African Peanut Stew and a Budget Boogaloo
I am officially one pay cycle into my New Years budgeting challenge and what an adventure! I have learned some hard truths about myself and my finances, but also learned some really great things.
First first, I made this amazing and slightly lighter take on an African peanut stew I like so if you don't care about budgeting and are just here for the food (which I would never fault you for, this delicious recipe is at the bottom of the blog and you're welcome to skip there:
First in my budgeting journey, the bad:
1) I food shop because I am bored and often don't have a plan.
There were about five times in the past two weeks where I found myself fantasizing about food shopping (or shopping at target... I'll include that as one or two of them) when I didn't ACTUALLY need anything. Like literally looking to buy bread when I have two different breads in my freezer right now. And yes, I know bread shouldn't really be in the freezer but I live alone and I can't eat it fast enough. Sue me. Or don't. Because I don't have that many assets for you to take. Instead I treated myself to an episode of chopped and see what I have around the house to make because really those episodes were me trying to occupy myself when I didn't have a goal to work toward or a plan for my evening.
2. I am paying $140 a month in credit card interest between my two credit cards.
This one made me barf. I finally looked at my Amazon card today (the bigger of the two) and saw "Thank you for your $150 payment" followed immediately by "-$116.10 interest charge" *insert mild panic*. Interest is a thing that I logically know exists in credit world, but it is easily ignored when it's one in a sea of small charges and doesn't exceed $30 on my other card. This one hurt. And it changed my priorities about what to pay down first. PNC card you are looking much better, but Amazon, you're my new priority to pay down 'cause ya interest rate blows.
Now the positive:
1. Budgeting is a fun challenge!
I really enjoyed trying to stay in my budget. Every amazing deal I got I felt like a small budgeting super hero. 5 pounds of Brussle sprouts for $8? come at me. It really made me prioritize my shopping lists, cut out extraneous things I might have reached for out of a whim, and TOTALLY made me check my cabinets first before going out shopping to see if I had it already or something like it. I even discovered a new whole sale grocery outlet near my house. It was a fun and insanely cheap adventure!
2. I waste SO much less food
My refrigerator used to be a produce cemetery. Now it's a much more functioning space where things are made in smaller quantities, come in, and are eaten efficiently. I've only wasted a half a bag of greens which is like a small fraction of a percent of the half eaten huge portions and too much produce I used to buy. I plan about two meals ahead and that's it. I don't have a family to worry about, but I would say that if you do, you could still plan 3 meals out or so and just make larger portions than I do.
(*above is a re-use of the cream sauce I made for my last blog entry with pasta I already had opened and used up some spinach I had laying around)
(* above is an open faced breakfast sandwich on a potato roll that was in a pack my boyfriend brought over and left so I froze them and used them with some tofu and more of that spinach to make a damn good breakfast)
3. I still go out but I can say no
I don't need to buy a meal. I eat ahead. I don't need a $8 glass of wine if a bottle of Natty Boh is $3 on draft. And if the beer has more calories, then I don't need more of them. It's still allowed me to go out to trivia with my friends, have a great time, but leave with a bill that's half the size it used to be.
And now for a budget friendly recipe I have made the past two weeks...
African Peanut Stew: Lighter style
I have made an African Peanut Stew before but this one does not include lentils and therefor is less dense than the original. The calories aren't massively lighter, but the end result was more like a squash soup with soft potatoes and less like a dense split pea texture.
The ingredients are simple, nutritious, and cheap, and the cooking time is less than a half hour.
- 1 large or two medium sweet potatoes (mine totaled 20 oz)
- 1 medium onion
- 1/2 a bunch of kale
- 3/4 cup powdered peanut butter (or 1/3 cup regular)
- 1 1/2 cup light coconut milk
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tsp chopped garlic (about 2 pieces)
- 1 inch ginger grated
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 3 Tbs Tamari
- 1 Tbs Olive Oil
Step 1: Turn soup pot or pan onto medium heat. Dice onions into 1/4 inch pieces and sauté in Olive Oil for 3-4 minutes or until translucent and starting to brown.
Step 2: Add in garlic, nutmeg, and ginger and stir for another minute. Then add tomato paste and stir until well mixed. If too thick, add vegetable broth to water down paste.
Step 3: Add remaining broth and coconut milk and bring to a boil while you chop sweet potatoes into half inch chunks (or slightly bigger, no one's watching). When broth is boiling add sweet potato chunks and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 4: While soup is boiling, break kale into bite sized pieces. At the end of the boil time, check that sweet potatoes are soft and mash about half the sweet potatoes to create a thick base. Then add kale and stir in. Let sit for a minute and stir again until kale is wilted. Let cool and enjoy!
Nutritional information: Servings 4, serving size about 1 3/4 cups. Calories 359, Fat 14.8 g, Fiber 9.1 g, Protein 15.4 g, Carbohydrates 46.9 g
Happy eating and let me know if you have any tips for cheap eats or cooking in small quantities!