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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Early autumn menus on $170/month for a family of 5

So far, so good, with keeping the grocery budget around $170 per month. Time will tell when the garden is put to bed for the winter, as to whether or not we can continue spending this amount on groceries.

Early autumn for us is late September through mid October. I've listed our dinner menus for this time period.

Upon returning from our vacation, I jumped right into my busy season. So, you will find repetition in some of the meals (I made double and triple batches of many main dishes, for easy cooking on busy nights).

As with August meals, we continued in September with many vegetarian dinners. In early October I roasted our last turkey, purchased last November for about 30 cents per pound. The leftover turkey was frozen in ready to use family-size portions, to be used throughout October and into early November.

The autumn garden is producing kale, broccoli, Swiss chard, mustard greens, sugar snap peas, beets, potatoes, pumpkins and carrots. Our cranberries, late pears and apples are now harvested. The crabapples will be harvested this coming weekend. Homegrown produce is now supplemented with some canned tomatoes and produce stand deals. I have been stopping by the produce stand about once a week, finding bell peppers, hot peppers, cantaloupe and corn on the cob, for very good prices.

Here's what we've been eating:


lentil curry (make double to freeze) with brown rice
sliced pears from our trees


black bean, tomato, bell pepper salad
corn on the cob (fantastic deal at the produce stand 7/$1)
French bread


veggie chili (make super large batch for later in week)
corn on the cob
garden salad
French bread (leftover)

Thursday (babysitting day -- easy dinner)

leftover lentil curry with brown rice
sauteed garden kale and onions


roast turkey (last one from the freezer), gravy
roasted garden potatoes and onions
mashed garden pumpkin
bread and butter


leftover turkey in gravy on homemade buns (make double batch of buns)
grilled onions
garden zucchini pickles


turkey in homemade BBQ sauce on buns
garden tomato and basil salad


turkey teriyaki with garden kale and broccoli
brown rice


Italian lentil-vegetable-sausage soup (make large batch)
sourdough biscuits
cookies and pears


leftover lentil soup
mashed winter squash
pizza (make an extra pizza for freezer)

Thursday (babysitting day -- easy dinner)

baked beans
Yorkshire pudding wedges
sauteed garden kale and onions
sliced pears (from our trees), smothered with almond custard and topped with cherry preserves (I finally got my appetite back on this day -- can you tell?)


night out with daughters for the girls, leftover soup and garlic bread for the guys


homemade pasta (fettuccini), with sauteed garden tomatoes (the last), garden zucchini, onions, and some of big batch pasta sauce (made several containers for the freezer), topped with cheese
cantaloupe (twice this month I found a deal on cantaloupe -- 50 cents each)


turkey pot pie (leftover turkey in gravy, onions, sage, parsley, chard, carrots, potatoes, green beans, topped with pastry crust)
mashed garden pumpkin
cranberry sauce (with homegrown cranberries, picked this day)


clean-out-the-freezer casserole (rice, tomatoes, cooked lentils, turkey stock, chives, chopped onions, tomato paste, pizza sauce, combined, then topped with bread crumbs mixed with herbs and grated cheese)


split pea soup
sourdough biscuits


teriyaki turkey (from freezer) with garden broccoli and kale
brown rice
apple salad (apples, chopped dried fruit, nuts in a fruity dressing)

Thursday (babysitting day -- easy dinner)

homemade pizza from the freezer
tomato-basil soup (made with canned tomato paste, fresh basil, onions, lemon juice, salt, water)


leftover turkey in gravy from the freezer, with leftover cranberry sauce
stovetop stuffing (made with bread bits and pieces in freezer, turkey stock, onions, butter and sage)
sauteed garden Swiss chard and garlic
pumpkin pie


homemade pasta (it was so good the other Saturday that we want it again, and the kids help a lot with it) with sauce and turkey Italian sausage from freezer
garden veggie medley (whatever is left in the garden) with onions and garlic
leftover pumpkin pie

Sunday (quick and easy dinner)

scrambled eggs
sliced pears

Breakfasts have consisted of protein shakes (for the daughter trying to gain weight), toast, pancakes, muffins, cinnamon buns, oatmeal, granola, and yogurt. To-go lunches have had a combination of a sandwich (peanut butter and jam or vegetarian bean spread), a container of soup, a piece of fruit, a container of rhubarb sauce, applesauce or pear sauce, a muffin, bag of popped corn, and/or cookies. Weekend lunches have often been leftover soup, fried rice, or toasted cheese sandwiches. I am working on planning my own weekday lunches. Without a plan, I tend towards a series of snacks, and no real lunch. But I'm working on that.

With cooler weather, we are eating more soups and chili, and fewer salads. I like keeping a large container of homemade tomato soup in the fridge. It makes a delicious and warming quick bite to eat for anyone who is hungry, and also can be packed into microwaveable containers for to-go lunches.

You can see, we eat a lot of basic, humble meals. I really haven't the time or energy to do gourmet-ish meals. And that suits us just fine.

Humble cooking -- that's what's for dinner.


Live and Learn said...

It's all in one's perspective. Your meals may not be gourmet in the French cooking school sense, but they are varied, interesting, and complete. That's gourmet in my book. You should be proud of what you are providing for your family.

Liz @ Economies of Kale said...

I think your meals sound great, plus most of the stuff is organic and fresh, since it's from your own garden :) So-called "gourmet" meals often use fancy ingredients for the sake of it, and the portions on cooking shows are always tiny!

I often don't eat proper lunches when I'm home on weekends either, something to work on!

Sharon said...

Your "humble cooking" sounds delish and there's nothing tastier than fresh from the garden produce!

Katie @ Life Lived Intentionally said...

I agree with everyone! Your menu looks delicious. Is your bean sandwich spread recipe on your site? I have a couple that I use, but I'm always looking for more!

Lili said...

Hi live and learn,
Thank you. I appreciate what you've said. If you watch any of the many cooking shows, it's easy to feel sub-par in one's daily meal preparation. Your vote of confidence means a lot!

Lili said...

Hi Liz,
I've wondered about some of those "gourmet" ingredients. Granted, some ingredients likely do really add to the flavor. But some of them, I just wonder. . . .
The tiny portions are ridiculous. I was watching a chef plate up some pasta, and I thought to myself, "who eats that little amount?!"

Lili said...

Hi Sharon,
Thank you! There are several veggies that I might not cook with, had it not been for our garden. That's been a real boon to our meals!

Lili said...

Thanks, Katie!
I have two basic bean spread recipes that I use regularly, depending on what I'm in the mood for, and what I have on hand. One, that calls for black beans, salsa, oil and salt (I also use pinto beans a lot for this), the other calls for garbanzo beans, Italian tomato sauce/veggies, oil and salt (I sometimes just put some cooked beans into the food processor with leftover pasta sauce, for the same basic spread).
Here are the two links to the "official" recipes:

Kris said...

I don't know any "real" people who cook gourmet for anything other than a special occasion. Our friends had us over for dinner a week ago and you know what they served? Homemade chili and store-bought artisan bread. It was hearty and delicious and appreciated by all.

I agree with you, we regularly eat veggies that we would never have otherwise if it wasn't for our garden. Does that count as "gourmet"? :)

I make pancakes and scrambled eggs almost every Sunday after church. Quick, easy, and a crowd-pleaser.

Katie @ Life Lived Intentionally said...

Thank you! They look delicious!

Lili said...

Hi Kris,
The dinner that your friends served sounds wonderful! And what I can really appreciate about it is that your hosts were not too stressed to just enjoy your company. Now that is my idea of a great host!

I think eating the less common veggies does count as gourmet! We eat foods like watercress and sorrel every spring, as they come back year after year in our garden!

Alice said...

Hi Lili--still making my way through your archives! I love reading your menus--they really do inspire!

I would love a recipe for your lentil curry, if you have it! I did a quick search and it doesn't seem to be posted on your site yet. I'm a curry lover, and I'm trying to find ways to use more lentils, as they are such a healthful and economical food.

I'm also wondering about your method to make homemade fettuccine? Do you simply roll out the dough and slice with a knife? I'd love to have simple homemade pasta regularly (dried, store-bought pasta doesn't even compare!) but like to avoid purchasing speciality equipment.

And, your method of "farm to table" cooking seems pretty gourmet to me. ;)

Lili said...

Hi Alice,
I'll post my generic curry recipe soon. It was originally for turkey curry, but I often make it with cooked lentils. It has onions, tomatoes, curry powder, chutney and apple in it.

Homemade fettuccine -- I use the Joy of Cooking's egg noodle recipe. Roll out thin, dust with flour, then fold/roll up, and slice into 1/4-inch - 3/8-inch strips. Unroll and hang to dry (you can drape it over things like a colander, or rectangular baking dishes, etc).

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