My favorite section is the cheese section. Fantastic selection - from goat cheeses to mozzarella to manchego, etc -- and at such great prices. Great prices for olive oil and vinegars, too. Great prices on their almond butters and jams, too.
I love their Ethiopian coffee, and I swear by their lemon echinacea drink when I have a cold.
TJ's produce usually is not great but recently it has improved a lot (perhaps they've been using local farmers?). Their tomatoes and Persian cucumbers have been terrific lately.
I luuurves their almond butter with roasted flaxseed on a good bread with some pear slices--my version of PB and J.
"Nature is a damp, inconvenient sort of place where birds and animals wander about uncooked."
from Speedy Death
To me, a big part of being able to cook good tasting meals at home is having a well stocked pantry. If you are trying a new recipe and have to buy the cumin, the chili powder and the paprika, you will easily add $10 or more to your bill. Then you just want to say "forget it!".
A well stocked pantry also lets you throw a meal together when you are rushed or tired. A bag of rice, some frozen veggies and a good stir fy sauce make a healthy and filling meal.
The Minimalist column in the NY Times has great "throw together" meal ideas and pantry suggestions.
Jamie Olivers website is a good source of simple but healthy meals as well.And some of the recipes from Jamie at Home can be tweaked to make larger amounts of things.
As for Trader Joe's ... I agree on the quality & healthyness (and yummyness), but I certainly wouldn't call them cheap! Admitedly I'm not super familiar with them since we don't have them here and I only shop there when I go over the border, but I've found them to be quite expensive. More in the "gourmet & treats" category than everyday budget eating.
To me, "budget eating" is making your own food from "real" ingredients: fresh fruit & veg, beans, nuts, and grains.
Sure, but cheese is the most expensive (and most fat- and salt-laden) dairy option. Milk and yogurt are both considerably less expensive.Also, most parents are going to want to give their kids some dairy products even if they are on a tight budget.
Don't get me wrong, I loves my cheese! And a little strong cheese used sparingly can add a lot of flavour & richness to a budget meal. But it's not economical to use as a significant source of protein and/or calcium.
Artemis, in terms of price, I think one big difference between Canada and the United States, especially for people who have kids, is that most milk here is produced using hormones and you have to pay a premium if you don't want to have milk with hormones. People I know who don't buy premium anything, buy the hormone-free milk because they don't feel comfortable giving their kids the hormones and antibiotics found in most of our milk. Maybe it's the import rules, but it's much easier to find affordable hormone-free cheese, and Trader Joe's is particularly good in that regard.
Last edited by Allskate; 01-28-2011 at 10:25 PM.
"Michelle would never be caught with sausage grease staining her Vera Wang." - rfisher
What is the consensus of Aldi's? I buy olive oil, salt and pepper grinders and name brand Chicago deep dish pizza (when they have it) there. Yes, I am one of the few paying cash and not with a Bridge card but their prices really are good. They also have Buffalo Mozzerella for $2.99 same brand as my grocer for $6.00. Is is just a midwest thing?
"awwww....shades of Janet Lynn" - Dick Button on anyone who makes more than one mistake in their program.
I couldn't find the pantry suggestions on the NYT site
I'm making slow cooked mushroom and artichoke lasagna for a lasagna party tonight - 5 different kinds on lasagna in one night
I never buy jarred spices at the grocery store - as stated upthread, they're expensive to the point of zapping any desire to cook. Instead, I get them either at Fresh Market or at the Farmer's Market in NE Atlanta - both places have small bags and sell them by the ounce at a fraction of the cost for the ones in jars. I buy salt, pepper, and granulated garlic at Big Lots - they have large plastic "jars" for a buck apiece. Big Lots is also a place where I stock up on certain sundries and canned goods - $1.25 will buy a ginormous back of pretzels, and they also carry 6-packs (16.9 oz. bottles) of Gerolsteiner sparkling mineral water for $3.50.
- 1.5 lbs. ground beef (since the fat is drained off, it's a waste of $$ to use chuck, round, or lean/xlean)*
- 2 medium white onions, sliced
- 2 large green bell peppers (or 1 each of green and red bell peppers)
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 14 oz. can of mushroom stems and pieces, drained and rinsed
- Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
- Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce (to taste)
- black pepper
- salt (optional - I leave it out as there's plenty of salt/sodium in other ingredients)
- granulated garlic
- 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup (regular or reduced sodium)
- 1 16 oz. container Sour Cream (regular or lite, but never fat free )
- 1 12 oz. package of wide egg noodles
- plain (unseasoned) dry bread crumbs (optional)
- grated parmesan cheese (optional)
*If red meat isn't your thing, you can substitute ground turkey for the ground beef. It does, however, change the overall texture of the dish, and IMO, it doesn't taste as good. But hey, that may be just me
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Put large pot of water on to boil for noodles.
3. When water has a good rolling boil, add noodles. Keep an eye on them so that they don't overcook.
4. In a large skillet, brown ground beef, onions, peppers, garlic, shallot, and mushrooms. As it's cooking, season with Worcestershire, hot sauce, pepper, and granulated garlic.
5. Drain fat. Put cooked meat mixture into a VERY large mixing bowl.
6. When noodles are ready (tender but not mushy), drain in colander, then shock pasta to stop cooking process. Add to mixing bowl.
7. Gently stir meat and noodles together. Add the Cream of Mushroom soup and 10 oz. of sour cream, gradually adding more SC until reaching desired creaminess (some people don't like a lot of it, while others want a super-duper creamy texture)
8. Add 2 tbsp. each of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Again, these can be adjusted to taste - I like mine on fire, so there's a lot more than 2 tbsp . Add black pepper to taste.
9. Pour into casserole dish. Mixture should be 2 ½ - 3 inches deep. When I make this, I usually have to use 1 large and 1 medium-sized dish.
10. Top with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese (optional - although it ads flavor, I often leave this out as it's extra calories and fat)
11. Bake, covered for 45 minutes (if one large dish). For smaller dishes, bake for ½ hour. Remove lid and continue cooking for 15 more minutes.
Let sit for 3-5 minutes before serving. Goes great with a salad.
If I don't want or need to cook all of it at one time, I use disposable aluminum tins, putting 3 servings into each one and then freezing them. When I want to cook one, I let it thaw out for about 3 hours before putting it in the oven.
ETA: I've never written or typed this recipe out, and after looking at it on "paper" for the first time, I realized it looks like a tedious, time-consuming PITA, but I can attest that it's not . The prep time is pretty low - Before starting, I put all the ingredients on the counter so they're right there when I need to grab one. I put the water on to boil, and while it's heating, I slice the onions and shallots, core and slice the peppers, and peel and chop the garlic. Very low-maintenance .
Last edited by Cyn; 01-29-2011 at 11:25 AM.
"One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain."~~Thomas Sowell
About the pantry items ... you have to the search within the NYT column for the list. I just looked at it again I found it to be a bit trendy/pricey.
I like this list. Just buy one or two things every time you go to the store and you'll have a great pantry in no time.
Just read over the NYT list. I always have chicken, beef, and veggie stock on hand and a decent selection of baking spices/staples. My pantry staples include paprika, dried mustard, McCormick steak, chicken, and lemon spices, oregano, bread crumbs, soy sauce, and the standard salt & pepper grinders. Fridge staples besides veggies/fruits are parm cheese, Trader Joe's shredded cheeses, tortillas, and minced garlic. Found frozen 1 tsp. basil cubes at TJs, they're easy to pop into soups & defrost quickly for when I make pizza or baked ziti.
At least where I live, I can find Asian cooking ingredients for a lot less at Asian grocery stores.