Eat Well, Spend Less: Simple Bites Goes Shopping

Marché is French for ‘market’, and one of the early words my three-year-old picked up, even though we’re an English speaking household. The open markets in and around Montreal are a pretty big part of our food shopping routine, hence Mateo’s early handle of the French word.

Shopping – conscientious, intentional shopping – is an integral part of eating well while managing to spend less.

Today, in our final post of the Eat Well, Spend Less series, I want to talk about how I stock my kitchen from bottom to top. I’ve already covered homemade pantry staples and frugal dinners in this series, but the ingredients for all that cooking and baking don’t just materialize on their own.

Food shopping is as particular and unique to each home as is their cooking style, taste preferences and health goals. My particular approach may not work for you, but I am confident I can offer a few nuggets of wisdom to help you get the most bang for your buck.

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Eat Well, Spend Less: Week 2 Round-Up

The second week of our Eat Well, Spend Less series brought a wealth of tips and helpful  suggestions to reach our goal of spending less on groceries, while still eating well.

I’m learning tons from the eight other bloggers that I have teamed up with on this series. It’s obvious that these ladies have the task of feeding their families down to a science and I can’t wait to share the round up from Week 2 with you!

On Monday I listed my top five favorite frugal meals and shared a recipe for a Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Mash for my contribution to Eat Well, Spend Less. Let’s take a look at the topics the other girls covered this week, and then I’ve got a one-time-only offer for you at the bottom of the post.

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Cooking for Others: A Guide to Giving Sympathy Meals

Our recent Q&A on sympathy meals received a tremendous response. Thank you to all who took the time to share your experiences with either giving or receiving meals. It was very, very interesting to read your comments and I took note of all the questions. I hope to answer them in this follow-up post.

We agreed that there are people in need all around us, and a small gesture like giving a meal can be a blessing both to giver and receiver. In fact, by the sounds of things, lives were very nearly saved just because a meal -or series of meals- was received during a time of need.

It was interesting that many more readers had given a meal than accepted one. Those who had been recipients spoke passionately about how touched they were and how helpful it was to be given a practical gift, in lieu of flowers. And there was another theme – the food that was brought is the best, or very near to the best, food that they had ever eaten. I’d have to agree with that one, too.

Plenty of questions also arose, all of them extremely pertinent. When is the best time to deliver a meal? What about allergies? Should a casserole be pre-baked or not? Hot or cold? Frozen or fresh?

This post will highlight the best tips, helpful suggestions, and friendly advice on bringing meals to others. Hopefully you will be encouraged to look around and reach out to people in your community through a hot meal.

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7 Favorite Do-Ahead Dinners for Winter (recipe: Chocolate Chip Chili)

A little blogging conference called Blissdom is happening in a few weeks in Nashville and I’m skipping the country to attend. I’ll also be skipping out on four days of laundry, lunch-packing and cooking. Woo-hoo!

Hmm, the last time I traveled internationally on my own? It was over a decade ago and included sights such as the alluring Tuscan countryside, Thailand’s best beaches, and the most memorable spice market in Istanbul, Turkey. This trip isn’t going to be quite as exotic, and I’ll be inside a sprawling hotel most of the time, but it provides the opportunity to meet some very dear food blogging friends, not to mention, the whole Simple Living Media team. I’m so excited!

Freezer Cooking

To make up for this mom-bloggers’ absence, I’ve been slowly stocking the freezer with meals for Danny to heat and serve to the kids for the five dinners I’ll be gone. Sure he knows his way about the kitchen, but we’ve agreed it is best for him to focus on our little ones as much as possible. I’m also stashing a few extra meals, because I know I’m going to need a couple days when I get back to connect with Blissdom alumni on Twitter get back on my feet.

We’ve talked about warm weather batch cooking, practical do-ahead ideas to help jump start dinner, but I haven’t shared some of our cold weather favorites. Like most families, we enjoy classics such as lasagna, stew, and –my boys current favorite– spaghetti & meatballs, but they do tend to get rather old though, wouldn’t you agree?

Today I’m giving suggestions for recipes that are suitable for freezing, adapt well to big batches, and provide a fresh take on family favorites. Macaroni & Cheese with vitamin-A rich butternut squash? Slow-cooker chili with a handful of chocolate chips? Homemade chicken fingers kept moist with buttermilk? It all sounds so good, I almost wish I was staying home to dine with the family. Almost.

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The Best Do-Ahead Breakfast Foods

This June, my husband and I are hosting the highly anticipated reunion of my family. Coming from as far away as New Mexico and British Columbia, my two parents, three siblings, three siblings-in-laws, three nieces and two nephews will join our family of four. If you count it up, that’s seventeen mouths to feed, and I couldn’t be happier.

We haven’t all been together since summer of ’07; three years (and several grandchildren later) is just too long to be apart. Obviously, we have much to celebrate.

Since the countdown is actually weeks (2!) and not months away now, I’ve started the menu planning. Yes, I like to feed people. A lot. And I like to be organized. That means stocking the pantry and freezer, jotting down a loose menu plan, and reserving another side of local beef.

The sudden influx of house guests might leave some people feeling overwhelmed, but with proper planning, it can be quite manageable.

I’ve already outlined several ideas for do-ahead dinners in this post on warm weather batch cooking, and most of our lunches will be picnic-style, so all that is left to think about is breakfast. I love a big breakfast, after all, it’s the most important meal of the day!

Here’s what will be joining the strawberries in the freezer in preparation for our breakfasts… [Read more…]