The holidays bring lots of festive fun and time with family and friends, but they can also mean extra expenses. I love it when I get the chance to prepare special meals and plan parties, but it can get very expensive. Grocery stores often offer sales and specials around the holidays that can help if you know how to use them.
Here are some tips to help you spend smart while you shop for holiday cooking.
- Check your cupboards and refrigerator before you shop. Holiday cooking sometimes involves ingredients we do not use very often. Knowing what you have will help you avoid buying a duplicate while you shop.
- A sale price only saves you money if you know you will use the item you purchase. Avoid buying food products just because they are on sale if they are not part of your meal plan. That could lead to wasted food and money.
- Remember that sales are used as advertising for a product. The sign may be large and inviting, but the price may not be as good as it seems. Check the unit price to make sure it is really saving you money. You can learn more about unit pricing on our website and our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app has a unit price calculator built into it. You can download the app free from your app store.
- Occasionally stores will have deep discounts on holiday items like turkeys or hams immediately before and after a holiday. I review the grocery store ads to make my meal plan for a couple of weeks after the holiday. This allows me to work these discounted items into my plan and know they will not go to waste.
I hope these tips help you save a bit of money and stress this holiday season.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team!
At our Thanksgiving meal there is always too much food and an abundance of leftovers. There is just something about the holiday that compels us to cook and cook and cook. Which brings us to our November recipe of the month – Turkey Vegetable Quiche. This recipe is the perfect way to use up some of your leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
Start with a pie crust – you can buy one during the pre-Thanksgiving sales or you can make an extra when you make your holiday pies. Prepare the crust then fill it with sautéed vegetables, leftover turkey, and eggs that are beaten with milk and seasonings. Top everything with a sprinkle of cheese and bake for about 35 minutes. Make sure to let this quiche rest outside of the oven for about 5 minutes to make it easier to slice and serve.
This quiche tastes great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Enjoy!
Pardon the goofy title, but this week we’re talking sweet…potatoes that is! Have you given sweet potatoes a try? If you are unsure about them,it might help to think beyond the casserole with marshmallows on the top. They can be used in many of the same ways as white potatoes. They are delicious roasted, mashed, baked or even as French fries.
Choosing sweet potatoes is simple. Their skins should be relatively smooth with few dents and the flesh of the potato should be firm. Avoid potatoes with cracks, soft spots or sprouts. Sweet potatoes usually last for a month or so when stored in a cool dark area.
It is perfectly safe to eat sweet potatoes skin. Just give them a good scrub and enjoy. Our Sweet Potato Produce Basics publication has all of the info you need to choose, clean and prepare sweet potatoes.
Stay tuned throughout this month while we share more reasons why we are sweet on sweet potatoes!
Peppers are one of my favorite veggies. During the winter, I buy them at the grocery store most weeks. During the summer, I love to grow them myself. They are rich in vitamin C, low in calories and add lots of flavor to whatever I am cooking.
You can grow peppers in pots or in the ground. If you choose to use a pot, you’ll want it to be at least two gallons in size for a single pepper plant and you may want to use a dowel or stake to support your plant as it grows.
Keep in mind that most peppers start green and some varieties ripen to be yellow, orange, red or purple. The Iowa State University gardening experts have a publication that will help you pick the pepper type that is best for you. Peppers that are not green tend to be much more expensive. You can save a lot of money by growing peppers yourself, but be prepared that peppers that are not green will need more time on the plant to change colors, which means you may lose more to rot, pests or weather damage.
I hope you will give a pepper plant a try this summer. If you would like some tips on cutting up whole peppers, we have a video to get you started.
Last week Christine shared about how she grows greens in containers on her patio. This week I am going to share about my gardening experiences with tomatoes. My family and I have a pretty large garden in our back yard. We usually fill about half of it with tomato plants because we love to eat them fresh and make them into tomato juice to enjoy all year long.
This “Tomatoes” growing guide is a great read if you are interested in trying some tomatoes in your garden this year or if you would like to improve the health and yield of your tomato plants. Here are some practical tips I have picked up as I have experimented with growing tomatoes in my own garden:
- Choose the right varieties of tomatoes for my garden. This one takes a little trial and error. I have found that Better Boy and Super Sweet 100 tomatoes grow best in my garden.
- Plant tomatoes between May 15th and June 1st. After May 15th, I should be able to avoid frost killing my plants. If I get my plants in before June 1st, I can enjoy a longer growing season and a higher yield.
- Use tomato cages. Large, tall tomato cages allow the plants to grow big, healthy, and strong. They are also easier to manage than tomatoes that are staked up or tomatoes that are allowed to grow along the ground.
Thankfully, you do not need a large garden to enjoy growing fresh tomatoes at home. Depending on the plant size, tomatoes can be grown in 2-4 gallon containers. The Container Vegetable Gardening guide gives ideas for the variety of tomato that would be best for your home.
I hope you can get outside and enjoy gardening this year!
Silly title -I know – but Spring has sprung here in Iowa and I am so excited to start growing some food on my back patio. Getting my herbs and vegetables planted is such a fun way to celebrate the warmer weather. Fresh veggies from the garden taste so good and growing your own food saves serious money.
I do not have space to plant a garden in the ground, so I use planters and pots on my patio. It is amazing how much food you can grow in a tiny space. There will be a point this summer when I can barely keep up with it!
Salad greens grow very well in containers. Here are some steps to get you started!
- Review the Iowa State University Container Vegetable Gardening Guide. It has all of the basics to help you get started.
- Choose a large pot (1 gallon minimum) with drainage holes.
- Put a layer of rocks or gravel in the bottom and then fill with potting soil.
- Use your finger to create a trench about one inch deep and sprinkle seeds about every inch in the trench. Repeat this process with an additional row or two leaving 4 inches between rows.
- Put your pot where bunnies and deer cannot get it. They love lettuce and they will eat it!
- Water the soil (not the leaves) as often as necessary to keep it moist. It does not need to be soaking wet, but should not get completely dry either. I typically water my vegetable containers every 1-2 days during the heat of the summer.
- After about three weeks, you will have leaves to harvest. Clip the leaves, leaving the plant base behind. The plant will grow more leaves!
This month our blogs are all about growing your own fruits and vegetables. We hope you’ll find some good ideas whether you’re just starting out or a certified green thumb. Please comment on our Facebook page or tweet us and let us know your favorite things to grow!
Our May recipe of the month is sure to get you in the mood for spring produce if you are not already. A salad of spring greens (spinach, leaf lettuce, or Swiss chard), chopped spring vegetables (broccoli or snow peas), and chopped spring fruit (strawberries or pineapple) tastes delicious with our homemade Orange Dressing.
Our homemade Orange Dressing is made of ingredients that are easily found in most kitchens. This recipe needs only four ingredients – orange juice, vinegar, sugar, and oil. Pour them into a container with a tight fitting lid and shake until the ingredients are combined. Then use this tasty dressing to top a salad made with your favorite springtime produce.
Orange Dressing with Fruit and Greens
Each spring I love watching the plants pop up out of the ground. Some days I feel like I can see the plants growing in my yard. Now that we are in April, more and more fresh spring produce is popping up in the stores and in gardens.
Buying fruits and vegetables that are in season gets you the tastiest produce for the least cost. Here are some fruits and vegetables that are in season in the spring:
- Asparagus – snap off the woody ends and grill, steam, or roast.
- Broccoli – cut into florets and eat raw, steam, or roast.
- Rhubarb – eat only the reddish stalk; find out more on the AnswerLine Blog.
- Snow peas – eat raw or add to stir-fry.
- Spinach – eat in a salad, top off a sandwich, or add to a smoothie.
- Strawberries – eat on their own or as a topping to your favorite dessert.
I hope you get to enjoy some fresh spring produce this week!
Recently my son brought home a card from school to keep track of the fruits and veggies he eats. Our local hospital does a program at the elementary schools to encourage the kids to be active and eat fruits and vegetables. If the kids eat 50 fruits and vegetables by a certain date, they get a special token.
As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, my son does not eat many vegetables. Some raw carrots, some roasted sweet potatoes, and maybe some spinach leaves with a bit of ranch. However, maybe he’ll branch out a bit to get that special token!
One vegetable that I’m going to use in our meals the next few weeks is broccoli. It’s in season during the Spring so is a good time to buy it. I’m thinking I will serve it raw with hummus or a bit of ranch dressing. I may also serve it cooked as part of our Cheesy Pasta with Summer Veggies. Hopefully Parker will give it a try one of these ways and we can mark it on his chart!
You can save money by buying broccoli in whole heads rather than pre-cut pieces. If you’re not sure how to cut broccoli, watch our new video How to Prepare Broccoli.
Yes, we do! Spend Smart. Eat Smart. is now available as an app. The brand new, free mobile app puts healthy eating and cost saving tools in the palm of your hand at the grocery store. These new tools on the app make it easier to eat healthy and stick to your budget.
- Unit Price Calculator: You will never have to wonder which product is a better buy again. The calculator will do unit price calculations with ease.
- Produce Basics: Review nutrition, selection, storage, cleaning and preparation information for a wide variety of fresh produce.
- Recipe Finder: Keep track of your favorite recipes from the website.
Download for free today from your app store!