and attitude is as important when you’re doing a no-buy as it is in any other area of life.

20170313_205210

So how do you logistically get ready for a food no-buy?

  1. Take an accurate account of what you have. This seems a bit brutal while you’re doing it, but it’s important to know what you have in the cupboards and freezer, as well as what kind of freezer space (you’ll understand soon) you have at your disposal. I look at it as making a list of my dry/canned/shelf stable ingredients, taking stock of my freezer “fixings” (uncooked items that need processed into meals) and pre-made meals. I usually do this the day of my final grocery shop before the no-buy.
  2. Make a list of what you would need to get through the 30 (or however many) days you don’t want to buy groceries for. How does this match up against what you have “in stock”? Those areas, whether it’s breakfast cereal or meat items, that are understocked go on your actual grocery list. My list of what I need actually becomes a bit of a meal plan, I think of it from that standpoint because I know if I plan it out that way, I’ll never be hungry. Be sure to prioritize eating what you already own previous to the no-buy, because this can’t become an excuse to buy thirty days of food on one bill rather than an exercise in using what you have. Well it could, but it wouldn’t save you any money. Tip: Try to avoid buying anything “convenience”. Yes, it’d be nice to have chips or flavored water, but it’s 100% not necessary. The meal plan is designed to remove these items and show you what you really need. Tip #2: If you have very little freezer space, do not load up on fresh or frozen components. Shop canned or dry items and vice-versa.
  3. Once you’ve created that list and meal plan, it’s time to hit the store. I start by shopping the dry and canned foods first, then produce, meat, dairy and freezer sections (in that order, too). Pick up everything on the list at the most affordable price possible, and if there’s something that you can’t get or is too expensive, substitute with something similar or buy frozen. These shops are a great opportunity to use up AirMiles cash or your PC Points rewards. They can feel expensive but keep in mind, you’re done after this. No more shopping!
  4. Once you come home with your loot, put it away and make plans for any fresh or non-meal items that you’ve purchased. I will look at my yogurt for instance, and say to myself… can I eat all of this before it goes bad? If the answer is no, I freeze some. If I’ve bought brussel sprouts or another veggie, I’ll often roast or cook it and then freeze it. Lastly, if it is something like a roast you bought, why not cook it and some potatoes, make the gravy and veggies and make meals? It makes life easier and you also know the day before you’re supposed to be done buying food if you’ve actually forgotten that you’ll need something like potatoes! Even just thinking about it and then popping the roast (or whatever) in the freezer will bring up those helpful thoughts.

That’s seriously it. I’m hoping to stay on my no-buy through into April for basically as long as I can (lettuce is very tempting this time of year hah) or until the food I recognize as not-so-new is  gone. I don’t want to decimate the nice base of a pantry that I have, just ensure that I’m eating what I have and not just refilling the top 1/3 of the freezer weekly. I’m thinking that every week or so I’ll do a roundup post of what I’ve been eating and how the no-buy is going.

 

Would you ever consider doing a food no-buy? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

 

Bacon and Cheddar Potato Soup

20170125_13400920170125_134032

Hey guys!

This recipe is actually a slight switchup of one by the late, great King of Soups Ken Kostick.  It’s on page 154 of his book Ken’s Soup Crazy which you can apparently still get new through Abe Books, the only version of it that I found was $170 (WHAT), but you can buy used copies on Amazon for under $10. So full disclosure, this recipe is not original. I know people tell me all the time that nothing is “original” anymore with the internet but a little known fact about me is that I started writing as a Canadian University Press journalist (and later editor). I have a massive amount of respect for any creator and I am so, so against sharing intellectual and visual property without giving credit where it’s due and admitting when something isn’t of my creation (even when that means saying “I found this on Pinterest”). Yes, that includes fessing up when it’s actually my mom who came up with something… like this.

Disclaimers aside, this is the best potato soup I have ever had. Ever. The combination of crisp bacon, creamy potatoes and applewood smoked cheddar was so good that I joked to my sister that I could bathe in it. The trick to this soup being so good is twofold- cook your bacon first, then remove it to a paper towel for later.  Cook your veggies in the bacon fat for the flavor. Secondly, the applewood smoked cheddar is amazing. Since we’re going through a late winter deep freeze where I live, this seemed like the perfect recipe to share.

This isn’t an affordable meal with all of the bacon and cream and fancy cheese, but it is a delicious one and sometimes that’s important, too. You can easily strip this recipe back to one slice of bacon per serving, which will bring down the cost to roughly $15.85 and $2.64 per serving. If you want to try this out and it’s still a little too expensive for you, try making your own stock and finding the applewood cheddar in the smalls bin of the deli- those little chunks are often really well priced. Those two tips will save 4-5 dollars alone. I try to share the prices for how the average shopper will shop, but for me, this recipe is affordable because I search the sales bins, cut back on meat and make my own stock ($11.65 for 6 servings or $1.91 per serving).

20170125_133951

Bacon and Cheddar Potato Soup

Serves six for $18.85 or $3.14 per serving or $11.65 and $1.91 per serving using the tips I mentioned!

1/2 pound of diced bacon – $6.48

1 onion- $0.60

4 large potatoes, peeled- $2.80

8 cups chicken stock- $4.20 (or free if you make your own!)

1 cup applewood smoked cheddar cheese (grate)- $3.48

1/2 cup cream- $1.15

1/2 cup milk- $0.14

Pantry Staples: 1/2 tsp dried basil, 2 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper

Optional: 1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large soup pot, saute the bacon. Once crisp, remove the bacon bits and deposit your onion and garlic in its place. Saute for two minutes (if there’s loads of fat, drain some off… you only want about how much oil you’d put in to sautee onions and garlic normally), then add the potatoes, basil and stock. You’ll want to bring this to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes (or until potatoes are cooked).

Once the potatoes are cooked, use a hand/stick blender to puree the soup until it’s smooth. Then you can add in the milk, cream and cheese and let it simmer until the cheese is fully melted. Garnish with the parsley if you like once you’ve served it in the bowls, but definitely sprinkle some of those bacon bits on top!

Do you have a favorite way to make potato soup? Let me know in the comments below!

Shop the post:

Capture.PNG

Michael Symon by Ergo Chef 6″ Chef’s Knife •
Belgique Copper Translucent 3-Qt. Soup Pot with Lid •
Calphalon Signature Nonstick 4 Qt. Soup Pot with Cover • Calphalon •
Cooks Signature 5-qt. Soup Pot •
Cuisinart CSB75 Smartstick 2 Speed Immersion Hand Blender • Cuisinart •
Smart Stick Hand Blender • Cuisinart •

20170125_134029

Affordable Christmas: Gifts under $30

publication2

Hey guys!

Tis the season for gatherings, right? Usually I love to bring a hostess a gift from the kitchen, something to make their life easier in the days after they’re nice enough to host me at their place, but sometimes a gift from the kitchen just isn’t as appropriate (or you’re just out of time!) and a bought gift will have to be the way to go. When situations like that turn up, I try to focus on things that are super affordable and readily usable. Things like barware, festive napkins, hot chocolate assortments, or artisan food items are affordable go-to’s that are a small enough gift to not break the bank, but personal enough to wrap up one or two items and have your host or hostess feel special.

 

Shop the post:

capture

 The Jam Stand Large Raspberry Jalapeno Jam • $6.99
Brookstone® Connoisseurs Compact Wine Opener • $29.99
Oster Electric Wine Opener, Metallic Red • Oster • $19.33
Caskata Wicker Mug • Caskata • $26.99
Fringe Studio ‘Polka Dots’ Monogram Mug • $12
Harry London Peppermint Hot Drinking Chocolate Tin- 7 oz. • $7.50
H&M – Christmas-motif Paper Napkins – White/Merry Christmas • H&M • $2.99
H&M – Christmas-motif Paper Napkins – White/stars • H&M • $2.99

What is your go-to purchased gift for a host this holiday season? Let me know!

Saving Fresh Herbs

Hey guys!

Since summer is over here in Edmonton, and it’s been snowing/trying to snow the past while, I thought now would be a good time to share a couple of easy ways to save fresh, delicious herbs to enjoy throughout the winter before you can’t find them as easily at markets and the grocery store. I won’t be mentioning pesto in this post since I have this one  that explains the basic methodology you’d need to use – BUT, pesto can be frozen and is another great option.
1. Infused Oils
Recently, I was invited to dinner at my good friends’ Bridgette and Nick’s house. I always ask, can I bring anything? And they always say no, and put on these amazing dinners (seriously, the best). This last time, I was determined to bring a a small gift that brought a little of me to them- so I made them something that I love, rosemary infused olive oil! I love to make it with garlic for just myself, and roast potatoes with it, but I kept it more neutral not knowing what they’d like to cook it with. A few days later I got a message saying that it was great, which is always the best. If you’d like to try to make it yourself, simply pour half a cup of olive oil in a microwave safe dish, add a sprig of rosemary (or any herb you like) and microwave it for 40 seconds. Voila! You can also use a herb like parsley or basil and put it in a food processor- once it is a paste, put it into a silicon ice cube tray and top with olive oil to keep it from turning brown- you can freeze it this way!
2. Compound Butters
Not going to lie, this post where I made steaks for a date is the last time I’ve cooked for a date. Dates don’t happen very often in my world! But, the herby butter I used was delicious and can be used in so many things- basting steaks, starting risottos, making browned butter, and to kick up mashed potatoes! You can mix it in, roll it into a log, and then freeze it- just cut off what you want when you want it!
3. Stock Making/ Freezer Prep
If you’ve read about my crockpot stock, then you know I like to make my own out of kitchen scraps and frozen chicken carcasses from rotisserie chickens. One of the things that makes stock so, so good is fresh herbs, and they can be super expensive once the summer has left us. So, I tend to use my crockpot to make a few batches in the summer and fall to save for the winter.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy herbs all year long? Let me know!

What’s In Season for Produce

20160710_134853One of the easiest ways to keep your food bill affordable is to shop what’s in season. While it’s pretty easy to crave a fresh, green salad in January, when you’re trying to keep your food costs under control, you have to think about when and how to indulge those cravings if you want to make serious cuts to your food bill.

20160702_12422220160702_12423020160702_12500120160702_125008

20160702_124217

Here in Canada, we are so lucky to live in such an agricultural country. At this time of year you can find all sorts of things that haven’t had to be shipped from another area of the world and don’t have that added cost. I love visiting different farmers markets because what is available is by default what is in season. I can’t always afford to buy anything at the farmer’s market (it was $5.50 for a pound of peas this weekend!), but it is a great fact finding trip and a fun, free way to spend an evening or morning. When I do have spare cash, I love the freshness you can get from a local farmer and appreciate the care and love they put into the food they bring to market.

20160710_134708

I love that stores like Sobeys have put a lot of effort into marketing which items are locally grown. Personally, I feel that Sobeys has the best signage and the best visual force when it comes to showing what is local, they mark them with signs of the province they’re from, and they always seem to have locally grown produce on sale!

Additionally, there’s power in even just telling consumers that they’re committed to providing access to locally grown produce- it keeps it top of mind! I think it encourages people to take an interest in where their food is grown.

20160710_134659

20160710_134654

 

20160710_134820

20160710_134834

 

So what is currently in season? Here’s the short list!

Vegetables:

Beans

Baby Beets

Cabbages (early)

Baby carrots

Cauliflower (early)

Corn (early)

Cucumbers (early for field, steady for greenhouse growers)

Lettuces

Spring Onions

Peas

Peppers (early)

Radishes

Tomatoes

 

Fruits

Apples (early)

Apricots

Blackberries

Blueberries

Cherries

Currants

Nectarines

Peaches

Strawberries

 

What are your favorite summer treats? Let me know in the comments area below!