Chopping on the Cheap, Budgeted Groceries with Creative Intent

New week, new shopping list! Our weeks usually begin in a flurry, spending a lot of time catching up from the week prior or being inundated with new happy-happy, joy-joy stuff. Sometimes it’s a new unexpected bill or a parking ticket (wink wink) because maybe you forgot to move the car for street cleaning… all on account of Sunday Funday becoming unmanageable. This isn’t the type of Sunday Funday I had in my 20s, but the day at the park that turned into a BBQ and then turned into a bowling night with Kaia and her two best friends. If you live in a larger city like we do, the likelihood is pretty strong that at some point you’ll get a parking ticket.

Anyhow this leads us to just one of many Monday things on our list, Chopping (and shopping) on the cheap, budgeted groceries with creative intent!

After picking Kaia up from school we headed directly to our local grocery Ralphs (They are a subsidiary company under the KROGER umbrella). I knew before we walked in that I had a limited budget of about $40. We were looking to maximize our spending.

I have always been upfront with my daughter about what we can afford, and not just in the food department. She has never gone without what she needs, but she understands that we can’t spend money on all the frivolous things we might want. That being said, I think she trusts me to always make it work… and she should.

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On our drive we discussed what we thought we can do on our $40 grocery budget for the week. Lots of roma tomato, fruits, and other veggie ideas came up. Produce is always a great place to start. We think it’s better to start with a veggie option and build the meals around them. The versatility of veggies and what is doable with them is far greater than that of meat.

We have turned our shopping into a dance. Think of the produce section as the introduction to a ballet and as you build to the crescendo we hit the meat and poultry counter. As we sauntered through the store, we notice different things that inspired our budgeted creativity. Our $40 needs to stretch for 4 dinners for 2, as well as some breakfast stuff. We also have some things like cream, spices, herbs and some mixed noodles (we sometimes like to make our own noodles so we wanted to pick up some semolina, the base grain, too).

This weeks shopping purchases:

  • 1 gallon of 2% milk – we like it better than whole milk on our cereal or in our oatmeal, and it’s less fat – $2.79
  • 1 bag of dehydrated organic spring mushrooms – to use for homemade cream of mushroom soup – $3.99
  • 1 large white onion – purchased to be used in a pasta sauce or even a salsa. Who doesn’t like chips and salsa? – $0.85
  • 1 bunch green onion – these can also be used in sauce, pasta, or salsa – $0.99
  • 1 large jalapeño – again this is something that could be used in our salsa or to spice up a sauce and/or soup – $0.21
  • 1.05 lbs broccoli (stalks on) – Kaia requested some broccoli, so we got some. My thoughts were that they could be used to make a broccoli cheddar soup (we have some leftover cheddar from our amazing grilled cheeses with beet greens) – $1.67
  • 2.42 lbs. roma tomatoes (about 12 tomatoes) – these were bought in bulk to be used in a number of different things. Tomato sauce, salsa, possibly a soup or a layer to some sammies – $3.61
  • 1.99 lbs. organic Chiquita bananas – for breakfast smoothies or just as a snack – $1.77
  • 2.05 lbs. of beef roast (tri-tip) – this item was on sale at nearly 50% off so we grabbed it… always have to be on the lookout for solid sale item. We cook this meat in a much shorter time period than BBQ masters. We do however have a way of doing it that emulates that of a 12 hour smoke – $12.76
  • 1 loaf french bread – just because we wanted some carbs to go along with all that we had – $1.59

Our total coupons or savings because that’s what we do, was $9.65. Our total expenses were $30.23. When all was said and done we still had some dollars left for treats we might want later in the week.

For additional savings, check out IBOTTA – it is awesome! Basically you have to scan the items your purchased using the barcode and your receipt. Here’s a referral link from me for the app. Its great for additional savings. For instance, we earned $2.75 from this trip alone. They will send a check or link it to your venmo account and you get paid when you have at least 20 bucks in your IBOTTA account.

Takeaway from this trip to the grocery store: Shopping on a budget is not such a daunting task. We have learned over time that most people in the stores are pretty gruff to begin with; meaning everyone is in a hurry, employees might not be as excited as we are, etc. It’s not a complaint, just an observation. Ultimately, our goal has been to make grocery shopping fun.

We try to put smiles on other people’s faces as we laugh and frolic through the store. We have very little shame in the store: You might occasionally hear me speaking loudly, calling for Kaia who may be 2 aisles over, or Kaia asking me if she has grabbed enough tomatoes, from across the veggie department.

The best suggestion I can give is to give less *insert bad word*. It’s a win/win: you will live longer and so will the kids… plus you may even keep your hair the same color a little longer. And for the Dads out there, you may even keep your hair on your head for a little while longer.

Keep following us, later in the week you will be able to see what awesomeness we came up with with these items plus a few others we already have in the fridge and cabinets at home.

Hope you all are having a great week. See ya soon!

Golden Beets Soup and Grilled Cheese Sammies: Recipe

Hopefully you’ve made it to the store with the shopping list. Now it’s the fun part: time to get cooking! It’s Tuesday night, and Kaia and I are ready to grill up some sammies and create this delicious beet soup!

Follow along with us in our video here.

We have our bunch (or bundle) of golden beets. There were 3 in the bunch, and they probably weighed 1 lb. each. That’s a pretty good amount of beets. They also came with their tops attached, those are the greens on top of the beets. The beet greens (tops) are great for a blanching… that’s cook talk for tossing the greens into boiling water for a quick bath, usually 2-3 minutes. We’ll talk about this later when we start making the sammies.

We cut the tops (greens) off of the beets, leaving about 3 inches of greens stocks attached to the beet itself (that will become part of the soup, we are adding some carrots later too). We set aside the greens for blanching.

I used a paring knife to clean up the beet tops. Then we set these aside while we prepared the soup base.

We wanted to create a delicious base for our soup. We started with a large pot on the stove over low heat. Before putting the beets in we added smashed Garlic (garlic from the already pre-shelled bags – parents should lay the garlic on a cutting board and use their knifes’ side to smash the bulbs), olive oil (1/4 cup to coat the pot), Shallots (should be a small dice in size) and a couple peppercorns to sweat in the pot.

After a couple minutes of letting those oils and flavors mingle over low heat, we added the chicken broth and Kaia turned up the heat to medium (with my supervision).

Kaia and I took this time to talk about her Girl Scout cookie sales. We still need to drop off a few last orders this week to my friends who ordered. She sold WAY more cookies this year than in years past, and we have been running around at least one night a week trying to get them all delivered.

Back to the soup! It’s time to get the beets and carrots ready. Wash them really well. Beets are an earthy flavored veggie, but you don’t want actual earth in your mouth or on the rest of your food. Once washed, Kaia started to peel the beets. She used a potato peeler to take the outer layer of skin off the beets. The beets need to be peeled like an apple. Baby carrots don’t need to be peeled, just washed.

Once peeled and cleaned, Kaia and I cut up the beets into similarly sized pieces, about 1.5 inch cubes. They will be different in shape. Don’t worry, this is normal and does not have to be exact. We halved the baby carrots so they cooked at the same speed as the beet cubes. Once the beets and carrots were cut Kaia added them to the now boiling soup base, also called soup stock.

We wanted the beets to be completely submerged so we added about 2 cups of water. Once the soup came to a boil, we lowered the heat to a simmer for about 25 minutes.  

While the soup simmered we got the grilled cheese fixings ready. We bought the cheese in a block (because it tastes better to us) so we needed to grate it for the sammies. Kaia takes care of the shredding in our kitchen – she thinks it’s fun! If shredding is not an option, parents can slice the cheese as thinly as possible so it melts easily.

A flat iron is preferred due to its size and gives the space to make more than one sandwich at a time. If you don’t have a flat iron (which is most people, including us) you will want to use a cast iron skillet or a large sauté pan. The skillet or sauté pan should be large enough to have 2 slices of bread lay flat with a little space between them.

We cooked our sammies on thick sliced bread (usually close to an inch thick). Kids put the cast iron skillet or sauté pan on the stove. Mom or dad (or adult) should turn the stove up to medium heat and let the pan get nice and hot. Make sure that you are communicating. There is nothing worse than a trip to the hospital on an empty stomach.  

While the grilled cheese pan is getting hot, we went back to check that the soup is simmering. Ours wasn’t, so we adjusted the heat accordingly.

We assume you knew going into this dinner that aside from the beets soup, this meal is not “light”. Butter, cheeses and bread are what make up the next component. These are three of my favorites, and I am pretty sure my daughter loves them too. Remember we are sticklers for moderation. Too much of anything can’t be good. The portion sizes given are bordering on gluttony. However, it’s okay to indulge once in awhile.

We added about 2 tablespoons of butter to the heated pan, one on each side of the pan for each slice of bread. The trick here is to wait for the butter to melt before putting the bread in the pan.

We flipped the bread a little under 2 minutes then added cheese evenly to both slices. This creates a nice crust so that the bread doesn’t deflate and get too oily. Have you used this trick before? By heating the bread on both sides before adding the cheese, it creates a nice warm place for the cheese to melt.

Once we added the cheese, we covered the soon-to-be delicious cheesy bread so it melts evenly.

While the cheese was getting melty, we put the beets and stock (the soup) into our blender. If you don’t have a blender, you can improvise a way to mash everything using a fork or spoon, spatula, hand blender, etc. You’ll probably need to cook the soup a bit longer than the suggested 25 minutes so that the beets are softer, since the goal is to create a smooth and even texture, like a puree (if it seems to thick for your soup preferences, just add a cup of water and mix again). Once pureed, set the soup aside.

Remember those beet greens we cut off the top of the beets? This is where they come in! We added some water to the same pot we had used for the soup and brought it to a boil. In the interest of time (we were hungry!) we chose not to rinse our soup pot. You can do the same, or leave it as is and simply add water.

Once the water was boiling, we tossed in the beet greens to blanch. This only takes about 2 minutes once the water is boiling. Remove them and add to cold water/ice bath. We used a bowl large enough to accommodate the size of the beet greens without folding them. The ice bath cools them quickly to stop the cooking.  

We pulled the top off of the grilled cheese pan. At this point, you should be seeing an even melt, from the outside of the bread into the center.

Kaia pulled the beet greens from the ice water bath and patted them dry.  

I lowered the heat on the pan before Kaia layered the greens on each piece of cheesy bread. Then with a spatula, I flipped one half onto the other and cooked as a stacked sandwich for about 2 minutes. I flipped and cooked for another 2 minutes. The cheese should be thoroughly melted with the beet greens looking pretty in the middle. We removed the sandwich from the pan and placed on a cutting board.  

We were getting close to the finish line and we were HUNGRY! Kaia grabbed plates and bowls. Kaia poured the soup into the bowls with a little guidance from me. The cheesy grilled sammies can be cut however you want them to be. We usually cut them into triangles, because we think they taste better in a triangle!

We hope you enjoy this very comforting meal, and most importantly the time you have spent together.

Watch our video here!

Recipe: Makes 4 Sammies, 4 bowls of soup

3lbs. – Golden Beets with greens still attached
1 Qt. – Chicken or Vegetable stock/broth
4oz. – Baby Carrots
6 – Garlic Bulbs
10 – Peppercorns
2 Tbsp. – Sea Salt
2 to 4 cups – Water
½ loaf – Thick-sliced bread
4 tbsp. – Unsalted Butter
8oz. – Gruyere Cheese
4oz. – Sharp cheddar
4oz. – Other Cheese (we suggest Swiss or provolone, but you can get wild here)

Utensils:

Large Sautee Pan
5 Quart pot for the soup
Spatula
Blender – without a blender, it will be tough to accomplish the even texture desired for the soup.  However, you can get close by cooking the beets longer and smashing them
Cheese Grater – if you do not have a grater, just slice the cheese as thin as possible
Spoon for tasting
2 cup measuring cup. If you do not have a measuring  cup of any size, use a pint glass is it equivalent to a 2 cups
8 inch kitchen knife
Paring knife, or small blade
Soup ladle
Tongs
Large Bowl

All recipes written to cook with instructions for ADULTS (A), KIDS (K), and BOTH (B).

GOLDEN BEET SOUP

A: Cut the greens from the top of the beets (leaving about 3 inches of stock attached to the beets). Set greens aside for sandwiches

K: Put a pot on for the beets, low heat

A: Add olive oil, smashed garlic, herbs, peppercorns to pot to sweat

A: Clean the tops of the beets with a paring knife

K: Peel the beets

A: Cut the beets and carrots into smaller pieces

K: Add the chicken (or vegetable) broth to the pot with the herbs and spices.

K: Turn up the heat to a medium-high temp (Adults please be sure to supervise).

A: Add the beets and carrots into the pot to boil

B: Make sure to monitor the level of the fluid in the soup and cover with the additional water so that the ingredients are submerged.

A: Bring to a boil

K: Cover and simmer about 25 mins.  If you do not have the blender or mixer be sure to cook for an additional 10 mins to soften the beets further.  This will make them a bit easier to mash and mix.

A: Pull your bowls out of the cupboard

K: Grab the soup ladle or big spoon to serve the soup

A: Remove the pot and help the kids ladle the soup into the bowls

GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES:

B: Put your pan on heat (medium heat is recommended)

A: Portion the butter into 4 individual tbsp pieces

K: Grab the bread and set them on the counter next to the stove

A: Add 1 tbsp of butter to the pan for each slice of bread

K: Grate the cheese

A: If you do not have a cheese grater slice the cheese as thin as possible

K: Put all the cheese onto a plate for easy access

K: Fill you measuring cup with 2 cups of water and pour into your empty soup pot. Bring water to a boil

A: Make sure your kids aren’t burning themselves

K: Fill a bowl with ice and water

A: Place the bread on top of the melting butter in the saute’ pan

K: Lay the large pieces of Beet greens into the boiling pot of water

A: Use tongs to remove the Beet greens after about 2 minutes and place them into the ice bath created by the kiddo’s

A: Flip the bread slices and add the desired amount of cheese to the browned side of the bread

K: Cover the pan with a lid or tinfoil if you do not have a lid that fits the large pan

K: Once you begin to see the cheese melting in the center of the bread slices lay the beet greens on two of the cheesy bread slices.

A: Flip the cheesy green bread onto its mirrored slice and center each of the sammies in the pan

A: Flip them one more time for even cooking and cover

B: They will not need more than a couple minutes to melt thoroughly so be ready with plates

B: Enjoy the heck out of the respectively healthy meal you have created together

Golden Beets Soup and Grilled Cheese Sammies: Shopping List

As you know, well that’s assuming you have seen any of our live-stream Daddy Daughter Cooking videos, we are a Dad and Daughter cooking duo. 

Watch the video here.

Mondays are usually our shopping days. But I should tell you, Tuesdays are usually better for shopping because it’s delivery day and produce is fresher. 

Kaia found a recipe for grilled cheese that she thought looked good, and grilled cheese always needs soup beside it. Before leaving for the store we had a general idea of what we wanted. The grilled cheese recipe called for gruyere and Swiss chard, and we were thinking Tomato Soup. Comfort food!

We started with this idea and headed out to Ralphs, our local grocery store. You could say Kaia and I are impulse “grocery” shoppers. About 90% of the time we don’t know what we want when we’re walking in. You could also say we’re inspired by what we see. It is kind of ridiculous how much time we spend in grocery stores and markets, but we love spending that extra time together.

Where do you shop?  

Have you been inspired while grocery shopping? If so, by what? Tell us in the comments below! 

We’re going to help you limit the time you waste walking aimlessly through your market by providing a shopping list for the upcoming recipe.

We always start in the produce department. The (conveniently located) organic produce section is our first stop. Kaia has been on a “beets kick” of late and I have jumped willingly on the beets bandwagon. We LOVE beets, all kinds of beets!

Kaia looked at me and said, “we can put our own twist on the grilled cheese and soup!” One of my first thoughts was, “Oh shit! I’m raising a cliché,” but she’s right, so we did. We put our own twist on it. We took the idea from that simple recipe card and did our own thing.

We picked up golden beets with the greens still on. We also picked up some cheddar and gruyere, chicken stock and other necessities, like bread. The full shopping list is below.

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At Ralph’s we picked up the following to feed 2-4 people:

1 bunch of Organic Golden Beets – Approximately 1 lb. each. Beets are really earthy in taste, but they have the ability to take on a lot of flavor when you cook them. We usually braise (cook low and slow) ours.

1 bag of peeled garlic – one of my least favorite things in the kitchen is pulling garlic from its skin. I’ll teach you a secret trick to doing this someday soon. Actually, the secret is: BUY BAGS OF PEELED GARLIC!

1 bag of small organic carrots – These will go into the broth with the herbs, spices and beets.

1 quart of Simply Organic Chicken Broth – Simply Organic has a few different types, we go with the low sodium, low fat. If you can’t find Simply Organic, any low sodium, low fat broth or stock will do.

1 lb block of Sharp Cheddar, Shredded, if you do not have a cheese grater – I guess I am old school, I am teaching my daughter that cheese is best when it’s whole and you do the grating.  I know it adds a little time, but we truly believe we can taste the difference.

8 oz block of Gruyere cheese – Gruyere is a type of Swiss cheese. We absolutely love Gruyere, It’s robust and is great on croissants, bagels, burgers etc:

1 loaf of thick cut white bread – we usually get bread cut for French toast – alas they did not have any this time, so we settled for an artesian pre-cut loaf.

1 Stick of unsalted butter – unsalted because you always want to be the one seasoning your food!