$25/Week Grocery Challenge: Week 8

I am now eight weeks into my $25/week grocery challenge. I have been photographing what I buy each week. Welcome to Week 8! Based on a little forecasting I’ve done, it looks like I’ll be able to carry this project out at least until week 10.

Week 8:
Week 8

Note: You can click on the photo to enlarge it.
Pictured: 9 small pickling cucumbers, 4 large red peppers, 3 small organic green peppers, 1 bag red beans, 2 pink grapefruit, 2 zucchini, 1/2 lb kalamata olives, 1/2 lb cow’s milk feta, 1 pt sour cream, 1 pint grape tomatoes, 1 bunch scallions, 1 lemon, 1/2 lb peeled garlic cloves, 3 small organic romaine hearts, 5 lbs onions, 1 bunch cilantro, 1 bag mixed greens (enough for a large salad), 7 ounces whole milk Greek yogurt
Not Pictured: 1 15-oz can of chickpeas

What I spent: $25.31
(I must have this down to some sort of body memory science because my original total was $24.54 without having added up the cost of the items in my basket prior to checking out. Then, realizing I needed a can of chickpeas for dinner on the night of the shop, I went back and had to spend an extra 77 cents. Still, 31 cents over. I impressed myself.)

This week’s cheat: I hit the reduced produce jackpot on a day when other sale items on my list weren’t available. Although, honestly, I probably would have taken advantage of the reduced produce cart bonanza even if I had gotten everything else on my list. I had planned to buy two blocks of Heluva Good cheese (on sale for $1.5o each) but I didn’t see any in the cheese section. But, when I got to produce – hooray – 2 carts full of reduced items. I can’t figure out a rhyme or reason or schedule to my store’s putting out these carts so I just take what I can get when I see them. You know, if I can elbow my way through the crowd of senior citizens doing the same thing.

The reduced produce cart harvest: 9 small pickling cucumbers (85 cents), 3 organic romaine hearts ($1.49), bag of baby spring mix greens ($1.29), 3 organic green peppers (81 cents) and 2 grapefruits (59 cents). Cucumbers, salad greens and green peppers were already on my list though I was able to make an extra salad this week thanks to the extra greens and cucumbers here. The peppers only had a day or two of life left in ’em but they were organic and looked great, so I chopped them and put them in the freezer to use later. I use that trick often with the reduced produce cart. If I see something I know I will use that is excellent quality and excellent price – if it doesn’t have enough life left to last until I need it and holds up well in the freezer, that’s where it goes!

What I made: chickpea tagine over rice with a green salad (yep, that’s this week’s extra salad), cream-less (surprisingly tasty!) tomato soup with Greek salad. This is a big week for not-cooking: Chinese food for Valentine’s Day, an invite to eat with my partner’s sister on Saturday and Sunday dinner with my parents.

This week’s cost-saving tip: Saving old bread and setting aside for use in recipes like the tomato soup and meatloaf/meatballs. Putting items in the freezer with labels of what they are AND what they are intended to be used for (helps build confidence that you’re pulling out the right amount or the right thing for a recipe)

This week’s recipe I’m sharing:
SAUSAGE BISCUITS & GRAVY (MEAT AND VEGETARIAN VERSIONS)

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery rib, peel stringed outside and mince
1/2 lb meat sausage (sweet Italian sausage) or vegetarian sausage (my preferred kind is GimmeLean sausage)
3 T butter
3 T flour (corn starch is also OK if you want to do gluten free)
~2 c whole milk or half and half or light cream (the richer the dairy, the richer your gravy)
2 tsp ground/rubbed sage
1 tsp dried thyme, ground into powder using mortar and pestle
2-3 pinches of ground/powdered rosemary
dash of cayenne pepper (more if you like spicier foods)
salt and a generous amount of black pepper
biscuits (8-12 2″ biscuits; I like using the recipe from the King Arthur Baking Cookbook)

DIRECTIONS:
1. You’ll need a saute pan and a 2qt sauce pan. First, add a thin layer of veggie oil to the saute pan and heat over medium/medium-high heat until oil shimmers. Add the onions, garlic, celery and meat and cook until onions are translucent and a little brown around the edges and the meat is cooked through. As the meat cooks, actively smoosh and crumble it.

2. In the saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to integrate. It’ll turn into what looks like dough. Cook until everything turns light brown and smells fragrant (like a yummy baking smell). Add the milk slowly and keep whisking. Add about 1/3 cup at a time and whisk to get rid of all lumps for about 30 seconds. Keep adding milk until the gravy is a good, thick, gravy-consistency. Go slowly because once it gets too thin/soupy, it’s hard to go backward.

3. Add the saute mix to the saucepan. Add the dried herbs. You probably won’t need salt but taste to check. Add pepper until the gravy looks quite speckled with black dots. The gravy should taste pretty peppery (the way creamy peppercorn dressing tastes peppery). Taste and adjust herbs and seasonings per your preference.

4. Split the biscuits, ladle the gravy over and eat immediately.

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