Saturday, November 17, 2012

Welcome to Some Serious Saving!

Welcome to Some Serious Saving!

Join me on my journey to pay off my debt, save a few bucks, and truly enjoy life while I'm at it!

It's a football Saturday in November and I just enjoyed some football!  I'm not a die-hard sports fan by any means, but when my boss offered me and a coworker his seats at a USC game, I took him up on the offer!  Gorgeous day for football...started off a bit chilly but by game time the sun was out and spirits were high!

The Gamecocks won 24-7 and my friend and I enjoyed the experience!

Dinner tonight was a bowl of leftover chili - the perfect thing for a nice fall day.  I made it night before last so the leftovers will be going in the freezer for quick lunches.  Here's how I made it:

Turkey Chili
1 lb ground turkey (Bi-Lo had a good deal on it this week, I think it was $2.99?)
half a leftover green pepper, diced (49 cents)
2 cans diced tomatoes (Sam's Club, about $1 per can)
2 small finger peppers, seeds removed and diced - careful, these are hot to the touch! (26 cents, really!)
1 small can green chilis, in the Mexican food section of the store (99 cents)
1/3 bag dried red beans (33 cents)
1/3 bag dried black beans (33 cents)
4-5 t. chili powder (35 cents)
1-2 t. cumin  (10 cents)
1 t. dried cilantro (10 cents)
ground pepper flakes (5 cents)

I browned the turkey in a pan and tossed in the spices and diced peppers.  To dice the hot peppers, I put my hand in a plastic lunch baggie so that I don't touch it.  Slice it lengthwise and use your knife to remove the seeds and white stuff inside the pepper, make sure you toss the stem end, and then dice it up - it's very hot and will burn you if you have a small cut or crack in your skin, so scoop up the diced pieces using the baggie.  I actually got 3 small peppers and only used 2 of them so I put the third in the baggie to store in the veggie bin in the fridge.

Let the turkey cook completely and then drain it well.  In a 2-qt pan, add the cans of tomatoes,  the green chilies, and the turkey.  I usually throw in a little extra chili power because you will lose a little when you drain the turkey.  I know spices are expensive, but here's a tip - along with the green chilies from the Mexican food aisle, buy your spices there, too!  A container of cinnamon will run you $2-4 in the spice aisle, but I found a larger bottle for less money in with the Mexican brands - and to me?  Cinnamon is cinnamon - I'm not at a point in my life to buy $50/pound Madagascar cinnamon or anything, so the less expensive option works for me.  I found many common spices are available there - cinnamon, cumin, chili power, nutmeg, etc. - you will be surprised at the price difference.  Most of them are under $1 per container!

I rinsed off the pan I cooked the ground turkey in and threw in the dried beans.  Pick out anything that doesn't look like a bean and give them a bit of a rinse.  Cover the beans with fresh water and turn up the heat til you get a nice simmer.  In the meantime, turn the heat on the tomato & turkey mixture and let that simmer.  The beans, since you didn't pre-soak them, will take a couple of hours to soften and you'll want to watch the water to make sure they don't go dry - I added water 2 or 3 times while they cooked.  Eventually, once they soften, drain them and throw them in with the tomato mixture.  And that is all there is to it!  I let it continue to simmer.

You'll want to give it a taste test (or two) along the way to make sure the spices are the way you like them.  You can always add more heat by adding a little more cumin, or some extra peppers, or red pepper flakes, but you can't take the heat away once you add it, so definitely give it a taste while it's cooking.  If the mixture is too thick, you can add water as needed.  I like mine thick and saucy so I tend to cook it uncovered, but you can cover the pan if you want to hold in more of the liquid as it cooks.  I'd say it took about 3 hours to get the beans to the level of done-ness that I like.

I stopped using the packets of chili seasoning because if you read the packet, you will see it's mostly salt!  It's so much more economical to buy the spices and mix your own, and it's so simple to do - the bottles I bought for $1-2 each will make several batches of chili.

I've started a "food-lifestyle readjustment" (it's not a diet!) and I'm eating more whole foods, natural foods, and less sugar, salt and other stuff that's made me fat over the last few years.  I'm working hard to lose that extra weight that I've gained since college, and I'm finding it's much easier if I just cook my own meals.  I've virtually given up eating out, unless it is to socialize, and I'm having a great time rediscovering how good food tastes when it's not deep fried, coated in salt, drowning in fat, or otherwise made unhealthy!

Why do I used dried beans for my chili instead of canned beans?  Wow, that's a great question - I'm glad you asked!  First, and foremost, start READING the labels of the food you are buying!  Most canned beans have added sodium or other things I don't want to put in my body anymore.  No more MSG for me, no xanthan gum, etc.  If an ingredient starts with "poly-" or "mono-" then it was probably made in a laboratory.  Um, no thanks, I'll pass!  There is nothing wrong with sprinkling a little salt on something if it truly needs it, but for the most part, when you stop adding salt to your food you will start to notice the flavor instead!  Give it a try.  Hide the salt shaker for a week or two and see if you notice the difference.  Trust me, you will.  And your body will thank you!

The second reason I prefer using dried beans?  They cost less.  I can get a big bag of kidney beans for 99 cents.  In the dry form, they last a really long time.  I'm not an expert, so you'll have to do the research on your own, but I'm pretty sure dried beans can be kept for at least a year.  I put my leftovers in a mason jar and screw a lid on, but to be honest they never last more than a month in my pantry because I eat them a few times a week.

They are a "good" carb.  They fill you up and have tons of fiber.  Instead of having a burger and a bun, try a bowl of this chili and see how good you feel while you eat it - no refined flour, no added fat, just really delicious chili!  If you aren't setting out to lose a few pounds, try a dollop of sour cream on top, and serve it with some rice (try brown rice, or basmati - I'm not a fan of Minute Rice) or sprinkle a little cheddar on top. 

For a grand total of $7.99, if I did my math right, I ended up with two quarts of chili and you know every ingredient in it.  I'd guess I'll get 8 bowls from it, so a dollar a bowl?  Can't beat that!  And I'll enjoy it for lunch at work once a week for the next few weeks, so factor in the time savings by making 8 meals at once and you'll start to find that not only is home cooking fun, but it's economical, too!

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