Category Archives: FYI

The never-ending turkey

b6a5fb57-fd2a-4b5c-9561-7b29ec234ec3As most turkey fans (and chest-freezer owners) know, the best time to buy a turkey is a few weeks after Thanksgiving. I normally smoke a turkey on the holiday itself, but this year I did a breast roulade that resulted in no leftovers, s0 when turkey-clearance time came around ($1.19/lb.), I went big. Very big. Like, 22 pounds big. It was by far the largest bird I’ve ever worked with (trying to spatchcock a turkey that weighs more than a medium-sized dog is not up there on the list of tasks I enjoy), and while at the time I swore I’d never do it again, nearly a month later we’re STILL eating turkey sandwiches, turkey enchiladas, and turkey soup, and my deep freeze is packed with gallons of smoked-turkey stock. It’s hard to argue with weeks upon weeks of meals for $26.50, so yes, I will probably do it again. Read on to see how it went. (And, above, enjoy a photo of a particularly bountiful day at the Fred Meyer meat-clearance section.)

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Costco: What’s worth it, what’s not?

Some people are surprised to hear we have a Costco membership when it’s just the two of us. I admit, paying to shop someplace is a hard sell for me, especially when we only go a few times a year. If you’ve never been to Costco before, only been a couple of times, or never really inspected the shelf prices, it’s easy to get carried away; not only can the selection and the store itself be kind of overwhelming, but the fact you’re paying for the privilege of shopping there makes it easy to assume everything you come across is going to be a great deal. Of course, this is not always the case, especially if you’re already making the effort to buy groceries in bulk and on sale. That said, the past few years have taught us a few things regarding what to buy (and what not to buy) in order to come out ahead.

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The past 9 months: What I’ve learned

Hard to believe it’s been about 9 months since I started this blog, and while my spending habits obviously haven’t changed, I’ve learned a lot and had to make some adjustments. For those also trying to live on $35 a week or just looking to figure out a way to keep the budget down without going insane, here are 6 not-necessarily-intuitive things I’ve learned since I began:

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A word on coupons

There are admittedly quite a few food-budget blogs out there in the Intertubes, and you may have noticed that many—if not most—of them seem to rely heavily on couponing. And I don’t mean cutting a coupon out of the newspaper circulars here or there for something you already buy; I’m talking devoting otherwise useful portions of one’s waking hours to seeking out coupons, collecting coupons, organizing coupons, and amassing a pantry full of things like enough packaged rice pilaf and 2-liter bottles of soda to last through 2525. If you’ve ever wondered why I don’t do the coupon thing*, check out this guest post I wrote for Flying the Nest, a blog full of great budgeting tips for newbies and experts alike.

*Spoiler: “I was nearly 30 years old and didn’t even know how to cook a pot of beans.”

Rules for living on $35 week

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The garden calendar to beat all gardening calendars

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Free celery!

Most people with a modicum of gardening or food knowledge know there are companies out there (Monsanto, et al.) that specifically design strains of produce that can’t re-seed themselves. Not only does this require farmers to keep having to buy these companies’ proprietary seeds year after year, it keeps consumers from being able to take, say, a sprouted potato and plant it in their own garden with successful results. Thankfully, not all produce falls into this category. I once successfully re-planted garlic from Costco (supposedly soft-neck varieties—which is what most commercial brands are—don’t grow as well in the Pacific Northwest, but I didn’t have a problem), and, thanks to this wonderful post by Chickens in the Road, I’ve now successfully regenerated celery using the bottom part I would normally throw into the stock bag. I was a little doubtful at first, especially since this particular celery bottom was old, small, and somewhat desiccated, but sure enough, you can see little stalks starting to emerge in the photo above.

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5 MORE things you probably didn’t know you could freeze

Obviously, freezing is a principal tenet of the $35-a-week plan—so much so, in fact, that we invested in an auxiliary chest freezer. (If you’re in the market for one, I highly recommend staying away from Craigslist—most older chest freezers are notorious energy hogs, which is probably the reason they’re on CL to begin with. Look for a newer Energy Star model; we found ours for only $220 at Costco and haven’t noticed any increase in our power bill.)

Freezing to extend the life of your food is perhaps the easiest, quickest, and most accessible way to save a few bucks, so with that in mind, here’s an addendum to the original 5 things you probably didn’t know you could freeze post.

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FYI: canned tomatoes

If you do a lot of cooking, you might have noticed that most recipes call for canned whole tomatoes, which in some cases you have to go on to chop or dice yourself. Isn’t it OK to just buy pre-diced or -crushed tomatoes to save yourself some time?

In a word: no.

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The principles of turkey brining

I know, I know; a little late given that today is Thanksgiving. But this information might be useful for next year, and with all those turkeys likely to go on sale in the next couple of days, why not pick one up to cook in a few months?

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