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How to Build a Snack Stadium

This past weekend, my husband and I hosted our annual Super Bowl party with some of our closest friends… and always the over-achievers, we decided to build our very own snack stadium (or “snackadium”).

Here’s how we did it:

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CSA Update #10

It’s been a few weeks since my last CSA post, but rest assured, we have been receiving our weekly shares!

With all of the big political things going on (specifically the government shutdown and the opening of the new state health insurance exchanges), in addition to my husband and I trying to sort out all sorts of financial things related to his recent layoff, I just haven’t had as much time to write lately… and wanted to dedicate the time I did have to more pressing matters than what we have in our kitchen.

Anyway, we have gotten some fun items in our shares the past few weeks – most notably, concord grapes! These are not a grape you would want to snack on since they have seeds and chewy inner skins, but they’re fantastic for making homemade grape jelly.

Since I’d rather not list every single item we received over the past few weeks, I’ll just give you a general overview with pictures:

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CSA Update #9 (And More Canning!)

This week’s share was a very interesting mix of Asian greens, herbs, and other miscellaneous cooking vegetables. In other words, most of the items are not really meant to be eaten by themselves – like you would with apples, tomatoes, corn on the cob, etc. This is actually kind of nice because we can incorporate many of the items into “standard” dishes without having to try too hard.

The other interesting thing about this week’s share is that I happened to be the last person at distribution Saturday morning, so they gave me very generous portions of the less popular items like lemon balm, mint, parsley, eggplant, and garlic. (It’s kind of like being the last trick-or-treater on Halloween.)

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The Annual Canning Extravaganza!

My husband and I spent pretty much the entire day yesterday cooking and canning two varieties of homemade pasta sauce.

While our focus was on pressing tomatoes and turning them into delicious sauce, we also decided to make pickled peppers and apple butter. Yum!

Why did we spend so much time cooking and preserving food? For us, it’s fun! But even if you aren’t crazy about the idea of working in the kitchen all day, doing it just once a year could allow you to enjoy a number of home-cooked foods made from fresh local produce throughout the winter at an amazingly low cost.

Granted, most grocery stores sell fresh produce and canned goods year-round, which makes bulk canning or freezing seem a bit obsolete. However, I see it as very similar in concept to stocking up on items when they’re on sale. Right now, we are able to get large quantities of fresh produce for next-to-nothing through our backyard vegetable garden, weekly CSA shares, and the local farm market. So why not preserve our cheap produce before food prices go up?

Here are a couple of the recipes we used yesterday:

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CSA Update #8

This week’s share was a bit smaller than the last two, although not by much. We’re starting to get into the fall season which means that most of our share contents (and available choices) consisted of various types of peppers, herbs, and greens. Fingers crossed that they will still have plenty of fresh produce to support the shareholders through December!

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CSA Update #7

Our CSA program definitely stepped up their game this week in terms of the quality and quantity of produce. We also got to make our first real “choices” in a while, with small shareholders receiving 2 choices and large shareholders receiving 3 choices. (This is what we were supposed to get every week according to the original brochure and contract, but obviously things didn’t work out that way.)

Anyway, here is what we received in our share this week:

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The Beginner’s Guide to Cooking

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I write a lot of posts about food – enough to warrant an entire Recipe section on the navigation bar above.

Putting so much emphasis on food may seem a little odd, considering this isn’t a cooking blog… it’s a budgeting blog. However, I truly believe that the single most important skill any 20-something can have is the ability to cook at home.

Why are basic cooking skills so important? Because food is guaranteed to be one of your largest (and most important) expense categories, and cooking at home is the single best way to save money in that category without sacrificing your health.

For those who never learned to cook as children or teens, learning to do it on your own can feel like a daunting task – especially when everyone else seems to already have their shit together. However, the truth of the matter is that cooking doesn’t have to be overly complicated. You don’t need 20 different ingredients in a recipe and your food doesn’t have to be photogenic. Heck, your food can look like total crap for all I care, as long as it tastes good.

(Seriously, stop letting Pinterest make you feel bad. Half of the photos are fake anyway.)

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Sweet & Spicy Drunken Pasta

Last night, my husband and I were inspired by Pinterest to try making Italian drunken noodles. In this case, the idea behind the pasta’s drunkenness is that the sauce contains a full glass of white wine. However, we both agreed that our interpretation of the base recipe tasted much more like a sweet arrabbiata sauce than anything else. (Is there such a thing?)

Whatever you want to call it, this dinner was absolutely delicious. It was also very convenient and inexpensive, since nearly half of the ingredients came straight out of our own vegetable garden or CSA share… and we had just about everything else we needed on hand.

Here is the full recipe, for anyone who wants to give it a try:

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CSA Update #6

Things seem to be running a bit more smoothly with the CSA these days. The shares are plentiful and the produce generally looks healthier than it has in the past.

Honestly, my only complaint at this point is that the produce list they send out in the weekly newsletter never matches what we actually get, which is a bit frustrating when you’re trying to plan ahead. Still, at this point, any fresh produce is better than none. Right?

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The Carnivore’s Guide to Frugal Eating

Since starting this blog, I have read a lot of different posts from fellow personal finance bloggers. One of the most striking things I have gathered along the way is that they REALLY want you to cut meat out of your diet.

Whether it’s a push to observe “Meatless Mondays” or go completely vegetarian, meat is often viewed by PF bloggers as prohibitively expensive. But should you really cut a major protein source out of your diet for the sole purpose of saving money?

Personally, I couldn’t do it. To those who are in the same happily omnivorous boat, I’m going to come right out and say this: IT’S OKAY TO EAT MEAT. Seriously, even if you’re on a tight budget. The key to making it work is a combination of smart shopping, choosing the right types of meat, and controlling your portion sizes.

Want to know more?

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