Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 6: Don’t Be Penny-Wise

zero food waste challenge 2015The challenge continues, more or less undaunted! I threw away my first complete piece of food while traveling, a little cup of salsa that I got with a quesadilla. There were a couple of times while eating out that I couldn’t quite finish, but I don’t think leaving a few gnocchi or the end of a sandwich counts, right? I mostly did pretty well on not ordering what I couldn’t eat. And the one time there was way too much, I took half of it home and actually managed to remember to eat it the next day. Also had great success not buying excess snacks in a panic. I’m calling it mostly a food waste win. And now I’m back home, so here’s this week’s tip, my grocery list, and a recipe for a flavorful, filling, pretty healthy chicken stew.

No-Waste Food Tip #4: Don’t Be Penny-Wise

I don’t usually ladder non-perishables like almonds, but in this case I wanted to get a mistake eaten and out of the house ASAP. I bought a bag of whole almonds because they were on sale; I think I saved $2 over buying what I actually wanted, which were the sliced almonds. This was ridiculous since (a) basically everything I want almonds for, I want them sliced and (b) it is not really possible to slice whole almonds yourself; the best I can do is a rough chop that ends up with some that are practically whole and some that are nearly powdered. Obviously I wasn’t going to trash them, but I kind of wanted to use them up so I could move on. So, on Monday night I chopped and toasted about 2/3 of the bag (everything that was left after I used some before my trip) and I stirred some into my oatmeal, some into a kale salad I made to eat for dinner, and some into the chicken stew (below). Why is this a no-waste food tip? Because I’m reminding myself not to buy stuff I don’t actually want to eat, just because it’s a little cheaper than what I really want! When I don’t really want something, I have a tendency to let it languish. So, I powered through these almonds and from now on I’ll get the kind I actually want, which will inspire me to use them. 🙂

Grocery List

Because I got back from my trip late Sunday evening, I shopped on Monday afternoon and had to cook that night — generally I shop Saturday and cook either Saturday or Sunday. So I wanted something that would be relatively low labor and relatively fast; I remembered that the recipe below called for a whole cooked chicken, and figured I’d buy a rotisserie chicken at Whole Foods to lop an hour off the prep time. Also since I was in a hurry, I just did all my shopping there instead of splitting it between there and the regular grocery store like I normally do. It wasn’t too bad — not my cheapest week ever, but not my most expensive either. And the key is I stayed inside my $60 cash for the week!

Chicken broth, $1.99
Coconut milk, $2.69 (ouch; there must be a way to get this cheaper)
Tomato paste, $1.19
2 cans of fire roasted tomatoes, $4.00
Quinoa, $4.49
Steel-cut oatmeal, $3.39
Butternut squash, $3.40
Curry powder (bulk), $.40
Sweet potatoes, $4.11
bag of clementines, $4.98
milk, $2.39
scallions, $1.49
kale, $2.00
feta cheese, $3.77
rotisserie chicken, $9.00
Total: $48.82

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Butternut Squash Soup
adapted from Kitchen Konfidence

This is a really great, bold stew with lots of intense flavors. It’s a paleo recipe and it’s one of the few things that actually do fill me up without bread/rice/pasta/etc. I like to take it to work for lunch because it’s kind of exciting to have in the middle of the day 🙂 The main change I made from the original recipe was to boost the amounts of sweet potatoes and squash so that it’s more stew-like than soup-like; I also messed with the amounts and types of a bunch of other ingredients, but I think those are less dramatic changes than the call for more bulky ingredients.

smallish yellow onion, peeled and sliced
approximately 1.5 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
approximately 1.5 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp tomato paste
1.5 tsp ground ginger
about 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic (or just approximate; I used four cloves)
1.5 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tbsp fresh if you have it)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 cups chicken stock
1 14.5-oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can light coconut milk
Meat from one cooked chicken, shredded (or approximate, obviously)
1/3 cup almond butter
2.5 tbsp red wine vinegar
six scallions, peeled and chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
toasted almonds

In a large pot, heat some oil (I used olive; original recipe suggested coconut or canola) over medium heat and saute the onion until translucent, about 4-5 minutes, with a pinch of salt. Add the sweet potatoes and squash and turn the heat up a bit; also add black pepper to taste and another pinch of salt, and stir to coat everything in oil. Cook about 7-8 min or until the squash and sweet potatoes soften, stirring every now and then.

Meanwhile, in a bowl assemble the curry powder, ginger, garlic, and thyme, and open the chicken stock, tomatoes, and coconut milk so they’re ready to go. Add the bowl of spices, along with the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce, to the pot and cook on high heat, stirring, for a minute or so until everything smells really good 🙂 Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and coconut milk, stir, and let it come to a rolling simmer (just shy of boiling) then stir in the almond butter and chicken and turn the heat down and let the stew simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in the red wine vinegar, scallions (you can reserve some greens for garnish if you like), and cilantro. Cook for a few more minutes, then taste and add more vinegar and/or salt if necessary. Serve topped with toasted almonds.

14 thoughts on “Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 6: Don’t Be Penny-Wise

  1. If you find a way to slice almonds, let me know! Keep up the no-waste!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I’m giving up and buying them pre-sliced! 🙂

  2. Chonce says:

    I’m impressed with how healthy and simple you eat and I can see how it really helps save money at the grocery store. I’ve had a whole chicken in my freezer for a few weeks now and I’ve been so clueless as to how to work it into a recipe and what to do with it.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      You should try this! It’s actually really easy — the hardest part is pulling all the ingredients out 🙂 Eating healthily has definitely been a long long work in progress for me — I’ve made a few big strides forward at various moments but I think it’s really all coming together now. It’s like personal finance; you don’t have to fix everything at once, you just have to start somewhere!

  3. Nikki says:

    I am seriously impressed with how simple your grocery shopping is! I know there’s a difference between shopping for one person and 3 but dang! I wish mind was that simple!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      There is a big difference between one and three! I really only shop for enough stuff for two big main dishes (lunch and dinner) a week, plus oatmeal and coffee when I run out (usually alternating weeks) 🙂 Also keep in mind I use some pantry stuff every week — this week I used the almonds and dried cranberries I already had, plus Worcestershire sauce, almond butter, and a few other things for the chicken stew. Anyway, thanks for the comment — I love your blog’s URL will definitely check it out.

  4. I too am impressed by how you are able to keep the grocery bill down – keep it up!

    And almonds are good in EVERYTHING…salad, cookies, oatmeal, more cookies

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I love almonds! I just like them in a different format than the ones I bought 🙂 Keeping the grocery bill down is pretty easy when you’re just one person, I think. I don’t have to please anyone but myself, and I don’t eat that much (not a teenage boy) so that helps too.

  5. Christine says:

    That soup sounds delicious! I love anything with coconut milk in it but you’re right, it can be pretty expensive to buy. There’s cheaper coconut milk at Chinese grocery stores for about $1-$1.50 each and I try to stock up when I’m there.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      That’s a good idea — there’s a general Asian market downtown and I always forget about it.

  6. Jenna says:

    That recipe looks delicious! You’re doing a great job with your challenge!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      It’s super good, I highly recommend it (either the original, or with my tweaks.) And thanks 🙂

  7. This is so intriguing to me! Thanks for sharing, and great job!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you’re enjoying the series. I’m really enjoying writing it. 6 weeks down, 46 to go!

Comments are closed.