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Friday, September 27, 2019

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for the End of September


Cheap & Cheerful posts show, week by week, how a budget of $135/month for groceries works out for our family of 4

Friday
ground beef and cabbage sir fry, using 10 oz ground beef, shredded cabbage, onion, garlic, ginger (powder), soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, sugar, and vinegar over
brown rice
tomato wedges in yogurt dressing



Saturday
bean, vegetable, noodle soup, using frozen chicken stock as a base
scratch biscuits
last of the summer peaches



Sunday
red cabbage cole slaw (red cabbage gifted to us)
bean and cheese burritos in homemade whole wheat tortillas



Monday
Mexican-inspired casserole, using leftover cooked rice, canned corn, salsa, chili powder, cumin, salt, garlic, onion, leftover cooked pinto beans, cheddar cheese, shredded cabbage, and fresh tomatoes -- delicious casserole and I had leftovers to use for lunches
applesauce cake

Tuesday
lentil and vegetable curry over
brown rice
applesauce cake



Wednesday
rosemary polenta smothered with
beefy marinara (actually, was leftover pizza sauce from freezer with 10 oz. ground beef added)
tomato, onion, chard, and summer squash medley



Thursday
garden chard and onion omelet
brown rice topped with salsa
baked acorn squash (from garden), simply dotted with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon
garden salad of cucumber, tomato, and lettuce in a homemade vinaigrette of chive blossom vinegar, oil, oregano, and salt


I continued to harvest from our garden and use supplies from the freezer, fridge, and pantry. The only food item that I bought this week was a jar of instant decaf coffee (wow, we blew through the instant decaf this month -- must be the cooler temps). So for food, this week I spent $3.57, total, bringing my up to $128.77 for the entire month of September. That's $13.31 under what I had to spend for the month, which will be added to next month's budget. 

We eat a lot of brown rice in our house (Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday). Brown rice is a whole grain and helps to keep my blood sugar stable, which in turn helps with my depression. Brown rice is a good thing. However, it gets dull. So, I try to have something to top it, such as the curry and stir fry, or mix it with other foods. When I just don't have any idea what I can use to top brown rice, I add a generous spoonful of salsa. If you've never tried this, I'll tell you, it's good. My family loves salsa. Maybe that has something to do with its success on rice in my house.

On Wednesday, I served rosemary polenta that was topped with a pasta sauce (beefy marinara). Polenta is an easy-to-make alternative to pasta to use as the starch for adding sauces. I used a coarse grind of cornmeal labelled for use for polenta, bought in the bulk section at WinCo. You can substitute a medium to coarse grind of regular cornmeal to make polenta. Most cornmeal that isn't labelled either coarse ground or fine ground/cornflour are likely medium ground (the kitchn.com). When I don't have polenta corn meal, I use regular cornmeal -- no issues. 

What I like about polenta (besides adding variety) is its creamy texture, ability to add savory flavorings, such as herbs, and its cost. I pay about 60 to 70 cents/pound for polenta cornmeal at WinCo, which is comparable in cost to pasta bought at Dollar Tree (67 cents/lb in 24-oz bags). So for the variety, change in texture and flavor, I can add polenta to our repertoire of meals at no extra cost. I also use rice as a base for pasta sauce, which can be even more economical, while still changing things up for our meals. Leftover cooked rice can be added to cooked pasta to stretch a meager amount of noodles. As a bonus, adding rice to pasta dishes adds a nice, chewy texture that will make the pasta meal seem meatier.

That's what was on our menu this past week. What was on yours? Do you make polenta? What have been your favorite variations? Do you serve pasta sauce over foods other than pasta?


11 comments:

Alice said...

Once again, Lili, your pictures speak a thousand words! They all look good.

We pretty much cleaned out the pantry/fridge when we left for three weeks and when we came back hubby has been on a low residue diet so mostly no fiber in his diet. So we've been very very careful with what we make. He may have all the things I CAN'T have so this is very difficult but only for a short time. When he is completely healed he can eat a regular diet again.

But our meals were good this week. We had a beef roast with carrot/potato mash on Sunday. Monday was the same as Sunday. Tater tot casserole one day, chicken noodle soup with no veggies (made with homemade chicken stock) with buns. Hamburgers with no buns with a swiss cheese slice and very soft cooked green beans. Lasagna on another night. Pretty soft food and no chunky onions or peppers in any of them and all the veggies were pureed or cooked very soft.

So much better than hospital food and hubby eats a lot since he has come home. That's what he needs right now is good food, his own home and lots of rest.

I have tried making polenta before but I just don't care for it. Is that OK to keep glucose levels in check? I do like brown rice and we use that a lot. I bake it and it comes out perfectly fluffy every single time. I am craving a smothered chicken in wine sauce and crunchy taco casserole so that will be on my menu very soon.

Alice

Lili said...

Hi Alice,
I continue to pray for your husband's recovery and your rest. I'm glad to hear that he is eating well now that he is home. I think just eating what is familiar is a big help. Plus I imagine you are a great cook.

As for polenta and blood sugar -- polenta has a higher glycemic index than brown rice. But polenta is better than white rice or white bread. Have you read much about glycemic index or load? One of the things I came across was that you can use flours like chickpea flour to make flatbread, like chapati, at a much reduced glycemic index, which leads to less instance of elevated blood sugar, compared to eating other starchy foods. Good luck with your blood glucose issues.

Yum, your meals all sound so delicious. I can see why your husband is eating well now that he's home!

Alice said...

Lili,

I have done a LOT of research and the most informative is the glycemic index and glycemic load and it isn't totally about sugar to be diabetic! I have learned so much in the 4 to 6 weeks since they said I was diabetic. What I really want is book that gives glycemic load on all kinds of foods all in one book. I often just google "what is the gylcemic load of ____" and many times I just can't get that number. I know how to calculate load but I can't often get the index on a certain food. I am learning to make educated guesses.

My blood sugar levels have averaged about 112 in the 6 weeks I've been tracking and my meter says I need to be under 130 to be in normal range. Is that about right from your research? I have stopped between meal snacking and have really cut down on carbs. I even lost about 8-10 lbs. during this time. I still have some goodies once in a while but I'm very careful about reading labels in stores.

Alice

Anonymous said...

All your meals look so delicious! I used to suffer from depression, but I found that eating more meat and animal fat (butter, lard, bacon grease, tallow, etc.) really helped my mood. I had been a vegetarian for years before that. Just thought I'd mention it.

- Tina

Lili said...

Hi Alice,
Good work researching GI and GL and on losing weight! My brother is diabetic and I'd never heard of glycemic index until he was diagnosed. Until then, I just thought carbs were carbs.

The weight loss may really help your blood glucose. What the Mayo Clinic says is fasting blood sugar between 100 and 125 mg/dL is pre-diabetic.

There was a book that was popular in the 1970s called Sugar Blues by William Duffy. My mom asked me to read this when I was a teen. It's the story of a guy who is diagnosed with diabetes and then turns his health around by changing his diet. If I remember correctly, I think he got off of insulin entirely, crediting eating whole grains and eliminating refined sugar plus exercise for his much-improved health. What always stood out in my mind is he began eating a lot of brown rice and beans, foods that were rarely served in our house. (We were a tacos, spaghetti, meat & potatoes family). The book may interest you.

I'm really working on improving my own health right now. I'm working on my lack of energy, my depression, and deteriorating muscle mass. Cutting way, way back on refined sugar and eating primarily whole grains, plus lots more beans is what I'm doing for right now. This week, I've had a lot more energy and fewer depressive episodes, so something is working. And I like that I can lift a 50-lb sack of beans or flour again.

I'm wishing you well in this journey toward improved health, yourself. It sounds like you are doing amazingly well!

Lili said...

Tina said...
All your meals look so delicious! I used to suffer from depression, but I found that eating more meat and animal fat (butter, lard, bacon grease, tallow, etc.) really helped my mood. I had been a vegetarian for years before that. Just thought I'd mention it.


Oh, that's interesting, Tina. I am trying to eat more fats in general, like peanut butter and cheese. I'm also adding olive oil to our grocery list this next month. When my daughter was diagnosed with an eating disorder, one of the things I read was the importance of animal fat for the brain.
Thanks so much for your input!

Kris said...

Alice, thanks for keeping us updated on how your husband and you are doing. Very challenging to cook for 2 people with very different dietary needs--you're doing great!

Lili, I love polenta! So does my family. I have found that you can cook it in the crockpot, which is (for me, anyway) easier than standing over a stove and less hands-on time, as well. Here's the recipe I (loosely) use: http://www.justalittlebitofbacon.com/slow-cooker-creamy-polenta/
I just mix the water and polenta in the crockpot and let it go. I have found that I don't have to add milk/cream/cheese (although that is tasty). I have another crockpot recipe that I make with it--it's a Thai-inspired chicken recipe with a tomato/peanut butter base (weird, I know, but tasty) and we love it together. Something about the tomato sauce and the corn polenta seems to complement each other. It's one of those recipes that seems like I worked hard, but it's super simple and fast to throw together.

Your meals sound tasty!

Anonymous said...

Could you share your risotto recipe?
-Stephanie

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant polenta with rosemary.
-Stephanie

Lili said...

Kris said...
Lili, I love polenta! So does my family. I have found that you can cook it in the crockpot, which is (for me, anyway) easier than standing over a stove and less hands-on time, as well. Here's the recipe I (loosely) use: http://www.justalittlebitofbacon.com/slow-cooker-creamy-polenta/
I just mix the water and polenta in the crockpot and let it go. I have found that I don't have to add milk/cream/cheese (although that is tasty). I have another crockpot recipe that I make with it--it's a Thai-inspired chicken recipe with a tomato/peanut butter base (weird, I know, but tasty) and we love it together. Something about the tomato sauce and the corn polenta seems to complement each other. It's one of those recipes that seems like I worked hard, but it's super simple and fast to throw together.


Hi Kris,
Oh, thanks for the link to a crockpot polenta recipe. I'll check that out! You seem to know all of the ins and outs of using your crockpot. You're a great resource!
I don't use nearly as much milk or cream that is usually called for in polenta, either. And sometimes I skip the cheese, if I just don't have enough to make a difference. Adding herbs can really boost the flavor, in place of the cheese. I do use chicken stock, as I've found that adds to the flavor. I'll check the crockpot version out. Thanks!
Hmmm, that Thai chicken with tomato and peanut butter sounds intriguing. You're right, I wouldn't have thought to mix peanut butter with tomatoes. It sounds interesting, though.

Thanks again for the link to the crockpot polenta recipe!

Lili said...

Anonymous said...
Oops, I meant polenta with rosemary.
-Stephanie


Hi Stephanie,
The rosemary polenta is really delicious if you enjoy rosemary. I'll try to type up the recipe in the next few days for you.

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