Before we started tracking our spending, and trying to make every dollar work for us, I never would have guessed that food is the biggest fluctuating expense in so many households. We used to spend $200 to $300 every week at Costco, Kroger and Publix. We always got caught in the “pick up one more thing” trap that led to picking up $40 worth of extra junk that we “needed” every two days. I realize now that this is an insane way to stock our pantry. Since I developed and began using my coupon management system, I’ve cut our grocery & household spending down to $125 a week or less for our family of 5.
Changing the way we shop has forced us to really pay attention to the way we cook. Since we do not run out and pick up ingredients on a whim anymore, we’ve gotten far more creative with our meal planning. The bonus for me is that we LOVE this way of eating and cooking. We’ve got an abundance of cilantro, basil, garlic chives, jalapeno peppers, and banana peppers growing in our square foot gardens. There really is nothing like cooking with fresh herbs and garden vegetables to make you WANT to experiment.
In case you’ve missed the news flash, it’s finally, blissfully, wonderfully cooling off in Georgia. Last night was the perfect brisk night for making soup. I didn’t want just a plain old vegetable soup. I wanted a very filling, but meatless, meal. So… I grabbed the cutting board and ransacked the pantry … the result was an amazing Vegetable Chowder.
Ida’s Vegetable Chowder Recipe
- 20 baby carrots – diced (Or 3 large ones)
- 1 ½ large onions – chopped
- ¼ cup butter (Please, for the love of Pete, don’t use margarine!)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 6 medium potatoes – peeled and chopped
- 3 cups of milk
- 1 cup of powdered milk – dry
- 6 cups whole kernel corn (I used 3 bags of frozen corn in butter sauce, but you can use whatever you prefer)
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 6 – 8 fresh basil leaves (minced)
- 2 fresh cilantro clusters (minced)
- ½ tsp sage
- ½ tsp thyme
- 3 tbsp corn starch
- ½ cup red wine
- Sauté the garlic, carrots, and onions in butter until tender.
- Add the water, thyme, sage, basil, and cilantro, then bring to a boil
- Mix the powdered milk into the regular milk, dissolving the powdered milk completely.
- Add the milk, potatoes, and corn to the pan.
- Add salt and pepper and stir well.
- Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Dissolve corn starch completely in the wine, then mix into the pot.
- Simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes and serve.
Since we had some gorgeous garlic chives, I chopped some and tossed on top as a garnish. We made Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread to go with it. BEST dinner ever! It was cheap, easy, left LOTS of room for experimentation, and cooked in less than an hour. And the best part… there was plenty leftover for me to have for lunch today!