Holidays are amazing. I love them. Everyone becomes a little nicer and the days off work, if you're lucky enough to get, are something to look forward to through the dull, gray world that is winter in the Midwest.
My boyfriend and I don't live far from our families but we always choose to stay home for Thanksgiving because it's a nice a quiet day that we can enjoy together. We prep the food, cook it, watch football, and in the evening put the Christmas tree up. It's a really nice tradition we've started.
This year I wanted to source the meat locally so I checked with some local places to see what they had to offer. In the past I've made hens, a chicken, and a turkey breast. The only thing I could find from a local farm that pasture-raised their poultry were whole chickens and turkeys. A chicken would have been perfectly fine but we reeeeeally wanted turkey this year. So that's what we went with!
It was 15-pound turkey which is an outrageous amount of food for two people. But after we ate, we sectioned it out into freezer bags and froze what we wouldn't eat as leftovers for the week. We both hate wastefulness so it will not be wasted. I already made a broth from the bones and used some of the frozen meat for a delicious soup that was completely devoured.
Anyway, accompanying the turkey was Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon and baked sweet potatoes. It was so delicious and we didn't feel disgusting after eating, like a normal family holiday leaves us.
Local pasture-raised turkey, 15 pounds: $26
Two bags frozen Brussels sprouts, thawed, chopped in half: $2/bag ($4 total)
Bacon to cook with sprouts: free from a visit from my mom :)
Four sweet potatoes, baked and served with butter and brown sugar that was on hand: $3.50 for all four
I rubbed butter all over the turkey then seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, sage and thyme. I roasted first for about 45 minutes at 450°F to crisp the skin then lowered the temperature to 325°C for the remainder of the time (I used a chart online to determine cooking time and used a thermometer to check the internal temperature). The only picture I got was an after shot of the turkey out of the oven and the angle and lighting makes it actually look terrifying so no pictures today.
The price for the dinner comes to $33.50 but we cook for leftovers and we had some all week. So for two people for about 5 days it equals about $3.35 per person per day. I was able to source clean and locally raised meat, support a local farmer, and eat a delicious and healthy meal for that price! I'm more than happy with that outcome.
Almost every day this question is asked in our office; “What are you having for dinner tonight?”. I love this ritual because it happens near the end of the day and has become the signal for the end of the day. We all turn our chairs to the center of the room and discuss what we’re having, what we’re thinking about making, or what we should make based on what we have at home. It’s great to have ideas thrown out there when we have hit that “dinner wall”, where our minds are completely blank as to what to cook.
This little tossing around of ideas came in quite handy this past week. I was feeling a little under the weather and had no idea what to make for the next few days and almost zero creativity or motivation to get me through the task. Fortunately, one of my co-workers mentioned she had made chili the previous night. Chili! Of course! So easy and healthy.
So, I stopped at the farmer’s market after work, luckily just down the street because I wanted to put as little time and effort as possible into this and driving too far would have killed me (not really but I’m allowed to be dramatic). I grabbed an onion, some ground beef, and a few banana peppers. I’ve never had banana peppers in chili, but it couldn’t be bad, right?
I cooked up the ground beef in a pot, threw in the chopped onion and peppers, added some great northern beans, canned tomatoes, and tomato sauce and boom. Dinner is served! I love meals that are easy and nutritious (obviously, who doesn’t?) and this one certainly is.
1 yellow onion: $1
3 yellow and green banana peppers: $3
1lb grass fed beef: $7.99
1 can organic diced tomatoes: $1.69
1 can organic tomato sauce: $1.78
1 can organic northern beans: $1.29
Seasoning already on hand
Total cost: $16.75
Cost per helping: We were able to get about 5 helpings out of it for dinner and smaller servings for lunch the next day with a salad = $3.35
Like other meals I make, the grass feed beef is going to be the most expensive, in this case it was nearly half the cost of the entire recipe and it could be much cheaper if you don’t adhere to those guidelines. However, it is important to me to support farmers that provide clean meat to consumers as well as a humane environment (their natural diet) to the animals on their farm, so I'm willing to pay the price!
My boyfriend and I tried something new this past week. My mother graciously gave us some locally raised lamb chops that I cooked up and served with my community garden haul. I had never made any type of lamb before but since they were in steak form, I cooked them like beef steaks; I fried them in our amazing cast iron skillet with butter, salt, and pepper.
Holy lamb, they were delicious. It is definitely a unique flavor but absolutely tasty. I definitely recommend snagging a few from your local farmer if you have the chance.
Earlier in the week my BF had made a medley of roasted duck and vegetables that were delicious! Duck is also a unique flavor, one that most people actually don't like. It's pretty "game-y" and I think you definitely either like it or hate it. Luckily I really like it. And I love dishes that require minimal work and dishes and that was one, just chop everything up and mix it with your oil and seasoning of choice and throw it in the oven!
These two dishes lasted us for the week and cost us basically nothing. The lamb was gifted to us and the duck was hunted ourselves. The vegetables came from the community garden and just cost my time (worth it!). So the sum total of this week's dinners I'm saying is $0. Win!
Or would it be meat based tomato sauce? Either way works for me!
Even though I love buying and using fresh and clean ingredients, I don't much care for cooking all that much. I really just care about the eating. That's why I always pick recipes with few ingredients and easy preparation. Luckily there are a bunch of super easy recipes to follow and this is one. I am also very much a "try it and see" cook so I hardly measure anything out when I cook (baking is another story, of course).
I have to give credit to Max Lugavere and his book Genius Foods because although this is not exactly like what he lists in the recipe section of his book, it's based off of that.
Like I said in the previous budget post the food I bought will last my boyfriend and I until the next weekend. It's so simple and delicious. It uses ground beef, tomato sauce, onions, seasoning and I served it with cauliflower rice and sauteed kale and green beans. The ground beef was by far the most expensive ingredient. We used 2 lbs to feed two people for at least 5 days, that's .2 lbs of meat per person. Combining the other ingredients from my grocery list (not including what I already had on hand which was one can tomato sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper) that comes to $2.86 per person per day for 5 days for dinner.
The following groceries will feed my boyfriend and I for six days (minus the TP :D). I am going to make a tomato based ground beef dish served over cauliflower rice with a side of sauteed vegetables that will last for dinner for both of us. He has eggs for breakfast, nothing for lunch. I have coffee for breakfast and chocolate and almonds (already on hand) for snack. You can see that I put a high priority on organic produce and pasture raised or grass-fed meat products when I can. This is something that is important to me so I budget appropriately for it. I'll post my dinner later this week, it's one of my favorites!