Thursday, November 3, 2016

My TOP 5: Money Saving Tips + BONUS!!

Welcome to the first edition of My TOP 5! In this new series, I will share some of my top five favorites--it might feature a specific ingredient, meal, or dessert! (That might be hard, though. I love dessert...Narrowing it down to five? Not easy.)

The first in this series is Money Saving Tips. What does this have to do with food, you might ask? Oh, read on, my friend! Read on.

We all want to save money, I hope. I like to think of myself as a thrifty person, but I've noticed lately that it's too easy to just swipe a card (credit, of course) and not ever think of the *actual* money that's being exchanged. Really, the only place I have this problem is in the grocery store. It's easy to impulse buy.

TIP #1: Envelope System -- We recently implemented this after attending a financial planning series. Set a budget for groceries, whether it's weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Withdraw that amount from your paycheck in cash and keep it in a secured envelope. Every time you go to the grocery store, use cash from the grocery fund, and tuck the receipts into the envelope after your purchase. I've noticed that when I do this, it helps me to think, "Do I really need this item?" "Which store should I shop to make my money stretch farther?" Sometimes I have to revamp my weekly menu because there are not enough funds to cover a specialty item I might need.

TIP #2: Shop Bulk (not always, though) -- We invested in a Costco membership several years ago. It has repaid itself multiple times. We buy cereal, canned beans, rice, flour, pasta, pasta sauce, frozen vegetables, paper products, clothes, etc. Now, we are a family of four. If you are single, Costco or Sam's Club may not be a money saving option for you. Most of the items we purchase are non-perishable, so they do not go bad before we're able to use them. Now that WOULD be a waste of money!

TIP #3: Make Your Own -- This will *nearly* always save you money. As a vegan/vegetarian, I grew up on processed vegetarian meat analogs. While they're delicious, they are not the best for your health or wallet. They're super high in sodium and difficult to digest. Plus there are limited quantities in the package--sausage patties or sausage links usually only last one meal. So, why spend nearly $5 on a product that's not that great for you and doesn't go very far? Recently I made some oat based breakfast patties (one recipe yields 64 patties). They're perfect to freeze and reheat whenever you feel like "sausage" is necessary. I also like to make my own pancake and waffle mix. Commercial mixes contain powdered ingredients like eggs and fat that are high in oxidized cholesterol. When you make your own, you know what's inside. You can feel good about what you're feeding your family. One other thing...instead of buying a cake or cupcakes for a party, I make my own. The best part about that one is licking the spoon...

TIP #4: Eat Beans -- Staple foods, non-processed, will save you money. We eat beans. A lot of beans. Or lentils. Supplement with a whole grain like brown rice, whip up a salad, and you have a cheap and very balanced meal.

TIP #5: Plan Ahead -- If you can, plan your meals ahead of time. When you're mixing a soup or casserole, make extra to put in the freezer. Not all casseroles freeze well, but most soups, unless they are cream based, will freeze and thaw nicely for a quick and healthy meal. One thing that has helped me recently is to make a huge batch of cookie dough, scoop it into ready-made portions, then freeze them before baking so they're ready when I am! So nice to look in my freezer and see chocolate chip cookie dough staring at me!

As a bonus, I thought I'd share my Breakfast Patty recipe with you...just in case you need 64 breakfast patties in your freezer. My six-year-old tasted one: "Mmmm. Thank you for making these, Mom! They're good." Hey, I think I can live with that!


 3 1/2 cups water
1/4 Braggs Liquid Aminos (or low sodium Tamari)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tb. oil
1 - 2 Tb. dried minced onion (or granulated, but you'd probably use less)
1 Tb. pure maple syrup
1 Tb. Italian seasoning (I mixed 1 tsp. each of thyme, basil, and Italian seasoning)
1 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
pinch cayenne or red pepper flakes, optional
1 1/2 cups quick oats
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup white beans (cannellini, chickpeas, etc.)
1 cup firm tofu, drained and crumbled
1 cup cooked brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat couscous
3 Tb. ground flax seed


Preheat oven to 350*F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly sprayed foil.

In a medium pot, combine first nine ingredients and bring to a boil. Add oats and turn down heat. Allow to simmer for a few moments, then remove from heat. Puree white beans with firm tofu in a food processor until smooth, then add to the pot with the seasoned oats. Add cooked grain and flax seed, and stir to combine well. Allow mixture to sit for about 5 minutes. It will thicken as it cools. You may want to sample a pinch of the dough and adjust seasonings to your taste.

Using a 1-in. ice cream scoop, spoon oat mixture onto prepared cooking sheet. Flatten each patty gently with the bottom of a measuring cup that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. It just makes it easier to release the dough without sticking to your cup. Bake at 350* for about 15 minutes, turn patties and allow to cook for another 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before freezing.

Tofu Scramble over Whole Grain Toast and Gravy
Oatmeal Breakfast Patties