Category Archives: money saver

Rules for living on $35 week

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10-cent snack: gingered carrot pickles

Unsurprisingly, a budget of $35 a week does not leave a lot of room for snacks. If lunches and breakfasts have to be under 50 cents, then snacks—if we have them at all—have to be under 10 cents. This pretty much limits us to things like tomatoes, apples, and peas from the yard; air-popped popcorn; toast with homemade jam; free food at work…you get the idea. We already buy carrots in bulk to make carrot-and-daikon slaw for these, which one or both of us eat almost every day, but snacking on plain, raw carrots tends to get real boring, real fast. These are wonderfully sweet, zingy, and different, and when when properly canned will last almost a year. (We just keep an open jar in the fridge.)

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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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How to make your own sourdough starter

Bread, like most things in life, tastes better through fermentation, which is why it’s always great to have a sourdough* starter on hand. Quite a few people I’ve talked to are under the impression that a starter must come from a kit, or a “mother” source like a kombucha culture, or is simply handed down through generations from a batch of sourdough made back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. All of these methods of obtaining a starter are valid, of course, but they all had to be started somewhere. And you, reader, have the power to give birth to your very own starter at home, to be handed down through generations, passed on to friends, or simply stored in the fridge or freezer for safe-keeping. All it takes from you is flour, water, patience, and acceptance of the kind-of-gross fact that yeast is already in and on everything in your house.

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5 things you probably didn’t know you could freeze

Everyone’s had it—the quarter-carton of nearly expired buttermilk, the half-full can of tomato paste, the expensive tin of something or other that you opened only to use one tablespoon of. You push it into the back corner of the fridge, hoping that maybe you’ll be inspired in the next few weeks to whip up a batch of buttermilk pancakes or something using chipotle chiles in adobo, only to discover it six months later, forlorn and covered in mold. (Probably after you’ve already bought a new carton of buttermilk or can of whatnot because you forgot you already had some.) Stop the cycle! Odds are, whatever it is, you can freeze it. Not only does this mean you’ll always have some at the ready, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars a year by eking every last ounce of usefulness out of the ingredients you buy.

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Money Saver: the stock bag

I am of the firm belief that chicken—and turkey—stock should cost nothing. You’re already using something that would ordinarily be thrown away (the carcass), so why add unnecessary expense with aromatics like onions, carrots and celery?

Enter the stock bag. Most people who make stock regularly probably already have one of these in their freezer, but for those who don’t, this is crucial for lowering the cost of every dish you make that uses stock.

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6 filling lunches for 50 cents or less

How much do you usually spend on lunch? If you’re like any of the people I’ve worked with over the years, probably between $5 and $10 for a sandwich or some kind of takeout. It takes quite a bit of time to walk to the restaurant, wait for the food, and walk back to work—much more time, in fact, than it would take to throw something together in the morning. What would you do with an extra $25 a week, or $100 a month? Even if you’re eating half the takeout for lunch and half for dinner, or you think you’re brown-bagging it with frozen dinners from the grocery store, you could still be saving $30 a month, not to mention some time out of your day.

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Leftover-turkey chilaquiles: 89 cents/serving

Given that this year I made two turkeys—one smoked, one roasted—for eight people, it goes without saying we have some leftover meat. It also goes without saying that, after giving it away to anyone who wants it, I try to use every scrap of that leftover meat, especially when it comes out of the Thanksgiving budget, not the weekly budget.

This was Round 1 for the smoked turkey, inspired by half a bag of leftover Juanita’s tortilla chips. (Anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest knows you DO NOT let a bag of Juanita’s go to waste.) You could also use crisp-fried tortillas in place of the chips, if you want to be all authentic and stuff.

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Money Saver: bread crumbs

There are few things finer than hot, crackling-fresh loaves of new bread.

Problem is, what to do when there’s still bread left over at the end of the week, by now too stale to eat?

There’s always a seasonal bread salad or bread soup based on whatever you happen to have on hand.

And, of course, there’s always bread crumbs to freeze for later. They’re indispensable for bulking up meatballs or meatloaves, or, when toasted, for serving on top of pasta, salads, macaroni and cheese, savory casseroles…the applications are endless.

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Garden Tips: molting hens

It’s difficult to overstate the savings we’ve realized from having layer hens. Chicks themselves are inexpensive—you can buy one for about the price of a dozen organic eggs—and their coop, which doesn’t take up all that much space, can be built out of recycled material. My husband built the bulk of ours from pallets and wood we found for free on Craigslist. If you let the chickens roam about in the yard during the day, they fill up on insects and don’t eat too much feed, and the difference in egg quality between what you get from them versus what you get at the store is rather shocking.

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