Tips for Being Broke Between Holidays

By now you’ve eaten your Thanksgiving leftovers and you’re plotting what to make for Christmas and New Year’s parties and if you’re me, a birthday party and a late-January Tupperware party.  And if you’re anything like me, you’re also shopping for gifts and feeling overwhelmed at the cost of everything and trying very hard not to forget to eat in the weeks between holidays.  And wondering why holiday foods must always include nuts when nuts are so expensive?  And booze is expensive, and fresh fruits are expensive, and oops I ate oatmeal for two meals today and coffee for the third, and what am I going to serve when I have guests from New York, and will they want to eat out, and how many days do I need to take off work for this, and dammit I forgot about that check and overdrew and WHY IS MY KITCHEN SO DIRTY???

You can see I am giving myself an ulcer and should probably lay off the coffee.  However, in a moment of (coffee-induced) clarity at work yesterday, I started making lists during my downtime.  I mentally inventoried what I have in my pantry, added a few cheap things from the local grocery store, and planned my meals for the week.  Here’s what I’ve got, then I’ll show you what I came up with:

Pantry:

red lentils, black beans, kidney beans, white beans

one can butter beans, three cans tomato paste

whole grain penne and couscous

wheat berries and wild rice

oatmeal

dried fruits (prunes, raisins, apricots)

pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, tahini

nutritional yeast

flour, sugar, etc

Fridge/Freezer:

leftover baked sweet potato

few slices Ezekial Bread

half bag frozen spinach

half bag frozen corn

leftover tropical fruit from Mom’s Tupperware party

extra firm tofu

couple carrots

3 pierogies

onions, garlic, ginger

That’s what I’ve got, and since I can’t currently afford a big Trader Joe’s run to replace the thousand things I’m out of (brown rice, nuts, peanut butter, frozen everything, etc), I need to make it last until I do a big pre-party shop.  So I made a little list and hit up the local grocery (the one with the non-rotten produce) for a few extras.  I got beets, 4 broccoli crowns, almond milk, 2 grapefruits, and bananas all for under $15.  I should have gotten more onions too, but I can go back for just that when I run out.  I figure I can make red lentil soup with the leftover sweet potato, cook all the beets at once to add to my smoothies with the leftover fruits, and roast some of the broccoli and use the rest in a stir-fry with the tofu and carrots, as well as having steamed spinach with garlic.  One meal a day is oatmeal (lately this is my dinner at work) with raisins and seeds.  The tomato paste can be turned into simple pasta sauce.  I can easily make a black bean and corn chili as well.  Of course, I also have plenty of baking ingredients too, in case I want to make a quick soda bread or muffins.  Plus pierogies when I need a dose of quick comfort food!

See, when life gives you lemons, you just have to zest them into some muffins and use the juice to flavor kombucha.  I was feeling very impoverished this past week, but with some careful planning I can still have delicious healthful meals.  I’ll also be able to save a little now so I can splurge later in the month.  I’m thinking hard about how to keep my birthday party low-cost.  Right now, that might mean a potluck with me making just light finger foods: hummus and crudite, stuffed mushrooms, chips and salsa.  I’m having dreams of mulled wine and cider, but we’ll see what happens.

In other news, I am having a Tupperware party in January which will be my debut as a Tupperware consultant!  I’ve been needing a second job for a while, and this seems to fit the bill.  Flexible hours, much of the sales being done online, party planning, food demos, and wholesale products.  I’ll post details about the business when I know more so that you my beloved readers can be some of my first customers!

In other news:  Please let me know what you want to see here!  I’ve been feeling uninspired for months now, which I have realized is because my kitchen is usually dirty.  That’s the disadvantage of living with lots of people.  Anyway, I’m staying away from posting about complicated celebration foods too much; there are a million other wonderful blogs for that.  I lean towards focusing on things that are easy and cheap to make during this awkward December holiday limbo.  Was there anything I mentioned above that caught your eye?  

PS  – I’m now on Twitter!  @thepennyparsnip  I don’t have it all figured out just yet, but I will!

Chili for the Children

Earlier this week I had a moment where I felt like a champion nanny:  I got both of the girls I watch to nap at the exact same time.  So what to do with this extra time?  Cook them a delicious healthy dinner, of course!  The cans in the pantry and the vegetables in the fridge combined with the rainy, cold weather told me it was time to make chili.

Ingredients:

Hooray for cellphone pics!

1 can of kidney, black, or pinto beans

1/2 c of lentils (I used black beluga lentils in this batch, but only because they were there.  Any lentils will work)

1 can diced tomatoes (with green chilis or jalapenos if you’re not feeding this to a picky 5 year old)

1 small can tomato paste, disolved in warm water (1-2 cans of water)

1 medium onion

2 stalks celery

2 carrots or a big handful of baby carrots

1 bell pepper

3 cloves garlic

Seasonings:

oregano, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper

1.  Start by cooking the lentils for about 20 minutes in about 2 cups of water.  While they’re cooking, drain your canned beans and chop veggies.  I recommend chopping the things the kids don’t like into teeny tiny peices.  For me that meant very finely diced onion and celery, and crushing the garlic in a press.  The carrots and pepper I cut into bigger chunks, since the girls love those.

Tiny onions, giant carrots

2.  Once the lentils are tender, put everything else in the pot.  Simmer for 30mins to an hour, until the vegetable are tender and the flavors are blended.

3.  Adjust seasonings and serve to children wearing bibs, because tomato sauce stains.

 4.  Take a picture of it before the children wake up and demolish it!