Thursday, November 20, 2008

Staying Afloat in a Sinking Economy

Our family economy began to plummet long before the stock market fell. Neither Dave nor I ever brought in a large income, and we knew that when we had kids we wanted one of us to be home with that child for at least the first year. So now we're supporting 3 people on half of what we used to use to support 2.

Believe it or not, we're doing it. And it's not that hard (save for months like this one when we moved and just got back from a trip). Here are some things that have helped us.

1. Make a budget and stick to it. We have a certain amount we can spend on food each week. If we spend less than that, the leftover money goes in a "takeout" pot. When we've saved enough in the "takeout" pot, we can order takeout.
2. We only order takeout when we've saved up enough. That usually means 2 times a month. Otherwise, we cook. (This is good for your weight, also.)
3. We use cloth diapers and make as much of our own baby food as possible. I can't tell you how much those two things really help.
4. We make more food than we can eat for dinner and eat the leftovers for lunch. We also have one leftover night each week (I stole that from my thrifty, organized sis). This also helps with that guilt you have when you're throwing out perfectly good food that you should have eaten.
5. We have 2 - 3 vegetarian nights each week. Vegetarian food is much cheaper and often much better for your health.
6. We make a menu of all the food we plan to eat in the coming week and then create a shopping list. We use as many coupons as we can find to help us both develop our menu and choose brands. This idea was also stolen from my sister (thanks, Nora).
7. Finally, since we used to be takeout FIENDS, we've started cooking more international foods at home to satisfy our cravings. You'd be surprised how easy many of those dishes are, and of course if you make it yourself you can control the fat content, etc. I'm going to start sharing some of my favorites, because although I don't yet write my own recipes, I'm a pro at adapting ones I find to include ingredients I can actually find.

Below is my adapted recipe for Channa Masala, my favorite Indian dish. If you're outside of the NYC Metro Area, you may have some trouble finding the spices, but do look around for them. This is so cozy and delicious, it's worth it!

Channa Masala

1 T. Vegetable oil
2 medium onions – minced
1 clove garlic – minced
1 T. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. tumeric
6 T. chopped tomatoes (about one small can -- make sure to get unseasoned)
1 cup water
2 15 oz. cans chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 tsp. tandoori masala powder
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garam masala powder
½ tsp. salt
½ lemon – juiced
2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. chili powder

Heat oil under medium high heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until beginning to brown.

Turn heat to medium. Add coriander, cumin, cayenne and tumeric and stir.

Add tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes are lightly browned.

Add chickpeas and water and stir. Turn the heat up to medium high so you get a slight bubble.

Add tandoori masala, paprika, garam masala, salt and lemon juice. Turn the heat back down to medium/medium low and cover. Cook for 10 minutes.

Remove cover and add ginger and chili powder. Stir uncovered for 30 seconds.

Serve with basmati rice steamed with whole cardamom seeds and butter/margarine. You can also chop some cucumber and add it to plain yogurt (I recommend Greek yogurt) to make a delicious condiment. This dish can be SPICY!

1 comment:

Holly said...

Randi, this is a fantastic post! Extremely useful info. It reminds me of what I learned in my grad student days about how you can live richly on not that much if you're resourceful and plan ahead!