Wining Wife®

Because housework goes better with Malbec...

Month: April 2016

It’s Tax Time and Budget Wake-Up Call Time

Photo by:  Alejandro EscamillaHave you done your taxes? If not, don’t worry, I’ll be here when they’re done. 

There’s nothing like going through and analyzing all the figures during tax time to make you say, “Hey, we spent how much on what?” In fact, I’m thinking that a regular (weekly) analysis of our spending will help us stay on track for our financial goals. We’ve done well in a lot of areas. We cut back spending at thrift stores, on sewing supplies, on our entertainment expenses, alcohol, and on buying books. But holy WOW do we spend a LOT on food. Like a lot too much a lot.  We’ve even cut back on eating out, the past month excluded (because hey, who wants to cook in a half-packed and then half-unpacked kitchen?). But our grocery bill is still way too much each month. 

I know a lot of the standard tips – coupon, meal plan, shop the sales. And they are good tips! But I still haven’t managed to get my food bill down to a more reasonable figure. Here are some of the challenges:

  • I have food allergies. I can’t do conventional foods. I’ve tried. I break out in a terrible case of hives. I also have to have GMO free foods. I’m allergic to GMO corn, soy, and wheat. I wish I were making it up/overreacting, but the last time I ate Green Giant corn, my tongue swelled up. 
  • We don’t do many processed foods…so we tend to avoid the things that coupons are made for – boxed foods, many canned prepared foods and soups, frozen meals are all things that very, very rarely make it to our list. Pretty much the only processed foods here are snacks for the kids. I’d love some good kid-friendly snack recipes 🙂 (particularly picky toddler friendly ones). 
  • We’ve already pretty much cut out soda. Every once in a great while, we’ll treat ourselves to a bottle of Izze soda, but we have a Soda Stream. I’d love more recipes for it! 
  • I try to include fish twice a week. It’s hard to do when you’re also trying to be environmentally conscious/avoid factory farmed fish. It’s expensive! Ideas for how to save money while having a conscious in this respect would be great. We also don’t do the big fish (tuna, shark, etc) b/c I’m breastfeeding…and, well, mercury. 
  • We do beef once a week or so.  You know, to protect our hearts and all. It’s definitely cheaper in the food-run, but more expensive in the long run in terms of medical bills.
  • That leaves chicken and pork – both are expensive! I try to do thighs, but I’ll be honest here folks – I HATE them! Plus they’re high in cholesterol…which leaves roasting a whole chicken. And I do it, but I’d love to buy antibiotic/hormone free chicken breasts at a reasonable price! 
  • Being organic means there aren’t a lot of coupons out there. If you know a resource, please share it in the comments. 
  • We do meal plan. That really hasn’t made a big dent in our grocery budget. I’m not sure why not.
  • We just bought our house, and I’m excited to garden, but I don’t have a lot of uh…green thumb experience. Do you have resources? Favorite sites? Best things to plant for a novice food gardener?

Okay, so here’s the thing! I’m opening this up to your ideas. One lady in one of my Facebook groups suggested making a budget based upon caloric needs – which is a great idea – has anyone tried that? 

Please, please, please, share your ideas with me in the comments! I’d love to shrink down the grocery budget a good bit.

“Secret” Ingredient Chili to Knock Your Socks Off

ChiliOkay, so it’s been a little while since I’ve posted a recipe on here; it’s about time I did! I actually have two chili recipes. One, my seven pepper chili recipe, I’ll have to share later. It’s super spicy, and since I’m breastfeeding, and little man is not as much a fan of the spice as the rest of us, I won’t be making it for a bit. The other is a recipe I’ve been perfecting for a little while, and I’m ready to share it. It is delicious.

April_01__2016_at_0616PMYou see, a few months ago, I got the bright idea that perhaps I should do something to keep the heat in the chili (because, let’s face it, who wants chili that’s not very spicy?). This “secret” ingredient to my chili not only allows me to keep the heat, but it makes it so that the chili pairs really nicely with some of the richer wines in our cellar. In fact, the first time I made it, I paired it with a Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has subtle notes of chocolate and nutmeg. 

Guess what I added to the chili?

I added chocolate and nutmeg. I know! It seems so crazy, but I was thinking if a Mexican molé is made with chocolate to help tame the spice and add richness, why can’t I add it to my chili. And, I’m sure there are like five thousand chocolate chili recipes out there that already exist. 

It's hard to think this big guy was once a picky eater.

It’s hard to think this big guy was once a picky eater.

Here’s a funny story before I get to the recipe. When my oldest son (that’s him in his bowling team photo) was much younger, say 5, he was an extremely picky eater. I taught him to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches based upon a suggestion from another mom friend, and that curbed a lot of the picky eating habits (if he didn’t want what I’d made, he could make himself such a sandwich). However, it didn’t curb all of the picky eating. He just wouldn’t eat any red meats or pork or chicken. He liked chocolate. So, when he would say “What’s for dinner?” I would say, “Steak.” He would respond with, “I don’t like steak.” I would respond with, “But it’s chocolate steak. You like chocolate.” Guess what? He would eat said steak. Then he would say “I don’t like steak; but I like chocolate steak.”

I added this dark beer to the chili in addition to the chocolate.

I added this dark beer to the chili in addition to the chocolate – and it made a nice beverage to enjoy with the chili at dinner!

Of course, there was no chocolate in the steak, or the chicken, or the pork. I lied to my kid. There it is. He found out about it several months later at my sister’s house in New Orleans. Her kids were all “That’s not chocolate!” And so, yeah, the spell was broken, but he would pretty much eat anything I made following that. 

So, I think of that story when I make this chili.  Of course, there is chocolate in this recipe. 

So this time around, I used canned beans. It made enough for 3 adult and 1 toddler-sized portions for 4 days. Crazy, right? I wanted to spend time unpacking and doing taxes instead of cooking, though, so that’s what I did. I served it over couscous with some cheddar cheese. 

 

 

Wining Wife's® "Secret" Ingredient Chili
Chili with the added benefit of chocolate added
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Ingredients
  1. 6 14 oz. cans of kidney beans
  2. 2 14 oz. cans of black beans
  3. 2 28 oz. cans of fire roasted tomatoes
  4. 1 12 oz. bottle of dark beer
  5. 1 bar of Ghirardelli bittersweet baking chocolate
  6. 1 lb. of pork Italian sausage
  7. 1 lb. of chicken Italian sausage
  8. 2 onions
  9. 4 cloves of garlic
  10. 1 packet of your favorite chili mix
  11. 1 tablespoon chili powder
  12. 1 tsp cumin
  13. 1 tsp nutmeg
  14. 1 tsp oregano
  15. 1 tsp thyme
  16. 1 tsp cilantro
  17. 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  18. 1 tsp sea salt
  19. 1 4oz can chopped hot chilies
  20. 1 bell pepper
  21. several grinds of black pepper
Instructions
  1. Chop onion and sauté in 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Once onion becomes transparent, add garlic, seasoning packet, and other dried herbs. When fragrant, add the sausage and brown sausage. Deglaze pan by adding the bottle of beer. Cook until beer reduces, about 7 minutes. Rinse canned beans and add them to the pot along with the tomatoes, canned diced chilies, and bell pepper. If needed, add water or broth to pot until beans are just barely covered. Stir well and bring to a boil. Once boiling, break chocolate bar up and add to pot. Cook until beans are tender. Salt and pepper to taste and serve over couscous with cheese and sour cream.
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