Saturday, January 26, 2008

Trying to Tame the Grocery Budget

Without burdening you with the numbers I'll suffice to say that our grocery bill has significantly increased since we moved overseas.

One reason is that we buy our food at the commissary. They carry mostly American brands that have been shipped over from the States so, once the cost of getting them here is added in they are a bit more pricey than they would be back home.

Now, you may be asking yourself why I drive all the way to the commissary to buy such expensive food? Its not that the American brands are so much better, it is that buying there is still cheaper than buying food out in town. Why? The exchange rate. Every euro we spend costs us about $1.50, so things that are really reasonably priced for the locals are expensive for us because we are paid in dollars, not euros.

The final reason my budget is stretched to the limit is that the commissary doesn't always sell the best quality products. Packged dry goods are fine, but their produce leaves much to be desired. Sometimes I find good stuff there but often if it isn't already going bad in the store it will go bad soon after I bring it home. This is one of the main reasons I've taken to shopping at the local outdoor market, hence I pay for most of my fresh produce in euro.

Lately I've been trying to find ways to tame my budget. I've been trying to utilize leftovers more. I'm not a huge leftover fan, but as long as I use them within a day or two they are fine. I get really picky after day two. The downside is that I rarely want the same thing for dinner two nights in a row. Oh well. This is the downside to trying to save money, right?

So, in addition to making sure I don't let things go bad in my fridge before we consume them I've also been experimenting with less expensive ingredients. Meat is very expensive here. A pack of two (albeit, large) chicken breasts go for around $6-7! Beef is even more expensive unless we stick with ground beef..but really, how many meatloaves can I make? I enjoy meatloaf once in a while, but certainly not once a week, let alone more often than that! I just can't think of many recipes for using ground beef. I put it in spaghetti sauce, which is great, but beyond that I'm often stumped.

Anyway, I've been trying to incorporate more non-meat protein into our diets. Specifically I've recently been very fond of beans and rice. With some fresh vegies and some spices, served with fresh bread or a tortilla, beans and rice make a fantastic and flavorful meal.

A few days ago, as I was blog-surfing I found an interesting post on Orangette, a blog that I often read. She shared a recipe for quick and easy black beans. I decided to give her recipe a try today for lunch and served the beans with a bit of bread that I bought at the market yesterday (I think it was a ciabatta). It was a delicious meal!

Quick Black Beans with Cumin and Oregano
Serves 2
From Orangette Blog
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. hot sauce - to taste
  • 1 small clove garlic - pressed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans
  • ¼ tsp. salt - or to taste
  1. Pour a glug of olive oil into a medium saucepan, and warm it over medium heat. Add the onion, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and pale golden. It should be just starting to caramelize; it might scorch a bit in areas too, and that’s just fine.
  2. Add the ground cumin and oregano, and stir well. Add the hot sauce, and stir well again. Add the garlic, followed by the beans and their can juices.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the beans are soft and warmed through. (Some brands of beans are softer than others; some will be ready as soon as they’re warm, but some need more time.) Taste, and salt as needed.
  4. Note: This recipe doubles easily. There’s no need to double the onion, though; one is plenty for two cans of beans.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as Les and I did. It took me a whole maybe 15 minutes from start to finish.

1 comment:

Sheena said...

I might have to try that today. :) thanks. Beans are so much healthier too, don't forget :) no cholesterol or saturated fat like meat. Just saying... hehe :D I've been experimenting with lentils lately. I finally found them at the commissary LOL. They're not bad, I liked them. Ate them in a Middle Eastern dish. Going to try some more recipes though.