Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Let's get sauced - 4th (or is it the 5th?) stockpile post

Peaches, nectarines, apricots, also blueberries and raspberries.

Summer's here and she brought all her luscious fruits with her. Eat them until the juice runs down your chin, then take what you can't eat and turn it into sauce for pancakes, or blintzes, or to stir into your very own homemade yogurt.

First off, check the ads. Sunflower Market has peaches, nectarines and apricots for .67/lb at most stores and .59/lb at the North Phoenix store at 3rd St. and Bell. Raspberries are .99 at most stores, .88 at 3rd and Bell. Sprouts has blueberries for $1.49/pint. Blueberries are full of antioxidants. Antioxidants fight wrinkles. Gorging on summer fruit will keep you young.

I digress.

Second off, stop thinking there's anything mysterious to putting up fruit. There isn't. You slice it up, put it in a saucepan over low to medium heat, add a tiny, little bit of water, a little brown sugar, some cinnamon or allspice or cloves, or maybe all three, whatever suits your fancy and you cook the stuff down until it mushes out into what looks like a topping. Adding a little lemon juice prior to cooking down helps the fruit to keep it's color.

That's it. You're done.

Now put the fruit in ziploc bags or FoodSaver it, pop it in the freezer, pull out and thaw when needed for ice cream toppings and pancake topping or for making Dump Cake (see previous posts) or putting into yogurt or cottage cheese or oatmeal or whatever else you desire. Use it to fill a pie shell, top with whipped cream, call it cobbler and serve to guests. We're talking good stuff here. Really, really good stuff.

And don't forget your recently acquired freezer jam skills.

Aside from all the lovely fruit, I'd scoop up milk at Fry's for $1.39/gallon. You have to buy them 2 at a time. If you have the freezer space, go ahead and freeze some, but I've a challenge for you this week. Ready? Here it comes...

Make yogurt.

It's easy. In fact, in this climate, it's almost impossible to avoid. Here's a really basic recipe, all you'll probably need to buy is a thermometer - about 8 bucks:

Heat yogurt in a large saucepan to just below boiling. If you have a thermometer, heat it to 185 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, heat it to just below the point just below when you start seeing a lot of bubbles. Stir it to keep the milk from burning.

Remove milk from heat and let it cool some, then ad some 'yogurt starter'. A yogurt starter is a few tablespoons of whatever live culture yogurt you have lying around. You're supposed to keep it at a constant temperature of 110 to 115 degrees. That's easier than you think. You can make a hot water bath in a larger pot and put your saucepan of milk into it to stay warm. Set the sauce pan over the pilot light on your stovetop. Slide it into the warming drawer of your oven. Wrap it up in a blanket and put it out in your unairconditioned garage, or set it in the sun on your back porch. I say that because it's summer and in Phoenix, 110 degrees is about right.

Now walk away from it for 8 to 12 hours. Don't stir it, don't peek at it. When the time has passed, check it. It should have firmed up. You now have yogurt. Put it in the fridge and use in place of sour cream.

There's a really cool non-electric yogurt maker called Easiyo, available at Amazon. As it's name implies - it's easy. It doesn't draw any power and at about 25 bucks, it's earth and budget-friendly. If you use the Easiyo, you don't need the thermometer.

With milk prices as low as they've been in recent months, you can't buy yogurt cheaper than you can make it at home. Also, it won't have any added ingredients with long names they haven't anything to do with milk. You can ferment it with vanilla extract and get vanilla yogurt, add splenda or sugar or honey or stevia as you like. Put it in a blender with some of those sauces you just made and a little bit of milk and make drinkable yogurt. Put it in an ice cream maker and make frozen yogurt.

Ah, bliss on a hot summer day!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Ramblings

Milk, butter, eggs, flour, sugar, nuts, beans, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, herbs, spices, yeast, grains, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, honey, molasses, coffee, tea, potatoes, lemon juice, onions, apples...

Hmmmm....what else?

Meats, fish, poultry, fresh seasonal produce...

Not a big list, right? But with that list you can feed yourself and your family forever. These are the basics everything else in the grocery store is made from.


Like Suddenly Salad from Betty Crocker.

Don't get me wrong. I love the stuff. But did you know it's basically spiral pasta dosed up with salad dressing? Chop some ham into your own freshly made noodles (thinly rolled out dough made from flour, water and salt, then cut into strips and boiled a few minutes), steam some frozen peas, and toss both with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some dried basil - Voila! A wonderful meal. And no preservatives.

How long does that take?

Which part?

Dough takes a little practice, but once you have it, it only takes a few minutes and it's virtually free, especially if you pick up the flour near the Baking Holidays (Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah). I know people who make their own fresh pasta all the time. They don't even think about it.

No, I'm not one of them, but I'd like to be. I settle for the dried whole-wheat pasta I pick up for free or near free with coupons. Point is, if I didn't have the coupons, I'd have the means to make the meal so long as I had some whole wheat flour and the other ingredients listed above.

Cooking is easy. It just requires DOING. Forget recipes with 15 ingredients and 16 steps. Life is short, dinner is daily. Stock the basics, get a cookbook filled with simple recipes and GO MAKE IT.

P.S. If you're desperate to get something, anything on the table, so desperate you don't even care about the preservatives, you can often get the Suddenly Salad for free with coupons, also. In fact, this week (until tomorrow, anyway) you can get it for about 30c. You still have to add your own oil and it's only about half the pasta in a the free box of pasta you can get with coupons, but it's still cheap and tastes good and certainly beats a big mac with fries.

If you want to know about the 'free or almost-free with coupons' thing, sign up for CouponSense and tell 'em Mindy Likes to Coupon sent you. It's only 4 bucks for the first month. Don't worry, you'll get back the investment many times over.

Monday, June 15, 2009

In the land of ice, bear and expensive produce

otherwise known as ALASKA! So no stockpile post until next week.


Produce costs a fortune here. I mean a fortune. I mean like 90 cents for a single BANANA. It's not too bad in the cities, like Anchorage and Wasilla (Hi Sarah!!!) although way higher than what we enjoy in Phoenix. Once you get to the boonies which is pretty much anywhere else - YIKES.

So my recommendation is to buy lots of wonderful, healthy, good-for-you and good-tasting produce this week and next week. Eat it up, freeze it up and store it up against the day that you visit a beautiful, wild, untamed and breathtaking state like Alaska and can't get any without mortgaging the children and the family silver.

Be back in a week!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How to know when Mindy is dieting

Whenever her stockpile posts involve lots of 'no so good for you' food.

I just read my post from yesterday, something I forgot to do while writing it, and realized that after going on and on about healthy fruits and tomatoes and whole wheat pasta for so long, I told y'all to go out and buy cake mix and sausage.

Here's my caveat - it's good to treat yourself once in a while.

I know cake mix can be made from scratch and one of these days I'll find a good one to post, but I like mixes because there are lots of different flavors and most of the work is done. You add water, egg and oil/applesauce, stir, pour in pan and bake and you have a cake just as good as those $30 sheet cakes people keep buying at the grocery stores. Cakes are pretty scientific and measurements have to be correct or they don't always come out right, so I'm all about the mixes.

Now muffins are a different story. Muffins are forgiving and a basic muffin mix is easily adjusted to circumstance. Also, I find that the commercial muffin mixes I've tried, besides being stupidly expensive, even with coupons, are way too sweet.

I don't have time at the moment to go into the magnificence of homemade muffin mixes, but here's one to get you started (it starts about halfway down the page). As usual, I substituted half wheat flour to my basic recipe.

There are several mix recipes on that page. I've tried most of them and really like them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Third Stockpile post - bake a cake

Safeway is having a promo this week - buy 10 (mix or match) of participating items get 5 bucks back. The prices in the flyer reflect the price if you buy 10.

Okay - so buy 10 of the Betty Crocker cake mixes for 79c each. In fact, if you have a major sweet tooth, buy 10 more.

What to do with a all those cake mixes? Make cake, of course! And cookies and other goodies, including that Dump Cake I told you about in a previous post. I found this site which has plenty of ideas of what to cook starting with cake mix. This is a pretty close to rock bottom price for cake mix. Sometimes it goes lower, but not often and Pillsbury and Betty Crocker don't often put out coupons for them. Coupons are generally for specialty items like the fancy brownie mixes, or low-sugar mixes, or those awful Warm Delights thingies. (blech. Personal opinion. I guess if the bombs were dropping and I had no other choice, I'd eat them.)

If you have a lot of cake mixes, you need oil to bake them (or applesauce as mentioned in a previous post, to save fat and calories). Basha's has various Food Club brand oils on sale - $1.50 for 24 oz. That's a pretty good price. Oil can go rancid, so don't buy a lot of it. Buy two and keep both in your refrigerator. If you bought those eggs as I suggested last week, you're ready to rock and roll on the creative goodie-baking.

Fry's has Kroger brand butter for $1.88/lb and the 48 oz container of Kroger Deluxe ice cream also for $1.88/48 oz. Anytime butter falls under $2.00/lb is a good time to stock up. It goes right in the freezer and will keep indefinitely. And ice cream. Well...y'know...it's ICE CREAM. Enjoy. Buy 4 ice creams and 4 butters, mostly because I have to give you a number to do this post - you know best how much to put away - figure 2 weeks worth on the ice cream and two months worth on the butter.

How much are we at? About $16 for the cake mixes, $3 for the oil and $15 for the ice cream and butter. That's $34 total.

If you've been stockpiling and cooking with me here for the last couple of weeks and with me on the Coupon Sense message board for the few weeks before that, your pantry and freezer and probably getting full. You can start being picky about where to spend the extra $50 bucks.

This week's ads were not very exciting to me. Most items, I know I can get cheaper, sometimes with coupons, sometimes just because they'll go lower. 88c/lb for the split chicken breasts at Safeway and $1.67/lb for boneless, skinless chicken breasts at Fry's are stock up prices. Also, Banquet Brand Brown 'n Serve sausages are 49c each as part of the Safeway Buy 10 Mix and Match promo. Cook 'em up with those eggs I hope you stockpiled last week. Also, Albertson's has 32oz bricks of cheese for $4.99/lb. It sometimes goes about 20% cheaper at Fry's, but not often, so this is a stock up price.

I've suggested chicken and cheese on this blog and previous on the Coupon Sense message board, so I say don't miss the brown and serve sausages. If you buy 30 packages that's about $15 worth and takes you pretty close to $50. It will also provide a nice weekend breakfast accompaniment to your eggs once a week for the next half year.

This week, I'd also recommend the 77c/lb peaches at Sunflower Market this week and the 99c raspberries at Safeway. Peaches will go lower as the summer progresses, but this price is worth enjoying them now. Raspberries are a seasonal treat that go cheap for only a few short weeks about this time of year. Anytime you see them at this price, stock up and eat with careless abandon. Remember your jam making skills from previous posts and make raspberry freezer jam for the months to come.

The raw shrimp at $2.99/lb is a good price at Sprouts. These are larger than the shrimp being sold for the same price at Albertson's. Base your shrimp purchase on price per pound, not size unless you are doing a recipe where the size of the shrimp is important, such as shrimp kabob. I really love shrimp sauteed with butter, garlic and olive oil, then tossed with parmesan over pasta. Serve it with some of that 5-minute a day bread that I hope you're all experimenting with and a $1 bag of salad from Albertsons and your family will love you. Serve the Kroger ice cream over a piece of frosting-free Betty Crocker cake for dessert and they'll REALLY love you. Start to finish to cook it all, not including oven time for the cake and bread is about 15 minutes.

By the way, if you're out of the free pasta from about a month or so ago, La Perla pasta is only 20c for a 7 oz package at Food City until Sunday. Get enough to hold you until you can score on cheap whole wheat stuff.

Happy shopping and especially happy eating!