Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin muffins

I was looking in my freezer the other day, and realized that I'd better use up some of last year's pumpkin crop to make room for this year's!  Every year I plant sugar pumpkins, then stew and puree the flesh and freeze it in two-cup portions for baking.  Nothing says fall like the smell of something pumpkin baking in the oven!  So, tonight I whipped up a batch of these and they're in the oven as I type this.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (all purpose flour works, too)
1 cup rolled oats
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. ground cloves
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground allspice
1 t. salt
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 small can)
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 24 muffin tins, or line them with paper liners.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and spices.  Make a well in the center and add the pumpkin, oil, and eggs.  Stir until smooth.  Scoop into prepared muffin tins.

Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack and wrap airtight for storage.

Excellent spread with cream cheese!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sticking to the Grocery Budget

Hi, my name's Karen, and I'm a compulsive grocery shopper.  Seriously.  The only time I ever stick to my list is when my husband is with me, and that's just because he hates grocery shopping so much it's quick in, quick out.  I, on the other hand, consider grocery shopping a recreational activity.  In fact, it's the only kind of shopping that I enjoy.  So it should come as no surprise that I have a heck of a time staying within the budget. 

We budget $300 a month, which, in writing, I've broken into two amounts - $175 for the first half of the month, and $175 for the second.  That way I don't spend $250 up front and have no money left for milk and bananas at the end of the month.  Not that I haven't spent $250 up front and gone on to spend another $175, don't get me wrong!

Last month my husband and I took a good hard look at our spending, and decided something needed to be done.  So we dropped cable, got a VOIP phone service, and made a commitment to getting our spending back on track.  Not only did I recommit to sticking to my grocery budget, but we also (at that point) completely eliminated our eating out budget.  We've since seen the folly of our ways, and have added a small amount back in for restaurants, but nothing at all like we have been. 

So here I am, trying to stick to my grocery budget.  It seems like no matter what I go into the store to buy, I end up spending $110+.  I will admit that I go to one of the more expensive grocery stores in town, but I buy a lot of organic, natural, and/or local foods, which they have there, and that all costs more.  But really, after visiting a couple of the cheaper grocery stores in town, they aren't really that much cheaper, and the quality is a lot lower.  I also buy local, natural pork and grass-fed beef from a local butcher, which costs a little more (but, again, not that much more considering the difference in quality). 

This weekend, when I went on my regular shopping trip, I had a little over $21 left to spend until the 15th.  Fortunately, all we really needed was milk, fruit, and yogurt (my daughter eats Cheerios, yogurt, and fruit for breakfast almost every day).  I could have made yogurt, but I had a coupon for a free pack of YoBaby and found some organic on manager's special (orange tag) for $1.49.  I also got a gallon of organic whole milk (that's what my daughter drinks) on manager's special for $2.49.  Those combined were less than I was planning to spend on her milk alone, so I was ahead of the game.  I usually buy a gallon of organic milk and a gallon of regular for hubby and me, but got two gallons of regular instead - they're half the price of organic.

Knowing we have plenty of canned fruit in the cupboard, blueberries in the freezer, and apples in the crisper drawer, I skimped a bit on the fruit.  Hubby said he could do without his usual daily orange as long as there are honeycrisp apples in the house (I buy them from a local farmstand for about $1 a pound less than at the grocery store), so I just picked up a few bananas.  That left enough for a pint of heavy cream for a dessert I was making to take to the neighbor's last night, and a carton of ice cream to go with the apple crisp I knew I'd be making today (with the last of our backyard apples, which are only good for cooking!).  We buy the store brand version of premium ice cream - at $2.99 a carton, it's less than half the price and tastes exactly the same. 

At the last minute, I ran back to the produce aisle to pick up a bag of organic grapes - they're from California and SO GOOD right now!  That was my real splurge - two pounds cost $4.20.  My total came to $20.53.  After all that, if I stay out of the store, I have $1.13 left to carry over to the second half of the month!