No Spend September: Day 2

Another successful day on the mission to only spend on Needs for a month.

I walked to the Max to get to work and had several meetings that filled up my day.  Our office provides coffee so when I can’t get coffee at home, I can get it at work.  I ate leftover roasted red pepper and tomato bisque for lunch because Andy ate the spaghetti with meat sauce I was dying to eat.  The sacrifices we make for love…

After cleaning out the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, I realized I HAD to go grocery shopping.  I initially thought I was only going to get a couple of things, but I ended up stocking up so that we would be able to eat for a minimum of two weeks.  For tips on how I shop for maximum savings with maximum sanity, see Saving on Food, Part 1: Groceries.

For dinner, I was inspired by this post on Smitten Kitchen:

I cubed a large cucumber, a ripe avocado, and two heirloom tomatoes and mixed them with a large dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt.  I stirred in a little of a dill dip mix that Andy found at the farmer’s market.  Then I chilled it for a couple of hours in the fridge and let the flavors meld.  OMFG, this salad is a game changer!  Andy and I agreed that it would need to become a constant in our fridge.

Because we can’t live on salad alone, I also made a pizza with whole wheat crust (the kind in a tube because ain’t nobody got time for homemade crust on a weeknight), heirloom tomato slices instead of sauce, a generous sprinkling of basil, fresh mozzarella (thanks, half-price manager special!), some shaved parmesan, sliced uncured jalapeno cheddar bratwurst (again, thanks, half-price manager special!), and some artichoke antipasto from Trader Joe’s.  Andy said, and I quote, “This has to be one of the best pizzas you’ve ever made, and it’s not like your other pizzas aren’t great.”  I would call that a win.  Unfortunately, I don’t have photo documentation of the pizza, so I’ll just have to make it again.

We play Geeks Who Drink on Wednesdays so that was an activity where I knew there would be some temptation to spend money.  The whole reason bars and restaurants do Geeks Who Drink is to bring in people who are going to spend money on a normally slow night.  I usually try to order either a beer or an appetizer or something, but I stuck with club soda.  I like the carbonation and taste, and it’s hydrating.  If no one at our table had been purchasing food or drinks, I would have felt bad about not buying anything and taking up space at the restaurant.  However, we’re there every week, Andy tipped extra for the service I received, and the other five people at our table ordered food and at least two drinks each.  As soon as No Spend September is done, I’ll resume buying something during trivia because I like to support local business, but for now I’m sticking to the goal at hand.  Bonus: I won a beer so I can use that to save some $$$ when teacher training is done!  And our team won by 10 points!

Day 2 verdict: Success!

Spending: $153 on groceries, and I only used my car to go to the grocery store.

Income: $.60 interest income




Peach Gazpacho

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I have been on a gazpacho kick lately.  I also prefer calling it gazpacho and not “cold soup,” which kind of grosses me out.  But “gazpacho” sounds fancy and delicious.  It’s a great way to use up our CSA veggies and other in-season produce, it’s super healthy, and is a great way to cool off after a hot day.  I made Peach Gazpacho last night, inspired by Martha, but utilizing what I had available.

I blended 4 whole peaches (with skin on because I’m lazy), a half a cucumber, some water (I never measure anything when it comes to soup…maybe like a cup?), a shallot (bulb and greens), two cloves of garlic, around 2 tbsp. of lemon flavored extra virgin olive oil, a dash of salt, and some fresh basil.  I garnished it with some plain nonfat Greek yogurt, sriracha, roasted pumpkin seeds (shelled), and more basil.  It made about 4 servings.

The basil, shallot, and cucumber mellowed out the sweetness of the peaches and the garlic gave it some punch.  Best of all, I didn’t have to go out of my way to buy anything because I had all of this stuff in the kitchen.  Chances are you are not a weirdo with lemon olive oil and roasted pumpkin seeds laying around, so regular EVOO would work, and you could garnish with avocado or any nuts or seeds for some crunch.

An Affordable Mid East Feast

I survived a weekend closer to “broke” than ever before.  It involved a lot of watching Big Love and cooking at home.  Julia and Courtney came over for dinner on Friday after a pretty rough end to the week (all is well though!) and I made a Middle Eastern feast of falafel, hummus, kohlrabi fries, and a bell pepper, garlic scape, and radish salad.

Mid East Feast

Mid East Feast

Andy and I have a CSA share with Native Hill Farm that enables us to buy fresh, local produce all summer long while supporting a local farm and our local economy.  We pay for the share upfront, so it is a bit of an investment, and then we are able to go to the farmers’ market each week, pick out what we want from our farm’s stand, and the cost is applied to our account and deducted from what we paid.  As share members, we get a discount off the public price.  This is our second summer with a CSA share, and I love that buying whatever is currently being harvested makes me more adventurous with my cooking.  The kohlrabi for the fries, and the garlic scapes and radishes for the salad all came from our share.  The bell peppers are from my second favorite way to buy produce: on manager’s special at King Soops!  There is a “misshapen and undersized” produce corner at our neighborhood store, and almost every time I walk in, I can get 3 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers for 99 cents.  I have never found anything wrong with them and they never actually look misshapen or undersized.  To make the salad, I chopped up two bell peppers, about five medium sized radishes, and two garlic scapes.  Then I added some lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, dried cilantro (I didn’t have any fresh), and red wine vinegar (toss to distribute vinaigrette).  To make the kohlrabi fries, I peeled the kohlrabi and basically just cut and baked them like oven fries.  I used red pepper flavored olive oil and a dusting of chili powder to season.  They got a touch well done…


Kohlrabi looks strange, tastes delicious.
Image from

To make the hummus, I put a can of chickpeas (half-drained), lemon juice, tahini, and lemon flavored olive oil in the food processor and pureed until smooth.  The key to super smooth homemade hummus without adding a gallon of olive oil is to leave in about half the chickpea liquid from the can.  It ups the sodium a bit, but you’re not eating that much anyway.  Hummus is easy and affordable to make at home, especially if you take advantage of sales and coupons.  I always have chickpeas on hand, and I can generally buy a can of Kuner’s of Colorado chickpeas for 60-80 cents.  If I find it for 70 cents or less, I stock up.  I also always have a giant bottle of lemon juice in the fridge for cooking and putting in my water (more on that in a future post).  Tahini is pretty expensive, but I like to have it for hummus.  If it’s not on sale or I don’t have a coupon, I sometimes buy unsweetened/unsalted sunflower butter.  I never notice a difference in taste when mixed with other ingredients, and I can save up to 3 bucks.

The falafel is from a Fantastic World Food’s mix and is inexpensive, easy, and I bake it instead of frying to cut down on calories and fat.  Fill out the feedback form on their website for coupons.  The pitas were also crazy inexpensive.  I found a bunch of bags of whole wheat pitas on manager’s special for 76 cents a bag because they were nearing the sell by date.  Bread freezes well and defrosts quickly, so I bought all of them and threw them in the freezer and we get out what we need.

It all made a ton of food, so four of us ate and still had leftovers, and it cost very little.  Since I don’t have specific prices, I’m not sure what it all breaks down to, but it was a healthy, hearty meal for very little.

Do you have your own tips for buying produce or groceries on the cheap?  What’s your favorite “strange” veggie?