Monday, October 26, 2015

20 Freezer Meals for $65

To get the best deals, I started at Aldi.  For reasons why, and a detailed list of which stores offer the cheapest pricing on specific grocery items, here's my grocery research.  Aldi tops the list and Costco is a not-so-close second, followed by Jewel, Trader Joe, and Walmart (but there are a few items that each store has the best deals on).

I was able to purchase about half my list at Aldi:
-Basic veggies (carrots, onions, potatoes), all on sale for 50 to 75-cents per bag
-All canned veggies, all at about 50-cents a can
-marmalade and applesauce, at $1.50 each
-ground turkey, stew meat, bacon, frozen chicken breasts, chicken drumsticks
Total: $53.70

If you haven't been to Aldi in a year or so, take a look.  They now offer grassfed meat, freerange chicken broth, healthier dry goods (no artificial color, hydrogenated oils, or MSG in any product sold), and their produce has improved in freshness (still check your bags of potatoes and onions to be sure they're all ok).

Once I was done at Aldi, I checked the ads to find the best deals on meat (since that was the most expensive part).  Pork roasts, which I was unable to find at Aldi, were on sale Buy One Get One Free at Jewel, so I went there.  Strategy.

I bought the remainder of my list there, which included a lot of produce.  In-season produce is usually comparable prices no matter where you get it.  And I'm unwilling to compromise on soy sauce, hot sauce, and mustard, so I got the brands that I like even though they weren't on sale.  For containers, Walgreens had a great deal on gallon freezer bags, 15 bags for only 99-cents, so Jenny made a quick stop there and picked up 3 boxes.  (Still running through Nov 1st if you're interested)

The total for both stores came to $131.64, for both stores.  This was enough ingredients for 40 meals, which Jenny and I were preparing together and then splitting, so the total was roughly $65 per person for 20 meals each.

Roast Pork with Cranberry and Ginger

Buffalo-Style Chicken
Modifications: As with all recipes that follow, thaw the frozen bag overnight and then follow the recipe's original heating instructions.  Obviously, you are freezing just the buffalo chicken drumsticks and making the optional celery salad the day you cook the chicken :)

Hot Pepper Pork with Butternut Squash
Modifications: I thought 8oz of jelly for 4 servings was too much sugar (that would mean 1/4 cup jelly in each individual serving!), so I did this weird thing where I substituted pickled jalapenos and some honey for hot pepper jelly.  Not sure if it will work out.  If you're less sugar-phobic, you can just follow the recipe.

Braised Short Ribs with Korean BBQ Sauce
I combined this recipe and substituted the hoisin sauce with Gwyneth Paltrow's "Korean BBQ Sauce" recipe

Pork with Red Cabbage and Smoked Apple Puree
Lots of modifications: Too big to all fit in one gallon bag, so I added the pork and apple puree to one bag, and all the other ingredients to another bag.  Cabbage only keeps in the freezer for a month (it keeps in the fridge at least that long), so this was maybe a silly recipe to freeze?  I plan on baking the pork roast and slow-cooking the cabbage.  I wouldn't make this recipe again as a freezer-to-crockpot recipe.

Nikujaga: Japanese meat-and-potato stew
Modifications: Do not add potatoes or water to freezer bag.  Add them when you are adding the stew to the slowcooker.

Gwyneth Paltrow's Posole Soup
Modifications: do not add can of hominy to freezer bag, replace 5 cups broth with 4 tsps bouillon* and add 5 cups water when you reheat on stovetop.  Add hominy near the end of cooking.


Modifications: omitted shrimp (I don't think shrimp belong in a slow-cooker), omitted broth (replace with 2 tsp bouillon*, add 3 cups water when you put it in the slow-cooker), rice (add rice when you add to slow cooker)

White Bean and Chicken Chili
Modifications: Do not add cans of tomatoes or beans to freezer bag.  Add them while you are heating the soup.  The beans would get too mushy.

*bouillon: I use "Better Than Bouillon" these days, which gives a more natural flavor and uses less salt.

My Grocery List:
-12 tomatillos
-4 jalapenos
-4 lbs red cabbage
-2 granny apples
-1 bok choy
-8" fresh ginger
-1 bag matchstick carrots
-1 bag carrots
-2 bags onions
-1 bag celery
-1 lemon
-2 cups cranberries (couldn't find ANY, had to use canned)

-2 28-oz cans hominy
-1 can tomato paste
-4 14-oz cans tomatoes
-4 14-oz cans cannelini beans

-soy sauce
-2 jars chopped garlic in water
-stoneground mustard
-orange marmalade
-2 jars applesauce
-8 oz hot sauce
-dried cranberries

-2 lbs frozen butternut squash
-wonton wrappers (found next to tofu in produce aisle)

-6 lbs beef short rib
-2 lbs pork tenderloin
-1 lb stew pork
-4 3-lb pork roasts
-1 package bacon
-5 lbs chicken drumsticks
-6 chicken breasts
-1 lb ground turkey
-2 lbs turkey sausage

Note: I started with a pretty substantial pantry that I was willing to share.  Some things that I had on hand that others might not: dashi granules, gochujang, sake, chicken bouillon, vinegars (rice, cider), olive oil, sesame oil,  honey, brown sugar, and a lot of dried spices.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Some Before + Afters

Just checking in on the blog again, for those of you that haven't been able to come over yet or live too far away.  (Yes, we can finally entertain! Because the entire first floor is finished - and things are looking good!

Thought I'd do some "Before and After" comparisons....

Living Room Before:

Living Room After:

Dining Room Before:

Dining Room After:

Another view of living and dining room:

Foyer Before (!):

Foyer After:

Kitchen Before:

Upstairs Foyer Before:

Upstairs Foyer After:

Guest Bath Before:

Guest Bath After:

Well, that's what a year and a half of work brings!  It seemed like it would never end, but it is actually winding down.  Now we can be lazy (and save our pennies) for a few more projects (like the powder room/laundry room/basement).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Guest Bathroom Reveal!

We've finished the guest bathroom!  For such a small room, it was a fair bit of work.

Initially, in the early days, I peeled up a loose linoleum tile and scraped away the gunky adhesive and found white hexagon tiles.  Similar to these:
I was excited because I thought we could save it.  It was a bit of wishful thinking (why would a  landlord cover up perfectly good tile with sticky linoleum?), but I went for it anyway.  After a couple hours of scraping at linoleum and applying acetone to remove old adhesive, I discovered that it wasn't just white hexagon tiles, it was really a pattern of blue "flowers" like this floor has:

Also, it was cracked irreparably, and it was irresponsible to put adhesive linoleum over it anyway.

So, the vinyl was ripped up, the adhesive and cracked floor were leveled with some kind of concrete-like substrate, and I got my pick of tile.  I had gotten some reclaimed gray marble on Craigslist for a steal: $50 for 50 square feet, so we put that down, with oyster gray grout.  Our electrician's friend made a matching marble threshold which matched perfectly! It was also surprisingly inexpensive.
Showing off my pedicure (thank you MIL)
Laying a new floor isn't hard, but it does require removal of all bathroom appliances.  The toilet, sink, and radiator had to go.  We put the toilet and radiator back in when the floor was done (a toilet's a toilet), but the sink vanity was stained and dented. (Not to mention, the $30 Home Depot cheapo version in the first place)

We found this nice vanity at Home Depot - it was a little expensive compared to our usual, but I was still distraught over some things going dreadfully wrong with some salvaged materials (a gorgeous grey marble vanity top had broken in half in the basement, not that I had a base in mind for it).
I found the faucet for under $100 on Amazon, so I was able to get a bargain on that.  And I love it, it's perfect.

I completed the bathroom with some new Turkish linens and it looks great after its mini makeover!

Here's a quick "Before and After":

Turning a Secretary Desk into a Bar

About the same time we moved in to the house (May 2014), I was very passionate about finding antiques from the 1910s or 20s that would fit in with the style of the house.  I bought several things, one of which was an antique four-legged secretary desk that I estimated (based on Craigslist pictures) to be from the 1920s.  The conversation to purchase it went something like this: 
(i.e. How Not To Sell An Item on Craigslist)
Janelle: Hello, I'm calling about the secretary desk. What can you tell me about it?
Seller: Well, it's antique.  And it has one of the legs sawed off.
Janelle: What? That wasn't in the ad?
Seller: Yeah, we sawed one of the legs off.  You'd have to glue it back on.
Janelle: Is it a clean break?
Seller: No...
Janelle: Well, in light of that, would you take less money for it? $100?
Seller: No, price is non-negotiable.  $200.
Janelle: Alright, well, you have my number.  Give me a call in a couple of weeks when no one else wants it.
[Two weeks later]
Seller: Hello, are you still interested in the secretary cabinet?
Janelle: $75
Seller: OK, but are you sure? We're going to donate the money to the swim team....
Janelle: $75

So, two highly-technical applications of wood glue later, I was the owner of a 1920s secretary cabinet.  (The style of the metal hardware inside and the furniture company markings confirmed my assumptions about the era of the piece).  I had planned to put books inside, but as I already have two other shelves full of books, I couldn't think what to store inside the cabinet.  Meanwhile, all of our of liquor was very inconveniently stored in the basement or kitchen cabinets or the linen closet.  In the past apartment, I had laid out a bar on a midcentury record cabinet which didn't fit with the layout of our new house.

It all made sense though when I saw this picture:

It makes great sense from a liquor storage standpoint (dark, cool, dry environment) and gives me storage for all my miscellaneous stemware that can take up a lot of kitchen cabinet space.

I used the desk part as extra storage as well.   

Monday, October 19, 2015

Upstairs Foyer

We painted it Benjamin Moore "Shoreline" (#1471) just like the stairs.  The room is open to the stairs, and I'm obsessed with this clean pretty color that makes all the white woodwork pop without forfeiting a feeling of "whiteness".  See? It still reads to the eye like a white room!

I hung some Ikea curtains.  They're not perfect, but at least they're long enough.  Standard 84" curtains do not cut it in this house.  I need at least 96" sometimes 108".  I like that Ikea sells curtains of different lengths for a cheap price.

The room is primarily a thoroughfare, but I put a daybed there so that it can serve as an emergency 4th bedroom if need be.  Right now, I just like to read out there with the windows open on warm days.  It's so light and airy!

The scalloped-edge jacquard-quilted bedding cost me a whole $2 at the St Nick's Rummage Sale in Evanston.  It's truly a spectular event.  The lady next to me got there first and had her arms full of gorgeous heirloom quality embroidered queen-size duvet covers.  I was disappointed a little, but I found what I needed. Plus, I had gone to the furniture room first and beat everyone to a carved walnut slim-profile Victorian dresser with a marble top.  Very pleased with that purchase.  That sale is like Black Friday for antique-ers.  You have to move quickly!