Monday, May 4, 2015

Frugal and Tasty: Burritos for Less Than 50 Cents Each

I don't like making a lot of bulk food. I know my family. If I make too much food at once, it tends to get forgotten in the back of the refrigerator for weeks. 

Instead, I enjoy making smaller batches so we don't feel so overwhelmed with the task of eating it before it spoils. 

My favorite grocery store always has a reduced price section in their produce aisle. Check yours to see if they have one, too. If they don't, ask the produce manager if they have anything they can sell you at a reduced price.

Each shopping trip, I check the produce bargain bin to see if there's anything there I can use. This week, I found a package of five russet potatoes for 99 cents, so I snatched those up like they were gold. 

Their crime was not being perfect, but it all goes down the same, so off they went into my cart. 

After filling my cart with my purchases I then went home, giggling like a madwoman about what I could make with my slightly imperfect, blemished potatoes. Ok, maybe I didn't, but I did daydream about it on the drive home. 

In the end, I decided to make a frugal potato burrito filling. It's easy. It's tasty, and a little goes a long way. 

First, I'll list the ingredients to the potato burritos, along with the instructions below. Then, I'll list how much each ingredient cost, breaking it down by serving. You'll see in the end, each
burrito cost less then 50 cents, a steal when you consider how much food like this costs at a restaurant. 

Are you ready for the cheapness to flow over you and envelope the very core of your being? No? Perhaps this will change your mind. 

Cheap Potato Burritos
  •  4 red and yellow mini peppers
  •  4 diced mushrooms 
  •  1 large russet potato
  •  1 14.7-oz. can diced tomatoes
  •  2 diced or minced carrots
  •  1 sliced white or yellow onion
  •  1 lime
  •  1 bunch green onions
  • 1 teaspoon chopped cilantro (I love cilantro. I just don't want it overpowering my food.)
  •  ¾ cup rice 
  • 1 tsp minced garlic 
  • Spices to taste, a dash liquid smoke olive oil
  • Tortillas

Ridiculously Easy Cooking Instructions

  1. Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot on stove. Heat the pot until it's hot and then turn the heat to medium.
  2. Put the sliced yellow or white onions into the pot and stir. 
  3. Add a splash of the liquid smoke. Let cook in the pot alone for about five minutes. 
  4. Add two cups of water to the onions and then throw in the diced potato, minced garlic, and carrots. Cover and let simmer for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  5. Halve the lime and squeeze into the pot, then put the halves in. 
  6. Add the remainder of the vegetable ingredients and stir. (Be sure to chop the green onions all the way to the tips, if possible. The green part is my favorite.)
  7. Add a little more water as needed, plus the rice (can be regular white or instant). 
  8. Add the spices. I added some cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.
  9. Let simmer on low heat for another fifteen minutes or so, stirring to keep the food from sticking to the bottom of the pot. 
  10. Once the liquid has sufficiently evaporated and absorbed into the rice, it's ready! 
  11. Remove the lime halves before serving. 
  12. Steam the tortillas, use a large serving spoon (a soup ladel will do, too) and make your burritos.

This makes approximately ten servings, as I measure each serving by the serving spoon. One heaping serving spoon is enough to fill me up for several hours. 

The best part? It took me about 30 minutes to make this nice little meal. When I'm done, I simply put it in a plastic container and save it for the next meal. 

So, what's the actual cost breakdown? I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how cheap this meal was, and I'm sure you will be, too. 

Total Cost Breakdown
  • Peppers = 89 cents
  • Mushrooms = 55 cents
  • Potato = 19.8 cents
  • 1 14.7oz can diced tomatoes = 70 cents at Family Dollar
  • Cost of carrots = 13.8 cents
  • Cost of onion = 34.5 cents
  • Cost of lime = 33 cents
  • Cost of green onions = 50 cents
  • Cost of garlic = 7 cents
  • Cost of rice = 20.7 cents
  • Cost of cilantro = 1 cent
  • ~10 cents for spices, depending on brand and amount used. 
  • Cost per tortilla = 17.3 cents

  • Total cost = $4.19
  • Cost per serving = ~42 cents 

Below is an explanation of the cost and calculations. 
Carbs & Calories: 91.4 cal. & 73g carbs per burrito. 

The peppers came in a 16oz package and cost $2.99 per package. I weighed the peppers before I used them. Each ounce costs 18.6 cents and the peppers weighed 4.8 ounces. 

I used 4 whole mushrooms from a package. The package cost $1.78.  Each package contains 13 mushrooms. $1.78 divided by 13 = 13.6 cents per mushroom. 

1 sliced white onion at 69 cents per pound. One onion was 1/2 pound.

Package of 5 potatoes @ 99 cents (imperfect) = 19.8 cents each.

I used two whole carrots, sliced and diced them into quarters. The cello package cost 69 cents. Each package contains 10 carrots.

Minced garlic cost $1.88 for a 4.5-oz. jar. Each jar contains approximately 24 servings (teaspoon). 

Rice costs about $2.50 for a 28-oz bag of long grain white rice. Each bag contains 18 servings and each serving equals 1/2 cup. I used 3/4 cup of rice.

Cilantro was 25 cents per bunch. I used only about a teaspoon's worth, so that was about 1 penny, give or take.

$2.08 per 12-count package tortillas = 1.89/12 = .173 * 10 = $1.73

  • If I were to add beans to the mix, it would only cost me about 1.1 cent more per serving. 42 cents + 1.1 = ~43 cents

  • If I wanted to add a cooked and shredded chicken breast, it would cost me 23 cents more per serving. (Four breasts at 1.99lb. equaling ~$2.30 per breast). 42 cents + 23 cents = 65 cents per serving. 

* In a future post, I'll talk about the real cost of being poor, living in a food desert, and how a family of three survives and eats well on under $1,600 per month. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Scott Gro-ables: Try and Try Again

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Gro-ables. All opinions are 100% mine.
In March I expressed excitement about the possibility of using Scott Gro-ables pre-packaged seed pods for my new garden. They’re designed to make gardening easier for those of us without a lot of experience and also for young gardeners. The Gro-ables are a new product from Miracle-Gro, and they are guaranteed to grow when used properly. I was really pleased with the look and how they’re made, since the plant food is at the bottom of the pod, taking any guesswork out of gardening and growing my own food.
As I stated in my previous post about it, I live in a small mountain town, so the weather can get pretty unpredictable. I was hoping for a positive outcome, and I planted a variety of seeds in pots to use as a control just in case the Scott seed pods didn’t sprout or flourish.
As you can see in my photos [will be provided on my blog], none of my seeds sprouted. After I planted them, we experienced a few hard freezes and significant snowfall in April, which probably killed all of my seeds. I expressed dismay about the weather with some friends and family, and one of my aunts told me that my grandmother loved to garden, but she did not plant until Memorial Day weekend. They lived in a region with a short growing period as I do, so it made sense to me that I probably planted too early.
No worries, though. The Scott Gro-able seed pods are inexpensive so I can try planting them again at the end of May. The prices range from $1.29 to $1.49.
After my first real experience in gardening had such a great outcome in Texas, I remain hopeful that I can make an edible garden work here, at 8,000 feet. It’s been done before, and it can happen again. I am absolutely determined to have an edible garden. My dream is to step outside my home and pick tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, and onions to use in my every day cooking. Nothing tastes better, in my opinion, than home-grown herbs and vegetables.
My husband chuckles at my stubbornness to have a garden. It’s basically all I’ve talked about since spring officially sprang. Impatiently, I’ve been waiting for the weather to warm up consistently so I can try my hand at the Gro-ables seed pods again.
As you can see in the photos I’ve included, I planted my seeds in pots and set them outside when we had some 60-degree, sunshiny weather. I covered them with a tarp when it got colder because there is absolutely no room in my house and my four-year-old keeps trying to play in the dirt. So, I put them as close to my outside wall so they might get some heat from our home. After several weeks, they still haven’t sprouted.
Snow in the background at end of April
Who knows, the pods I’ve planted already might end up sprouting eventually. If they do, it’ll be an extra surprise for my garden. But in the meantime, I’ll wait a few weeks and try again. I am the eternal optimist, and I refuse to give in! I will have my garden yet, and I suspect Scott Gro-ables will be a big part of that. 
We had some spring freezes here after I'd planted these. 
The pepper seeds.

On he left, the Scott Gro-ables. On the right, my own seeds planted at the same time. None sprouted.

Once they sprout, I'll start keeping tabs on them at the Scott SproutIt website. Gro-ables It's an easy and convenient way to keep track of my garden's progress so I will have a better idea of what works and what doesn't for next year's growing season.
  • Visit Sponsor's Site"rel="nofollow">Visit Sponsor's Site

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Starting My Garden with Scott Gro-ables Seed Pods

This post brought to you by Gro-ables.  All opinions are 100% mine.

Gro-ables I am stoked. I was just offered the opportunity to review seed pods by Scott Gro-ables. I had never heard of this product before, and I am intrigued. I'm also what you might call a casual gardener, but I have not had an opportunity to garden in a few years. I've been either traveling or in an apartment where growing was not feasible. 

Now that I'm settled down again, it's in a pretty challenging climate. We chose to settle in a mountain town nearly 9,000 in elevation. So, our growing season will be shorter than it was back in Texas. 

But I am still hopeful. 

In fact, I was thinking about planting seedlings in an old egg carton and starting them that way. Now that I've got this opportunity to grow the Scott Gro-ables, I'll be able to save myself the trouble and expense of doing that. No going to the store 45 minutes away to get the potting soil. 

No worrying about the ground freezing if I plant them too early, since I can start these in a pot on my windowsill and transfer them outside. All I need to do is pop these prepared seed pods in soil and watch them grow. Each pod as soil, seeds, and plant food so there's no guesswork involved. 
In 2012, I had a plot at my local community garden in a city just north of Dallas. I adored my garden and lovingly weeded and tilled the soil to get it ready for my seeds. I grew cilantro, sweet peppers, tomatoes, spinach, corn, and a plethora of other edibles. I felt a sense of triumphant accomplishment when I harvested them just a few short months later.

Since Scott didn't offer corn pods, I chose the pepper and cilantro pods. Being in the American Southwest, you just can't really prepare a decent meal without them, and I am quite partial to them.

One of the first dishes I plan on making with the cilantro and peppers once I harvest them is my famous chicken tortilla soup. And just because I'm such an awesome person, I'm sharing that recipe with you all. My husband has remarked that it's better than restaurant soup, which made me weep with pride. 

Ok, I didn't really cry, but it made me pretty proud to know he'd rather eat what I make than what he can buy at a restaurant. 

Here's a cross-section of what the seed pod looks like, according to the Gro-ables website

So, the seed is nestled in the growing materials, with plant food at the bottom. Muy convenient, isn't it? I can't wait to see how these grow compared to my earlier experience with gardening. 

Another nice feature of these pods is that Gro-ables have a dedicated website and app called Sprout It for gardeners to document their gardens' progress. The app and website allow gardeners to enter the date of planting, the type of edible planted, and how much sun and water it needs. It's a really convenient way to keep track of your garden so you know exactly how your seeds grow in a particular climate or environment. 

And here is the aforementioned recipe I've decided to share because I'm just that generous (humility, what humility?).

Meatless Chicken Tortilla Soup


32 ounces chicken broth, 4 cup
2-4 cups of water
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
29 Ounce can hominy
1/2 cup white rice
1 Medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped
1 Medium sweet red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup chopped yellow onions.
2 1/2 cups fresh diced tomatoes
1/4 cup diced pickled jalapeno peppers
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

    Add a little Grated Monterrey cheese, Mexican table cream and some crumbled tortilla chips (usually found in the bottom of the bag) to your bowl and enjoy!

    And that, my dear readers, is how I plan on using my Scott Gro-ables peppers, cilantro, and tomatoes. 

    You can add chicken to this if you want. When I do, I add about one pound, cook it in the slow cooker, pull it apart, and then add the chicken to the soup later.

    Visit Sponsor's Site

    Saturday, March 22, 2014

    How Old Are Your Spices?

    Last year befoe we moved, I was gifted a box of food. Inside this box were two bottles of spices: a full, but used bottle of cinnamon and a half-used bottle of chili powder. I would have used them both enthusiasticlly, but the problem was, these were relics nearly as old as I was. 

    I love the artwork on the Adams cinnamon bottle
    Check out the old purple price stamp on top ofthe Adams Cinnamon cap. Yup. That reads 79 cents. I'm sure in today's world, that would translate into over $5.00.

    I have no idea how much the Gebhardt Eagle Chili Powder cost, but I'm sure it was right up there. 
    I don't know why these two spices were given to me. My husband begged me to throw them out, but not before I'd taken some pictures of them. 

    My mother, for some reason, has always kept her spices for decades, and I think she just wanted to pass them on to me because she was tired of looking at them. I can't ask her now because we are not on speaking terms, but I'm sure she'd just shake her head and say, "Oh, I don KNOW!" like she always does. 

    Anyway, check out the dates. These were given to me in 2012, making the cinnamon 42 years old, and the chili powder 35 years old. I'm sure they'd still be edible, but pretty tasteless and stale. 

    Click the image to enlarge.

    I really wanted to keep them for posterity's sake, but my husband insisted on throwing them out. He's the anti-packrat, and hates unnecessary clutter, while I am the exact opposite. 

    And so, the old spices were sacrificed in the name of practicality. I am still upset about that. 

    March 2014 Birchbox Review

    I'm in love with this month's Birchbox. It took my box 10 days to arrive after it was initially shipped, so I already knew what I was getting long before it arrived (yes, I'm bad. I peeked). 

    I was excited to discover that I was getting the Beauty Protector detangler and leave-in conditioner. I adore the delicious, musky scent of the shampoo and regular conditioner, and last month I received the hair oil, so I was really, really happy about getting this. 

    I noticed I was also getting a Stila lip glaze and the Air Repair balm. I already like the Stila brand, and I love glosses, so I was happy with that pick, as well. I'd never heard of Air Repair, but the description left me intrigued. 

    My daughter and I have been sick, so I forgot to take a picture of the actual box after I opened it, so you'll have to forgive me for that oversight. 

    The Box

    First the bonus item: Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango. I tried it. I didn't like it. I do not like cherry flavored anything and this was no different. The dark chocolate candy would have been great by itself, though. 

    Dr. Hauschka Regenerating Eye Cream & Regenerating Neck and Décolleté Cream - I didn't like the way these products smelled. It reminded me of burning toffee for some reason. It wasn't an overwhelmingly heavy, but it was just enough to make me crinkle my nose. I guess I'm a bit picky about my products and their scents. 

    The two creams were good, but I could never wear them under my makeup because they're a bit too oily for my skin. I'm 44 years old, but my combination skin makes it difficult for me to find anti-aging products that don't feel like I've just emerged from an oil slick. 

    They are supposed to be worn during the day, but I put them on before I went to bed. I do like the fact that they are organic. Now, if they could just tweek the fragrance and make it less weird. 

    Gena Pedicure Foot Treatment Cream - I haven't had a chance to try this, yet. We went camping for a few months last year and my feet have not been the same since. Dry and cracked on the bottom, the tops, calluses...I need a really good pedicure treatment before I try this lotion so I'm holding off on that. I do like that I got two sample packets that are relatively large: a half ounce each. So, when I am ready to try this, I'll have plenty to test on these ravaged feet. 

    Stila lip glaze - I got a sample card of stila lip colors from Smashbox a month ago and loved their Vivienne color and the hint of mint that made my lips feel slightly plumper. So, I was thrilled to see I was getting a lip glaze in a similar color. I got Sugar Plum, which is a perfect neutral for my skin tone, so it's now my go-to lip gloss when I'm on the go. 

    I also love that the gloss has a brush and not a little sponge thing like so many other mechanical gloss dispensers have. This is defintely a hit with me, and I'll probably be looking for more once this runs out. 

    Air Repair Rescue Balm All-Purpose Skin Salve and Lip Balm - I'm not crazy about the dispenser, but I like the concept of the product. I tried it on my cuticles and my lips and it felt good, and had a nice lemony scent to it. It has one of those little nozzles you have to snip off with scissors in order to use it, which means it won't leak during transport. I think this will be great on my poor, overused fingers and nails, so I'm keeping it at home in my organizer. 

    I've already mentioned how much I love the Beauty Protector line, and the Protect and Detangle product is no different. I washed my hair, towel dried it and then went to spray it on. Oops. The spray pump didn't work, no matter how many times I pumped. No big deal. I unscrewed the cap and put about a dime size dollop of product in my hand and worked it in. Now, if I had paid the $22 for the full size product, I'd be pretty annoyed, but since this is a sample size, I'm not too irritated. 

    Let me just say this. The Protect and Detangle made my hair smell so scrumptious I couldn't stop smelling it. It made my hair easy to comb and easy to style and left a nice sheen. This works perfectly with the hair oil, and I can't recommend both enough. 

    I think a full set of Beauty Protector products is in the cards for my birthday in a few months, from Birchbox, of course. 

    The Verdict

    I really liked the products I got in this month's Birchbox. I liked four out of six items in the box, making it a huge success, especially since I'm so picky. Considering the fact that I got a full-size Stila lip glaze that was worth $8 alone (and the box itself is $10 for everything), I feel like I got a pretty good deal this month. 

    Disclaimer: The blog post above contains referral links.