Remember our big trip to New York back in August in which we lived beyond large? (You can read about the food on the trip here, here, here and here, the shopping here and here, and the best photo from the trip and little Gossip Girl joke here.) Well those bills are finally coming due, and it's painful to say the least. (Note: I do not believe in carrying a credit card balance if at all possible after digging myself out from under credit card debt several years back, but for people who travel as much as Mark and I do, it only makes sense to use an airline miles credit card and get some benefit from the expenditures... so long as you pay off the balance each month.)
When we paid off the balance this month, our savings account took a bit of nosedive, and so it's time to tighten our belts (and I'm even hoping this will help me tighten my belt literally, since it means cutting back on restaurant food!). Food tends to be our biggest expense (we eat a looooooot of take-out), so that had to be the first place to cut back.
As you might recall, we've just ordered new kitchen appliances, including a new refrigerator, so it also behooves us to try to use up as much of what we have in the fridge and freezer currently, to avoid having a lot of spoiled food to deal with when we transition from the old one to the new. Nothing cheaper than using what you already have.
What a great mission -- save money, use what we have, and pare things down overall.
Another area ripe for decluttering? My email inbox. How many sale and promotion notices do you get every single day that tempt you to spend? Well I've just done a mass unsubscribe, and said goodbye to some of my old favorites. We just can't have this temptation around when we're on a frugality mission, and the added upside is a much more streamlined inbox.
Bye bye, old pals...
Two emails that do get to stick around are from Lowe's and Home Depot, since we are very much in home improvement mode, and don't want to miss out on any good deals on things we were going to buy anyway.
You dodged the bullet this time, buddy...
So with my email inbox faaaaaaaar less cluttered, I set about to declutter the fridge, while saving some money too. One solution? Huevos rancheros for dinner.
Stuck with some leftover pinto beans...
We added four eggs (already in stock), cooked sunny side up...
Four corn tortillas (also leftovers), a little TJ's enchilada sauce (hanging around in the fridge), a little bit of queso fresco (also leftovers)...
And voila, easy Huevos Rancheros
Net cost of the meal: $0.
Having achieved an essentially free leftover-based meal, I wanted to try a proper dinner for less than $5 a person, and Ralph's, the ubiquitous SoCal megamart, hooked me up with half price roasting chickens. They're not fancy and organic or free-range or anything, which isn't ideal, but were were going for cheap here. And at $5 for a 5 lb. bird, it's hard to complain.
A little basic poultry roasting recipe (see below), and here you have our $5 main course...
Served with a bag of spinach that was on its last leg and was otherwise destined for the dumpster, we had ourselves a nice little meal, and for something closer to $4 a person. Not bad at all. (And that's not even mentioning the leftovers which will probably serve us tonight.)
What do you do to save money, or to declutter, or both? Please share in the comments!
And here's that chicken recipe...
Whether you're roasting a turkey, a chicken, a duck, a goose, a pigeon, a cormorant, a seagull... your recipe is basically the same. Following the Alton Brown school of thought on food-borne illness, I prefer not to put any stuffing inside the bird, so this is a no-stuffing recipe. This is also a no-brine recipe. (If you like brine, check out my posts from last Thanksgiving here and here.)
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
- Rinse and pat dry the bird, and remove any giblets, etc., inside the bird. I also like to trim the tail fat.
- After washing your hands about 50 times to avoid salmonella poisoning, apply a generous layer of salt and pepper all over the bird, and inside the cavity. Add half an onion, a few whole cloves of garlic, and some herb sprigs of your choice (I like thyme and sage) to the cavity as well. Wash hands again.
- If you're a Julia Child devotee, you might also give the bird a butter massage at this point, but I skip this step. If you do it, wash your hands after.
- Feel free to truss up the bird and turn the wings akimbo if you're feeling artsy or desire a more demure bird, but I also skip this step unless I'm entertaining the Queen. It is good to tuck the neck skin under the torso, though, just since it looks better. If you truss or tuck, wash your hands. (Noticing a theme?)
- Place the bird into the roasting pan of your choice, wash your hands, and pop the pan into the oven.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 450 (unless it's a big turkey, in which case make it more like 20-30), then turn the oven down to 350. Approximate total baking time is 20 minutes per pound, but every bird is a little bit different.
- The bird is done when: A.) the juices coming out when you cut deep into the thigh run clear, B.) the leg joints feel very loose when you wiggle the drumstick, and C.) the internal temp reaches 160 degrees. Do your best not to overcook it! Some guides might tell you that you have to hit 180 degrees, but the temp inside the bird will keep rising while it's resting.
- After removing the bird from the oven, don't forget to rest it for 20 to 30 minutes under aluminum foil that hugs the bird but isn't tight. This is critical to get the juices to redistribute within the meat.
- Carve 'er up and have yourself a nice meal!
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