How to Save Money: Grocery Shopping

How to Save Money is a  monthly think fruitful series with helpful hints and tips for taking control of your finances. Get your free monthly budget template and 4 tips for smarter grocery shopping!

Today, I’m really excited to be back with our monthly How to Save Money post.

Your first step to saving money is to read my first post about budgeting. Budgeting is at the basis of tracking and saving money…and it’s important to grocery shopping, too!

To grocery shop well, you’ve got to first just go grocery shopping. Make eating and cooking at home a priority.

The sole act of cooking at home means you’ll be saving money and calories vs. eating out.

I also find that eating in allows me to sharpen my cooking skills and spend more quality time with my husband. That’s a win-win.

So, back to grocery shopping, here are a few tips to make your trip worthwhile to your pantry and bank account:

1. Prep for your trip

Do a few little things before stepping into those food-filled aisles. Make a meal plan for every meal you’ll eat at home. I don’t worry too much about breakfast and lunch (since I just do cereal or yogurt and leftovers), but I just write down 4-5 recipes I plan to make during the week.

Pro tip: If you’ve done your budget, you’ll know what you have budgeted for groceries per week or month. Get that amount out in cash, or keep in mind what you have to spend and stick to it as best as you can.

2. Make a list

Look through your selected recipes and write down the ingredients on a list.

It really is that simple!

I like to use a grocery list app (mine is just called “Grocery List”) to keep track of our food needs throughout the week. Whether it’s paper or digital, going into the grocery store with a list based on your meal plan will keep you on track and on budget. And remember to only buy what is on your list for that week.

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N.C. One Bite at a Time (Part 16)

N.C. One Bite at a Time is a series in which I share about all of the new places that I’ve explored or eaten at in Raleigh, Durham or the surrounding areas.

Guys…This post is waaaay past due.

I’m not even sure how it’s been six months since an update on my whereabouts in the Triangle.

Seasons have passed, temperature have cooled, and there are so many new spots in the area that are on my list for 2017!

Let’s get to eating and exploring!

Person Street Pharmacy

person street pharmacy raleigh

I have had this downtown Raleigh spot on my to-eat list for a long time, so it was a treat to finally visit. This is the perfect place for a tasty lunch, a classic ice cream sundae or a creative fizzy drink. I was very impressed by my pimento cheese sandwich and sweet potato salad, paired with a homemade ginger beer!

pimento cheese at person street pharmacy

Honeysuckle Tea House

honeysuckle tea house chapel hill

While we were back visiting Haw River Brewery in Saxapahaw, we hopped on over to Honeysuckle Tea House in Chapel Hill, a 15-minute drive from the brewery. What a delightful spot to drink tea, study or just relax! It’s surrounded by trees, and it’s one of the few places where I’ve drank the tea right next to tea plants. How cool is that?!

honeysuckle tea house chapel hill

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Chili in a Skillet

skillet veggie chili

Now that we’re back into winter (with even some snow on the ground), I find myself turning to my cast iron skillet for cooking and flavor.

This heavy kitchen tool can be relied on to cook everything from crisp bacon to steak to pot pie. And it’s nice that it goes from the stovetop to the oven so easily.

In this Skillet Veggie Chili recipe, you make use of your cast iron pal, along with plenty of canned pantry items. Once you’ve got this seasoned, hearty vegetarian chili going, all you need is a bed of Fritos, some sour cream and those pickled red onions that you whipped up so easily.

skillet veggie chili

This filling meal only takes 30-45 minutes to make, and it will be easy on your budget, too!

If you’ve got another snow storm coming your way, I suggest putting this Skillet Veggie Chili on your meal plan and grocery shopping list.

skillet-veggie-chili recipe card

*Click or tap on recipe card to enlarge and save.

For other comforting cast iron skillet recipes, try:

Ingredient of the Month: Butternut Squash

butternut squash

I’m sitting here, looking out at patches of snow in my yard and thinking about cooking in the winter.

Winter cooking is comforting, warm and filling. You want it to be satisfying yet also healthful and colorful (even though the world is a little less colorful).

Winter ingredients are a little more tricky to seek out than spring and summer’s obvious bounty.

For me, a key winter ingredient is the butternut squash.

This flavorful and hearty squash makes a wonderful addition to any salad, soup or main dish. Its flavor goes so well with most other ingredients that you can add it in most anything to make it tasty. As long as you have a big knife to crack it open, you’re golden.

Tell me more:

Butternut squash is a winter squash that grows on a vine. It is shaped like a gourd with a beige outer skin (that needs to be peeled) and orange inside. This type of squash tastes sweet and nutty like a pumpkin.

butternut squash

Where do I buy butternut squash:

Butternut squash (and sweet potatoes) is a staple at your winter farmers market, if you have one. If not, you can find them at your normal grocery store in the produce section. Look for a squash that is firm with smooth skin.

How do I store butternut squash:

Another fabulous thing about this special squash is that it lasts for quite awhile in your pantry.  Keep it in a cool, dry area (like your pantry, maybe next to your potatoes), and it will last up to 6 months! This gives you a great reason to buy a butternut squash and then take your time figuring out how you want to use it.

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2017 Food Resolutions

Happy New Year!

This year is already off to a great start.

Don’t you just love a fresh start to evaluate your life and make some new goals?! I’ve spent some good time breaking in my new Rifle planner, I’ve decided that my phrase for the year is “moving forward,” and I’m ready for a great January and rest of the year. My family members and I have even started planning spring and summer trips and vacations- what fun!

Last year, I made good use of my food resolutions and:

For 2017, I’m looking to get more focused on my blog posts, offering posts and recipes that you can really love and use in your day-to-day life. I would also like to try lots of new recipes!

1. Cook from paper

Are you like me and have a stack of cookbooks and plastic baggies full of cut-up recipes from magazines? Maybe you are or maybe you’re not, but I think it’s about time for me to focus on cooking from books and “paper” recipes. So, I’m making a goal of only cooking from paper recipes for the month of January (no online recipes allowed). While I’ll keep posting wonderful recipes on the blog, I won’t be cooking from other blog recipes to explore what I’ve already got in my extended recipe box. I’m also excited about this because I got my husband a killer cookbook for Christmas, and we’ve already started cooking from it!

2. Give up something

I know this was on my list last year (when I ended up going vegetarian for Lent), but I would really like to try this again. Maybe I can give up sugar…not sure, but maybe. Or maybe I can give up dessert. Or maybe I should give up fast food. There are lots of options, and you know I’ll be blogging about it.

3. Focus on my budget, help you save $

For the past few months in our house, our budget has been well, not exactly an exact science. With Paris travel, hosting Thanksgiving and traveling for Christmas, we spent a lot on different unexpected things. Although it was a great year of travel, I want to focus on getting my food (eating out/grocery, etc.) budget more exact. I hope to also help you save money with my How to Save Money monthly series on the blog.

4. Host Sunday Dinners

Although we have family over for dinner quite often, I would really like to invite more friends over for dinner. This is probably a goal I have every year, but I think if I start doing Sunday Dinners once every few months, then I can just make a bunch of food and invite lots of friends over to partake. Our new dining room table can help us fit everyone, too.

5. More homemade foods

In 2017, I would love to make more homemade things. I’m talking homemade pasta, gnocchi and ricotta as a few that come to mind. It’s always fun to see how many store-bought things you can eliminate from the pantry and fridge. Maybe once I get those things down pat, I can incorporate them into a Sunday Dinner?

Do you have any food resolutions for the new year?

Happy 2017, ya’ll!

Top 5 Posts of 2016

It’s been quite a happy week in between Christmas and New Year’s for me, and I hope for you, too.

You may have noticed I took a little blog break to enjoy some quality family time. I love blogging, but family dinners, holding a newborn and playing tea with a toddler takes precedence. I hope you’ve been able to take some time off, too!

Believe it or not, it’s that time of year where we see what the most popular posts of 2016 were on think fruitful. So, here are your favorite eats, reads and features from this past year!

1. $6 Lunch in Raleigh

I’m so excited that you readers enjoyed this one.  I love an inexpensive local lunch, and I guess you guys do, too. Check this post out if you’re a Raleigh-Durham resident or just stopping in for a visit around the lunch hour.

2. Stir Fry

stir fry

I don’t know about you, but it was practically the year of the stir fry at our house. And I was so pleased to get to share our basic, weeknight winner recipe on the blog. It’s healthy, easy and so filling.

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Christmas Mix

Happy Christmas week everyone!

I’ve only got four days of work, packing and some Christmas cookie eating in between me and my official Christmas holiday.

I hope yours is coming up soon, too!

Whether you’re already “rockin’ around the Christmas tree” or you’re counting down the hours of work, I’ve got a great Christmas mix for you today!

It’s got a little bit of the classics, a little jazz, a little pop, and I hope you love it.

Merry Christmas!

If you’re looking for Christmas treats to bake, try out my Goodies to Gift series from a few years ago:

2 Secrets to a Great Brunch

Capital Club 16 brunch

Today, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

In fact, I’m going to share my two secrets to hosting a great brunch.

Probably like you, I’ve had my fair share of brunches. And holiday brunches are those of legend in my family.

We always woke up super early to open presents on Christmas, and you could already smell the bacon sizzling in the oven or the hot coffee brewing. Christmas dinners are great, but those early, pajama-wearing, egg-casserole-filled brunches are one of a kind. There’s so much to look forward to for the rest of the day, so many new toys to play with on a full stomach.

IMG_9291

Brunch is special to me because it shows that someone has planned. This isn’t a you pour yourself cereal and milk situation. Whether you’re going out on the town for your favorite brunch (that you’ve probably been thinking about all week) or you’re having friends over, someone is always planning.

Maybe I like brunch so much because I’m such a planner. Who knows?

I’m also the type that makes a big deal about invitations. I like to plan ahead of time. And for those of you like me, online invitations are a great way to welcome people to your special brunch or add that extra flare to your holiday  get-together.

Planning is my first secret to the perfect brunch.

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Made for Company Pot Roast

balsamic pot roast

I’m starting to get my groove cooking for larger groups of people.

Now, don’t go and think that I’m a professional or anything. I’m just saying that I survived feeding 8-11 people during the Thanksgiving holiday. One big reason that it went smoothly was lots of help from others, but I also feel like I’ve learned a few hosting tips when you’re feeding more than a few mouths.

1. Make/freeze a lasagna

Pick your favorite pasta dish and freeze that bad boy to cook and eat when company is at your house. Pasta dishes like my favorite lasagna and others are cheap and easy to make, and then all you have to do is throw it in the oven and pair it with salad and bread. Just don’t forget to defrost ahead of time!

2. Make a pot roast (or something in the slow cooker)

This was my second meal secret for company. And I’m so glad that I found this killer Balsamic Pot Roast recipe a few months ago! You do a little work on the front end (searing and chopping) and then throw everything in the slow cooker for either 4 or 8 hours and a beautiful meat and veg meal magically appears! Again,  pair it with some good bread and a salad if you’re feeling like it.

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Ingredient of the Month: Pecans

pecans

A month or so ago when I was starting to plan my Thanksgiving menu, I saw that one of our nearby farm stands had “PECANS” listed on their sign. So, I immediately pulled over and decided in that moment that I was going local pecans vs. store-bought. Nothing against store-bought, but when you have local available, it’s usually a good idea to go for it!

So, I did and paid a bit more than I normally would… though buying a bag of nuts is usually a treat.

And then I opened up the ziploc baggie full of dark maple ridges of nutty goodness and snacked on a few. My brain was officially telling me that I had made a good decision. These pecans were so crisp with a depth of flavor that was both savory and sweet.

So, that is partly why our Ingredient of the Month for December is Pecans! They also play such an important role in our holiday menus, and I think they should be even more important.

pecans

Tell me more:

Pecans (I prefer the pick-AHN pronunciation) is a species of hickory tree that is typically grown in the Southern US and Mexico. If you have a pecan tree, please send me some!

As aforementioned, pecans grow on large trees, contained in a round brown pit or shell with the nuts inside. Typically you’ll just find the pecans unshelled, so the hard work is done for you. Pecans are full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and they are a good source of energy!

Where do I buy pecans:

If you live in the South like I do, then you might be lucky enough to find bags of golden pecans at your farmers market or local shop, but you can also always find them at your grocery store in the baking or nut section. They are sold whole (or in halves) or chopped.

Where do I store pecans:

I like to just store mine in the pantry with my other nuts and baking supplies. But, pecans do not last forever, so either eat them within a month, refrigerate them for up to 9 months or freeze for up to 2 years.

pecans

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