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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Holy Cow! Check Out These Grocery Deals!!

Mid-Week Bargains!

You don't generally hear from me mid-week with grocery deals, but these were just too good not to share!

Store #1 - Big Lots



Big Lots is "hit and miss".  Well, this time it was a hit!  We stopped by on Tuesday evening on our way to Krogers.  Years ago I asked the nice staff people at Big Lots when they do their weekly markdowns.  Turns out that they do it at about noon on Tuesdays.  So, if I am headed that way on a Tuesday or Wednesday, I pop in to look at their markdown shelf. 

Prepare to be shocked at what I bought!



The first thing I spied were these boxes of pineapple, coconut, chia bars.  I know that I said in this post that I don't generally buy snacks.  I don't.  But, also remember my rule of thumb:  prepared food should have no more than five ingredients and all of them should be in English. 

Check out the label!



Four ingredients!  All in English!  Plus, they were marked down to $3.00 a box
 Knowing that we have a roadtrip planned this weekend, I bought two boxes.  I will, however, add that when I tried a bar, sadly, my first thought was:  "These would be better with some added sugar."  LOL!  It was a good try.  Maybe enough of the kids will like them and they will get eaten.  I get an "A" for effort though. 



Then, after having checked out, right at the front of the store on the counter we spied these!  

**  Cue dramatic music here! **

Pasta sauce marked down to $.20 a jar!!  

Once again, my rule of thumb is that I do not purchase prepared food items.  They are too high in sugar, oil, and salt.  But, at $.20 a jar, I bought five jars.  I was additionally swayed by a husband standing at my side begging for the chicken, pineapple, alfredo pizza.  I won't indulge.  It will be a Sunday night treat for everyone else.  The chicken was still in the freezer from Challenge Week #2.  

What I spent:  $7.07


Store #2 - Kroger

 


At 8:30pm on Tuesday evening I felt compelled to return to Kroger before the melon, peaches, and avocado went off sale!!

My trusty sidekicks got in the car and headed five miles north of our house with me, lured by the siren song of cheap produce.

A Couple of Notes:   


This Kroger run had a couple of special elements that I'd like to bring to your attention:

1.  I used the Free Friday download for the bread.  If you have not signed up for this, go here to do so.   You can use your home computer and the coupon is loaded directly onto your Kroger shopping loyalty card.  The Free Friday download can only be downloaded to your card from midnight to midnight on Friday.  Every Friday there is a new coupon for a completely free product that you can download.  

2.  I used a Kroger coupon for the salad mixes.  The salad was already on clearance.  No worries!  Kroger will allow you to use coupons even on clearance items!  When you use your Kroger store loyalty card,  they will periodically send you free paper coupons in the mail.  There are generally two coupons for completely free items in this packet.  For several weeks I had been schlepping around one of the Kroger paper coupons that I got in the mail.  This one was for $1.00 off of two Kroger salad mixes.  With the coupon, I got each bag of salad mix for $.99!  So, be sure to sign up to get a Kroger card if you haven't already done so. 

What I bought:

3 Athena melons - $.99 each!
3 pounds peaches - $.69 per pound.
1 loaf Nature's Own bread - FREE -  Friday download!
1 bags of Italian style salad mix - on clearance for $1.49 each - PLUS:  $1 off coupon on 2 packages. 
1 red bag of cauliflower - $.99 
4 avocados - $.69 each



What I spent:     $10.84!!

 I have $62.09 left to spend this week!

 

Our June Food Budget Challenge ends at midnight on Saturday.  


I will tell you that I am absolutely SHOCKED that my house is actually very well stocked with staples, fruit, and vegetables.

 By this time of the month I thought that I'd be grabbing random items from my pantry, throwing them together in a pan and calling them "supper"! 

At the end of the week we'll pick our contest winner and I'll share with you some of the lessons I learned from 


There Are Only A Few Entries in the June Giveaway! 

You have two days to enter!  Head over to our contest page!  Click here!  You can read all about my June food budget challenge and enter for the chance to win a copy of  of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.

Don't Miss Any of Our Posts!


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Do all to the glory of God, 

Hope















Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Cheap Eats: Baked Zucchini Casserole

 

Credit where credit is due!

My 13 year old son designed and created this Cheap Eats recipe!

While cutting zucchini for baked breaded zucchini, my son noticed that we had some left over slices.  He immediately said, "Mom, I'll bet we could make a really neat little casserole with those!" 
"Go for it!"  I relied as I cut him loose to create!

 

 Step-by-Step instructions

 


Step 1:

Layer zucchini slices in the bottom of a casserole dish.   We sliced one medium zucchini.
 Just use as many as will fit in your desired casserole dish. 



 Step 2:  Make marinara sauce.  
We used one large can of salt free crushed tomatoes, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, and Zesty Country salt free seasoning.  You can use whatever blend of salt free seasoning that you'd like.  We also added 1 tsp. of sugar.  Whenever you are working with tomato just a dash of sugar will take away the tart flavor of the tomatoes.  We literally opened the can and added the spices directly to the can and stirred everything together. 

Step 3:  

Layer the marinara sauce over the top of the zucchini slices. 
 Use enough marinara sauce to cover the zucchini nicely.  You may have some marinara sauce left over.  That's fine.  No need to cook the marinara sauce ahead of time.  You are going to throw the whole thing into the oven to bake.  




Step 4:  

Sprinkle with some nutritional yeast.  Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  
Uncover and bake another 10 minutes.  Serve with salad and fresh fruit!  Yum!!  


Recipe

1 medium zucchini - sliced into rounds
1 - 28 oz. can salt-free tomato puree
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder 
1 tsp. basil
2 tsp. salt free seasoning (your choice) 
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast


Directions:

Slice enough zucchini to fit into desired casserole dish.  
Open the can of tomatoes.  Add the spices and sugar to the can and stir.  
Top the zucchini with enough marinara sauce to nicely cover it. 
 Sprinkle with nutritional yeast. 

Cover with foil.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.  

Serve with fresh fruit and a salad!  

Enjoy!







Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Menu Plan for Challenge Week #4



Planning a weekly menu is the perfect trifecta of:   


1) Ingredients you have on hand
2) Items on sale in the store flyers - If you have coupons for those items, that's even better! 
3) Recipes for satisfying dishes that your family will enjoy and will fill them up




After processing this week's HUGE box of CSA food and planning what to do with all the lovely veggies, I set out to fill out my full weekly menu plan.



If you read yesterday's post, you know that planning your weekly menu before heading to the grocery store is super helpful.  Knowing what you have on your shelves, in the fridge, and in the freezer, allows you to use cookbooks to plan your menu around what you already have in the house.  Undoubtedly, no matter how well stocked your kitchen, you will need to head to the store for some additional ingredients.

This Week's Menu Plan:

Breakfast:



Steel Cut oats (x2)
Cream of Wheat (x2)
Pancakes with real maple syrup and fruit (x2)
Grab whatever is in the fridge that looks like breakfast (x1)


Lunch: 


*Lunches served with raw vegetables and fruit

Black bean soup  (x1)
Vegetable soup (x2)
Chickpea soup (x2)  - This is my recipe.  I'll post it soon in Cheap Eats! 
Grab whatever is leftover in the fridge that looks like lunch (x1)



Dinner:  


Black bean burritos (x1) 
Grab whatever is in the fridge that looks like dinner (x1)  


That's it!

I have a couple of kids at summer music day camp this week.  So, they will actually be gone much of the day and not eating lunch at home.  That's why I've filled in with some "grab stuff from the fridge" meals.  I know I'l have leftovers.  I don't know when or how much.  But,  when they start to pile up, I'll have that "grab whatever is available" meal.

For my tips on how to store that leftover food in your fridge and insure that you don't forget it and wind up throwing it out, click here


What's up at your house this week?

Post in the comments section below and let us know what's cooking in your kitchen. 


June is almost over and our contest is coming to an end!

If you've not already entered, head over to our contest page!  Click here!  You can read all about my June food budget challenge and enter for the chance to win a copy of  of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.

Don't Miss Any of Our Posts!


Follow me on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/underthemedian/ 
Sign up to receive e-mails by filling in the "follow by e-mail" link on the main page.  


Do all to the glory of God, 

Hope









 








Monday, June 25, 2018

Before You Head to the Store Do These Six Things!

Before You Head to the Store:

1.  Inventory what you already have on hand.   


Take a quick look in your fridge, freezer, and pantry.  Make a note of ingredients that you have on hand that you know you want to use this week.  This is not a full inventory of your pantry or freezer.  I write down items that I see that I know I need to use this week.  For instance, I know that I have 5 green onions still sitting in my fridge from our CSA box last week.  Before I complete my weekly menu, I'm going to write "5 green onions" down at the top of my planning sheet.  That reminds me that I need to choose recipes which use my onions.

Click here to download my FREE ingredient inventory sheet.  

 

    2.  Look at the store flyers


    Most of us don't get the daily newspaper any more.  Instead, we access the flyers on-line.  You can sign up and they will gladly send you an e-mail blast when their weekly flyer is ready to see.

    3.  Look for special sale days and "loss leader" items.  


    Loss leaders are the super low items that are featured on the front or back page of the flyer.  These days, stores also have "three day sales."  If you plan to get something from the limited sale section, be sure to note it directly on your grocery list.  For instance, if bananas were on sale for $.29 a pound at HyVee on Thursday and Friday only, I would put "bananas" on my weekly list with TH/FRI prominently displayed in the margin of my list right beside the banana entry.  You might even put your notations in red ink so that they really stand out from the rest of the list.  If I need a coupon for an item I put a check mark in the coupon column of my planning sheet. 

    Click here to download my FREE Grocery Shopping Planner.

     

    4.  Cook what is on sale  

    I never look through cookbooks and just make "what sounds good." It is just too expensive to cook this way!  I might make a big strawberry salad in March, when strawberries are in season and on sale for $1.00 a pound.  But, when those red beauties are near $3.50 a pound in the dead of winter, they probably won't make an appearance on our table.  My advice:  Buy when prices are at their lowest.  I might buy a flat or two of those same berries in March though and freeze them.  Thus, using and enjoying $1.00 a pound berries all year long. 

    5.  Create a menu plan.  


    After completing the above steps, you should have a sheet of paper with a list of items which you have on hand and those which are on sale at the store.  Then, I look through cookbooks and choose recipes which use those ingredients.  I note the name of the dish and the page numbers of  chosen recipes on my menu sheet. Trust me when I tell you it is super easy to take a few extra minutes and plan the entire week's menu while creating your grocery list.  It helps insure that you get all the ingredients that you need and don't head back into the store!  The more times you enter that store, the more money you are going to spend!!!


    Click here to download my FREE Weekly Menu Planner.


    6.  Don't shop hungry.  


    If you are hungry, everything will look good!   A 2015 study showed that not only do we spend more on food when we shop hungry, but also shell out up to 60% more on non-food items - even when we are not at a grocery store!  I guess you shouldn't go to Office Depot on your lunch hour unless you want to show back up to work with a whole case of paper instead of a few copies.  Who knew??!!

    What do you do before you head to the store? 


     I'd love to hear your tips!  Comment below!

    The June Contest is Nearly Over!

    If you've not already entered, head over to our contest page!  Click here!  You can read all about my June food budget challenge and enter for the chance to win a copy of  of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.

    Don't Miss Any of Our Posts!


    Follow me on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/underthemedian/ 
    Sign up to receive e-mails by filling in the "follow by e-mail" link on the main page.  


    Do all to the glory of God, 

    Hope








    Sunday, June 24, 2018

    CSA Box - Week #4 - Is Huge!

     

    This week's CSA box is:

    Very large

    Beautiful

    Inspiring

    Nutritious

    Amazing!

     

    What I got:

     

    7 tomatoes
    1 head cabbage
    1 big bunch of beets (with absolutely gorgeous greens!)
    1 big bunch of carrots (with greens attached)
    2 eggplants (I think these are Japanese eggplant)
    3 medium zucchini (I bought 5 more HUGE ones to freeze for winter)
    2 pounds of green beans
    1 head cauliflower
    1 bunch of mustard greens


    A Surprise Extra!

     

     

    Purple Daikon Radish

    Lillian, of Garden Spot Produce, gave me the chance to review this new product!  

    While picking up our CSA share on Saturday, I asked Lillian about this interesting plant.  The leaves are very reminscent of those of turnips.  But, they have a little of that "fuzzy" feel of radish leaves.  After a decade of being a CSA member, it's hard to stump me on the identity of a plant.  However, this one had me stymied.  She identified it as a type of daikon radish.  It is a new variety that they are currently trying in a test plot with a small number of plants.  She handed it to me and asked me to check it out and offer my opinion.  I will post a review on it later this week!  Already, I like it's color and we nibbled on some of the small roots, and found it quite tasty!  I'm going to play around with some recipes.  Stay tuned!  I'll let you know what I think!    


    What I'm going to do with all this food:

    1.  Green beans and potatoes.  My mother used to make this traditional Southern dish with leftover ham.  I'll make a vegan version. It's pure comfort food!  I'll throw all the ingredients in the crock pot and let it slow cook all day long.  The flavors will intensify without adding heat to the house.  I'll use half the green beans and some onions left over from last week's box.   Here's a link.  

    2.  Baked zucchini and eggplant.  Half the zucchini and both eggplants are going to be sliced, breaded with gluten free flour, and baked.  Yep!  It's a repeat of one of last week's recipies.  They gobbled these crispy delights down like candy!  I served it with homemade marinara sauce.  Here's a link.   Last week I also threw the beets in the oven at the same time as the breaded zucchini.  I will do the same thing this week and roast all the beets - except for two of them.  The last two beets are reserved for soup!

    3.  Baked buffalo cauliflower wings.  I have made this dish before and it is amazing!!  The taste of buffalo chicken wings without the fat and cholesterol.  But, just as satisfying.  If my son plays his cards right, I may save this for an evening when he has his college age buddies over.  This link will take you right to the recipe. 

    4. Vegan Southern Greens.  This recipe for greens uses two pounds of greens and considering the amount of greens in this week's CSA box,  it is perfect for this week. I'll use all of the mustard greens and most of the beet greens for this recipe.   Click here for a link.  

    5.  Cabbage slaw with ginger tahini dressing.  I've made versions of this recipe countless times and it is a sure winner.  As with everything in my kitchen, I play with ingredients based on what I have on hand at the time. I'll use some of the carrots, the head of cabbage, and a couple of the tomatoes in this recipe.   You'll find a great version here.  

    6.  Vegetable soup.  You just can't beat good old vegetable soup for using up odds and ends of vegetables at the end of the week.  That's exactly what will happen with whatever is left over from this box.  I seriously do not use a recipe for this soup.  Here's a Food Network recipe and video to get you headed in the right direction.  

    7.  Greens reminder.  Just a reminder that the greens of root vegetables are edible. I hate to see folks throw out the greens.  They are so incredibly nutritious and delicious.  If the amount of greens is overwhelming to you, just wash, wilt them down in a pan, let them cool, and then package in quart sized freezer bags.  You won't regret it!  In the winter when you are craving a bit of fresh earthy flavor, thaw and throw them into your homemade soup pot at the very end of the cooking time.  Wonderful!!


    Be watching for my review of the purple daikon radish later in the week.  



    What's cooking at your house?

     

    What do your summer menus look like?  Post below in the comment section.  We love to learn new ways to cook good food!

      

    Remember to Enter My June Contest!

    If you've not already entered, head over to our contest page!  Click here!  You can read all about my June food budget challenge and enter for the chance to win a copy of  of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.

    Don't Miss Any of Our Posts!


    Follow me on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/underthemedian/ 
    Sign up to receive e-mails by filling in the "follow by e-mail" link on the main page.  


    Do all to the glory of God, 

    Hope







      




     


    Friday, June 22, 2018

    Challenge Week # 3: Grocery Totals and Best Buys

    Holy cow!  I wasn't dressed for photos!  But, this is what I really look like while shopping! 




    Whew Hoo!  It was a week to stock up on the basics!


    This was an abnormal week, with Larry and I celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary with two meals at restaurants and a road trip to Indiana.  So, it was no wonder that I woke up to discover that it was Friday morning and I still had $80 in the grocery envelope for Challenge Week #3!  So, I set out to spend money on replenishing some of the basics which had been used over the first 21 days of our challenge.  

     

     Store #1:  Aldis


    What I bought:

    1 gallon of milk   (for the non-vegans in the family)
    1 jar of pickle relish  (For both tuna salad and vegan tuno salad later this week)
    1 Mango/peach salsa  (I am addicted to this stuff!!)
    1 canister of raisins  (For #2 son, who loves raisins on his morning oatmeal)


    What I spent:  $7.22



    Store #2:  Kroger

    You can read my tutorial on shopping at Kroger, here.  



    What I bought:

    3.75 pounds of peaches at $.69 a pound
    2 pounds of red leaf lettuce at $.99 a pound
    6 avocados at $.69 each
    2 half gallons of blue diamond almond milk at $2.50 each

    1 red bag of avocados - 3 in the bag for $1.00 (Watch for the red bags in the produce markdown section!  Each bag is just $1.00!)   

    3 melons at $1.00 each  (There was actually a problem with these.  All three rang up incorrectly, resulting in the cashier removing them from our bill).   

    What I spent:  $15.23


    Store #3:  SAMS


    We have debated on keeping our SAMS club membership over the years.  We have several basic items that we consistently purchase there, which are challenging to find at other stores for a similar price.  So, we continue to shell out $45 a year to belong to SAMS.  The items I bought this week are very representative of our traditional SAMS club purchases.  I don't buy their prepared or processed foods.  Instead I focus on real food, which can be used to create economical, nutritious meals.
    What I bought: 

    2 pounds of organic spinach at $3.69 each  (We go through a pound of greens every 3 days!)
    5 pounds of organic carrots at $3.48 ( cheapest price in town for organic carrots)

    18 oz. of baby portabella mushrooms at $4.98  ($1 more than the white ones and I think worth it!)

    4 pounds of frozen blueberries at $7.98 (I gotta post an update on my Dollar Tree post!  Their blueberries have been really teeny tiny berries the last two times I have bought them.  They may just be $1 for a 10 oz. bag, but I think I'm changing my mind on recommending them!)

    3 heads of celery - $2.48
    Dried Cranberries - $7.63
    5 pounds of organic sweet potatoes - $5.98
    2 pounds of whole almonds - $9.98

    What I spent:       $51.03


    Store #4:  The Farmer's Market!


    What I bought:

    5 HUGE zucchini!!
    They will be cut up and in the freezer for winter!

    (Heads up!  Watch for a post in the next few days on how to prepare produce for winter storage!) 
     

    What I spent:

    Special deal!  5 for $3.00!


    Did I Make Budget???

    (Drum roll, please.)  

     

    Yes!!  I finished the week with $3.52 remaining!  

    This was my best week so far.  Additionally, as you will soon see, this week's CSA share was enormous!  I have great hope that I will make it to the end of the month with money to spare. 

     Then.... I'll pick the WINNER of the June giveaway!  Yay!

    Enter our June Drawing!!


    Head over to our contest page!  Click here!  You can read all about my June food budget challenge and enter for the chance to win a copy of  of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.

    This Week's Best Buys

    Once again, Kroger gets the nod for offering the best deals.  

     Melon for $1.00 each! (They were juicy, delicious, and perfectly ripe!)



     Avocados for $.69 each (Ripe and ready!)


    Peaches for $.69 a pound (They need about two days to ripen.  So, we'll eat the melon first.)


    What about you?

    What were fantastic finds for this week?  Post in the comments section so we can celebrate with you!


    Don't Miss Any of Our Posts!

    I keep the Facebook page hopping with quick tips and comments throughout the week.
    Follow me on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/underthemedian/

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    Remember, 

    Do all to the glory of God, 

    Hope









    Four Things I Rarely Buy at the Store and Why

    Here are some items that you will rarely see in my cart at the grocery store.  

    Bread

     


    Although bread is not the best choice in a whole foods diet, I actually do not have a problem with bread.  Most of it has too much sodium, preservatives, and white flour in it for me, but it remains an option for filling up hungry tummies.  

    I don't buy bread very often for one simple reason:  I get it at church.  

    I know, generally church is not a place where one finds bread - except in the communion plate.  But, our church has a wonderful relationship with a local bakery. The bakery wanted to be a blessing to others and had leftover merchandise when closing on Saturday night.  Since they would not open again until Monday morning, that meant that perfectly good baked items would be thrown out.  So, our associate pastor and his wife go to the bakery every Saturday evening at closing time and pick up all the remaining, lovely, high quality fresh baked items.  Then on Sunday morning all the members of the congregation are invited to take a loaf or two of bread home with them as they leave.  Each week we feast on the Bread of life and take home a couple of physical loaves of bread too!  

    Chips

    I've never been a fan of allowing kids to fill up on SOS (salt, oil, and sugar) laden snacks. They are  incredibly costly and add absolutely no nutritional value to my family's lives.  If I am counting pennies (which I always do) it makes no sense to me to throw a $4 bag of chips into my cart when that same $4 will get me a 10 pound bag of potatoes.  So, I simply have never done it.  There are a couple of exceptions to this rule.  

    1.  About six times a year I purchase a bag of tortilla chips.  I then guard it with my life until Friday night when I will reveal it to everyone at our Friday night picnic.  See this post for more about that family tradition.  The other occasion for the use of tortilla chips is for use in taco salads.  We use lentil or black bean filling for our taco salads.  They all applaud me for gifting them with the treat of chips! 

    2.  The church food bank.  Our family has been involved in helping stock the shelves at our church food bank once a month for the past eight years.  The director of the food bank is a grandmother, and she knows that I don't buy chips for my kids.  She sees it as her grandmotherly duty to sometimes send my children home with a bag chips (and a box of cookies) after they help unload the truck and stock the shelves.  I've never said "no", because, well, you just don't tell an older church mother "no" unless you have a really good reason for doing so.  Can I get an "amen"?! 

    Soda (and all sugary drinks)

     My line of thinking for soda is nearly the same as that for chips.  It's full of sugar and really does not add much value to their lives.  I also extend this ban to Koolaid, sports drinks, etc.  You must also remember that juice is basically liquid sugar.  Never buy juice "drinks" or juice "beverages".  They have very little actual fruit juice in them and add sugar.  Buy 100 percent juice.  Then, if you have little ones and feel that you want to give them juice in their sippy cup, mix it with equal amounts of juice and water.  The juice will go twice as far and this puts far less sugars on their teeth and in their stomach.  Better yet, skip the juice altogether and give them a glass of water and some of the actual fruit to eat.  It will contain fiber, which they need for proper digestion of their food. 

    Once again, I do occasionally make an exception.  But, it is rare enough that they are all truly appreciative when soda shows up on our table.  

    Processed Foods

    Most of the items on the interior shelves of the grocery store could magically disappear from existence tomorrow and I would barely notice.  Seriously!  I know that sometimes you can get them for just pennies after you apply store incentives and manufacturer coupons.  But, the fact remains that it is not real food.  It is full of sugar, oil, and salt - three of of most addictive substances on planet Earth!  I read a book years ago by Michael Pollan called In Defense of Food.  Allow me to rephrase his rule of thumb:  "The ingredient label should have five ingredients or less and they should all be in recognizable English."  I thought his other rule was also perfect:  "If your grandmother would not recognize it as food, don't eat it!"  Bingo!  That made sense to me.  Ever since, I have adopted his general rules when looking at processed foods.  

    Once again, I occasionally break my own rule.  It's not a sin to have what I call "emergency food" on the shelf of your pantry.  But, consider carefully what you bring into your home.   

    Instead, I always have the following items on my pantry shelves:  


    Cans of various kinds of beans -
     With a can of beans you can throw together the following recipes in about 30 minutes:  bean burgers, bean salad, smoky bean filling for tortillas, beans over pasta, rice and beans.  

    Pasta -  I get either whole wheat or gluten free
    Once again, you can boil this, add homemade marinara sauce, and have supper on the table in 30 minutes.  Homemade marinara sauce is super simple!  But, you can just as easily saute some onions and garlic and then add in some Italian seasoning, lemon juice, and fresh tomatoes for an easy fresh tomato topping for pasta.

    Raw lentils - 
    Lentils are a bean, but they get their own shout out.  I am never without them.  Raw lentils will cook to perfection in less than 30 minutes.  I often add either barbeque sauce (for barbeque lentil sandwiches or roll ups) or taco seasoning (for lentil tacos).  They are a winner!  High in fiber and protein with zero cholesterol and they are cheap, cheap, cheap!! I can make 28 lentil burgers for $5.00!!   For inspiration, see my lentil burger recipe.  These burgers freeze beautifully and we nearly always try to have a batch on hand.

    What About You?

    Are there any items that you never or rarely buy at the grocery store?  If so, we'd love to hear about them!  Leave your thoughts in the comments section.


    There's Still Time To Enter To Win a Book!


    It's not over yet!  There are still a few days left in June!  If you've not already entered, head over to our contest page!  Click here!  You can read all about my June food budget challenge and enter for the chance to win a copy of  of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.

    Don't Miss Any of Our Posts!

    We do a lot of hanging together on my facebook page.  I post a lot of quick tips and comments throughout the week.  Join us for the fun!  Follow me on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/underthemedian/

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    Do all to the glory of God, 

    Hope















    Wednesday, June 20, 2018

    Cheap Eats: Ginger Lemon Quinoa Salad

    Ginger Lemon Quinoa Salad
    Easy Summertime Treat

    This salad was the hit at a recent church ladies luncheon.  It's refreshing flavor is great as a stand alone side dish, served over a bed of greens, or rolled up in a tortilla for a take-along lunch.  I will be honest and tell you that I would make a HUGE salad with this and serve it with homemade muffins, and some fresh fruit and call it "supper" on a hot summer night. 


    Step-by-Step Instructions

     

    Quinoa is a whole grain, gluten-free, edible seed.  It is also a complete protein.  When cooked, it resembles couscous and has a nutty flavor. Purchase quinoa that is pre-washed.  Natural quinoa has a coating on the seed, which functions as a natural insect repellent.  Although not toxic to eat unwashed, some people find the taste a little bitter when the seeds are not washed before cooking.  I just go ahead and purchase the pre-washed version.  If you purchase the natural version, you will need a very fine mesh strainer.  Simply measure out the quinoa and rinse under running water and proceed with the recipe as usual.   

    Quinoa is cooked much like rice: 

    4 cups washed quinoa
    8 cups water

    Place quinoa and water in a pan.  Heat to boiling and then reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes.  When the water is absorbed, the quinoa will be perfectly cooked.  Wait 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.  Let cool for a few minutes.  

    Traditional green onions and red green onions side-by-side


    Place cooled quinoa in a large bowl.  Add diced tomatoes, green or red onions, cucumber, craisins, and chopped almonds. 

     If you don't have red green onions, you can use traditional green onions.  Really red green onions taste pretty much the same, but add more color than the traditional green version.  


    The Dressing

    This dressing is fantastic over the quinoa salad or over any other type salad.  We made a double batch of dressing, served the quinoa salad over salad greens. and passed around the extra dressing.  This dressing does contain some sodium from the Bragg's aminos.  But, there is no added oil.  



    In a two cup measuring cup, mix together the liquids:  lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, real maple syrup, and Bragg's aminos.  

    Add the spices:  onion powder, garlic powder, and ginger.  

    Add 1/8-1/4 cup water.  You want to add enough water to fill the measuring cup up to the 1 cup line.  

    Mix with a whisk until everything is well incorporated.  

    Pour over salad and stir with a big spoon. 

     *Note:  If you have chosen to double the dressing recipe, do remember to pour only half of the dressing over the salad.  Then, pour the remaining dressing into a pretty bottle so it can be passed at the table. 

    The Recipe!

     

     

     Ginger Lemon Quinoa Salad

    Makes: 16 servings


    Salad:
     12 cups cooked quinoa
    2 medium tomatoes - diced
    3 green or red green onions
    1 medium cucumber - diced
    1/2 cup craisins
    1 cup chopped almonds. 

    Dressing:

    1/4 cup lemon juice
    1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    3 Tbsp real maple syrup
    2 Tbsp Bragg's aminos (You can substitute coconut aminos or low sodium soy sauce) 
    1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    1 tsp. onion powder
    1/2 tsp. ginger

    Additional: 
    1/8 - 1/4 cup water


    Salad Directions:

    4 cups washed quinoa
    8 cups water

    Place quinoa and water in a pan.  Heat to boiling and then reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes.  When the water is absorbed, the quinoa will be perfectly cooked.  Wait 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.  Let cool for a few minutes.  


    Place cooled quinoa in a large bowl.  Add diced tomatoes, green or red onions, cucumber, craisins, and chopped almonds. 

     If you don't have red green onions, you can use traditional green onions.  Really red green onions taste pretty much the same, but add more color than the traditional green version.  

    Dressing Directions:

    In a two cup measuring cup, mix together the liquids:  lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, real maple syrup, and Bragg's aminos.  

    Add the spices:  onion powder, garlic powder, and ginger.  

    Add 1/8-1/4 cup water.  You want to add enough water to fill the measuring cup up to the 1 cup line.  

    Mix with a whisk until everything is well incorporated.  

    Pour over salad and stir with a big spoon. 



    To download a PDF version of this recipe, click here

    Enjoy!

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    Do all to the glory of God, 

    Hope




    Tuesday, June 19, 2018

    Menu Plan for Challenge Week #3

    Ginger Lemon Quinoa Salad
    This week is a little different than my usual schedule.  I'll fill you in on the details and how these event effect my menu plan.  On an optimistic note:  I find that I am keeping up with my supply of fresh produce from our weekly CSA box - which makes me gloriously happy.  See this post for my personal rant on not wasting food.  I seriously DO like to make the most of all the ingredients which pass through my home each week.   

    This Week at a Glance:



    Church Ladies Luncheon: 
    This week is a little different than the first couple of weeks of our challenge.  I attended a ladies luncheon at our church on Saturday.  I took a huge batch of my ginger lemon quinoa salad for the event.  I brought home a lot of leftovers.  So, we've been eating bowlfuls of this stuff every day since then!  

    The good news:  

    Ginger Lemon Quinoa Salad is MY recipe!  So, you'll get to read all about it for this week's Cheap Eats! I have a tutorial all shot and the recipe is nearly ready to load!  

    My 30th Anniversary!!!

    Yep!  Larry and I celebrate 30 years of marriage!   Our actual anniversary was June 11th.  We went out to eat that evening.  But, all four of our boys are home and we will be taking the whole crew (Plus John's amazing girlfriend, Melanie) out to dinner sometime this week.   So, I will actually be cooking a bit less and celebrating a bit more over the next few days.

    Road Trip!!

    Today we took an all day road trip to Indiana to see friends.  My husband and I took along our 21 and 13 year old sons.  The rest of the kids were back at home or at the home of friends.  Our friends in Indiana treated us to lunch at a local restaurant.  On the way home, we stopped at a grocery store and scored items for dinner for the four of us for just $12.00.  We got a six pack of deli sandwiches for just $6.59!  We added a pack of tortilla chips, a 1 pound package of mini-carrots, and some bananas.  We had ice water in the car.  Not fancy!  But, it worked for supper on the road.    
     

    This Week's Menu:

     

    Breakfasts:

     Steel cut oatmeal (2x)
    Cream of wheat (2x) 
    Bagels with cream cheese, fruit, yogurt
    Museli with fresh fruit
    Grab whatever is leftover in the fridge that looks like breakfast 


    Lunches:

    *  All lunches are served with raw vegetables, salad, and fruit. 
     Black Bean Soup (2x)
     Toasted Cheese and cabbage salad
     Restaurant lunch provided by friends!  (Yay, friends!!)
    Split pea soup (2x)
    Quick black bean burritos


    Dinners:

     Lentil Burgers
    Breaded and baked breaded zucchini with homemade marinara sauce, roasted beets
    Anniversary Dinner at The Flattop Grill for the entire family!!  (Yay!!)
    Items bought from a grocery store while on Indiana road trip!  (See my complete description above)


    That's it!  Sort of a weird unconventional week.  But, at least I have a game plan to get everyone fed.

    What's on your menu?  

    Comment below so that we can be inspired to try some new recipes!   I'm always looking for inspiration! 

    Don't Forget to Enter to Win a Book!

      If you've not already entered, head over to our contest page!  Click here!  You can read all about my June food budget challenge and enter for the chance to win a copy of  of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.

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    Remember, 

    Do all to the glory of God, 

    Hope
















     





    Monday, June 18, 2018

    Week 3: What a great CSA Box!


    This week's CSA box provides lots of color and versatility!

    5 - tomatoes
    1 pound - new red potatoes
    1 pound - carrots (with beautiful tops still attached!)
    3 large zucchini
    1 box sugar snap peas
    1 head of cabbage
    1 large bunch of yellow beets (with absolutely stunning greens!)
    1 bunch of green onions



    A Few Notes:

    Yellow Beets:

    If you've never had yellow beets, do give them a try.  Their taste is mellower than that of traditional red beets.  I have one son who is really not a fan of red beets, but roast yellow beets and he will eat a whole pan of them!  

    Greens:

    One of the advantages of this week's box is that the green tops were still on both the carrots and the beets.  I love greens!  Here's a tip:  Generally if you are eating a root vegetable, the green tops that grow above the ground are also edible.  Most folks ignore the greens and simply cut them off and throw them out.  This is a mistake!  The greens contains huge amounts of vitamin K, iron, and more!  Here's an article from Burpee (the seed company) with a list of some of the edible greens and ideas for using them.  https://www.burpee.com/gardenadvicecenter/vegetables/general-gardening/eating-vegetable-tops-and-leaves/article10998.html

      
    Preserving Greens:   

    I'll admit it:  a big pile of greens can be a little overwhelming.  If there are more than you can handle before they deform into a slimy mass, then consider freezing them. 

    First, you need to know that the freezer will change their texture and you won't want to eat them raw after thawing.  You will want to cook them before eating.  It is possible to simply cut them up and throw them into the freezer.  But, they take up too much freezer space for me in this form.  Instead I wash them well and then throw them into a pan.  Add a little water to the pan and then sweat them down.  They will shrink - a lot!

    After they have reduced in size, let them cool and put them into small freezer bags.  I generally put about a cup of cooked greens into each bag.  Flatten and then seal.  Do be sure to label the bag with the name of the greens that you put into the bag.  You've no idea how many "unnamed" bags of greens I have in my freezer.  But, if they are going in soup, I generally don't care what kind they are anyway. 

    When you get ready to use them, just take them out of the freezer a few minutes before you need them - 15 minutes will do the trick!  They will be thawed enough to allow you to easily slice through them a few times with a sharp knife to cut them into small, bite-sized pieces for a recipe.  

    This Week's Recipes:

    1.  Garden Fresh Sushi - Yum!  Here's the link

    While discussing this week's CSA box, my 13 year old sous chef and I realized that we have a sushi rolling mat that we have never used.  We decided that sushi rolled up in fresh cabbage leaves was in order.  The recipe will used some of the outer leaves of the cabbage and part of the green onions.  

    2.  30 minute Italian sausage, peppers, and potatoes.  - Click here for the recipe.  

    This recipe uses plant-based sausage (which you may recall was one of our best buys last week).  But, you could just substitute traditional meat sausage or kielbasa.  For the sake of my husband, who dislikes peppers, I will leave out the peppers and substitute some of the carrots from the CSA box.  I will also use all the potatoes and more of the green onions for this recipe. 

    3.  Cabbage salad - I love this summertime treat!  I'll mix together the rest of the cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, and green onions.  Then I concoct a simple vinegar dressing.  Let it marinate for a couple of hours and enjoy!

    4.   Easy Baked Zucchini - See this super easy, but delicious recipe here

    We love baked zucchini and often have it for supper topped with homemade marinara sauce in the summer.  Add some homemade muffins, fruit, and a salad and call it "supper!" on a hot summer night.  I'll use all the zucchini for a huge batch and roast the beets at the same time while the oven is already turned on.  

    5.  Raw sugar snap peas - Yep!  I'm not even cooking these this week.  That past two weeks or so I have used the sugar snap peas in recipes.  But, my kids love raw sugar snap peas.  I will wash these, throw them in a bowl, and they will be gone in about 10 minutes!  If you have a deep burning desire, you can dip them in some sort of dip.  But, really they need no embellishment.

    6.  Beet greens -  Raw and cooked.  Spend with Pennies offers this simple and delicious recipe for cooked beet greens

    I picked this bunch of beets because I saw that beautiful, perfect mass of green tops sticking out of the top of the CSA bushel basket.  Beet greens are yummy raw in salads.

    7.  Beet Greens Pasta with walnuts and parmesan cheese - Elegant and simple!  Paired with a salad and fruit for dessert, I can't wait to make this dish!  Click here for the link from and Edible Mosaic. 



    That's it!  Seven recipes using all of the items in this week's CSA box!  

    Stay tuned!  I'll post the weekly menu plan soon!

    There Are Just a Few Entries for my Book Giveaway!


     If you've not already entered, head over to our contest page!  Click here!  You can read all about my June food budget challenge and enter for the chance to win a copy of  of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.

    Don't Miss Any of Our Posts!

     I post a lot of quick tips and comments throughout the week on the Under the Median Facebook page.  "Like" and Follow me on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/underthemedian/

    The best way to insure you don't miss any of our posts it to sign up to receive notices from Under the Median.  Click on the "follow by e-mail" link on the main page.
     

    Remember, 

    Do all to the glory of God, 

    Hope