Week in Groceries

Calling all grocery shopping cart voyeurs!

Am I the only one who thinks it’s super interesting to see what other people buy during their grocery shopping trip? I hope not, because this post is allllll about groceries.

As I’ve mentioned before, where I shop for groceries is mostly a matter of convenience. I don’t have a car, so if the store in question is more than .5 miles away, I probably don’t shop there regularly. This is the same principle that keeps me away from Target (thank heavens) and, until Saturday, Trader Joe’s.

The funny thing is, both of these places are actually only 2 miles from my house. Could totally bike there if I wanted…but I don’t. So Safeway and Groc Out it is.

I decided to wander outside my norm this weekend. I batted my eyelashes at T-Man and asked if he’d drive me to Trader Joe’s…And I had every intention of just buying some “bulk” items at TJ’s, then biking the (gasp) 20 blocks, or 1.6 miles to get the rest of my produce at the Sunday Farmers Market bright and early the next day.

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Needless to say, the Farmer’s Market never happened.

I was really surprised at how cheap TJ’s in season produce (cauliflower, broccoli, oranges) was. Soo I piled it in.

It had been over a week since my last grocery haul, and this was a big “stock-up” trip for me, as I recently ran out of essentials like rice, quinoa, lentils, etc. Even T-Man found a couple of things he liked (he has been RAVING about their lobster ravioli that he found in the refrigerated section).

So here’s what I got:

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Produce: Cara Cara oranges, kiwis, onions, a russet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, bag of baby lettuce mix, and a bag of pre-cut kale (this stuff is amazing. So much more tender than full leaf kale)

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Bulk items & Dairy: lentils, quinoa, hybrid corn/flour tortillas, brown jasmine rice (this 3 lb bag lasts me over 6 months!), a can of beans (I already had black & garbanzo beans at home) plain Greek yogurt, flavored nonfat Greek yogurt (I tried 1 so far which wasn’t fantastic, but the price was right), and eggs.

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These are two new-to-me products I was really excited about because I’m a food nerd I’ve never spotted them at Safeway before: red lentils and quinoa! I always get green lentils, or plain old quinoa. I haven’t tried the lentils yet, but the quinoa was yummo 😀

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Miscellaneous: tortilla chips (these are DELISH), Luna bars, almond butter, chicken broth, peppermint tea, and light coconut milk

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I spent a lot of time looking through all the protein and nutrition bars, and settled on my tried and true Luna Bars. So many bars are too high in calories and fat, or don’t have enough overall nutrition for me to justify buying them. And the ones that did were all superexpensive. So Lunas it is! I haven’t tried the Chocolate-dipped Coconut or Peanut Butter Cookie before. YUM!

And my grand total (which I’m predicting will last me nearly 2 weeks) only came out to: $54.28!

I was really surprised at how little I spent for so much stuff! Lots of things (coconut milk, tea, yogurt) were actually cheaper at TJ’s than Safeway. And I probably saved a lot by avoiding the frozen/refrigerated aisle.

Also, I had another one of my famous “weird illogical theories” (dubbed so by T-Man of course :-P), I was convinced it would be cheaper to make almond butter than buy a jar.

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I quickly ditched my 1 lb, $6.99 bag of almonds for the MUCH cheaper $5.99 jar. Those almonds would have hardly made one cup of butter!

So what have I made with these groceries?

I made a vague meal plan for the week. Check it:

Breakfast: Used the plain yogurt I bought, and frozen fruit and granola I already had, to made a batch of Lindsay’s Frozen Yogurt Bars. Those bars plus my yogurt cups and Fiber One brownies will suffice for two weeks worth of breakfasts! And if I run out, there’s always oatmeal at the office. 🙂

Lunch and dinner:

Monday: burrito bowl for lunch (black beans, broccoli, hot sauce & tortilla), Kale & Broccoli pasta dish for dinner

Tuesday: leftover pasta for lunch, happy hour & drinks for dinner {I ended up having fries & wine, haha, so I supplemented it with fruit & a Luna bar!}

Wednesday: burrito bowl for lunch (with chicken this time), some kind of lentil + coconut milk dish for dinner

Thursday: lunch with a friend, leftover lentil dish for dinner after dodgeball game

Friday: Wing it! Bike home for lunch, or if not enough time, have emergency soup cup at the office. Make nice dinner with T-Man?

While this isn’t a full list of what I eat every day (there’s been at least one snack of leftover crackers + cheese from my office’s reception each day, plus dessert and other random snacks), I usually stick to a plan much like this…e.g. make dinner Monday and Wednesday, eat leftovers for lunch the next day.

Since I’m just about over my cold, my workouts have been pretty scattered. Usually, I plan my workout days first, then my meals…That way, I know to plan for protein-packed meals on workout days. This week, I’ve just been cookin’ with what I have, and supplementing my meals when I should.

Do you meal plan?

Do you create a weekly fitness plan?

Do you like Trader Joe’s, or do you like Trader Joe’s?

Weekend in Photos

Happy ( 😦 ) Monday, everybody. Here I am at my weekly attempt to scrape together a blog post before my bosses roll in (usually around 9:30 or 10) and start giving me my chores projects for the day. It’s interesting, I work from 8:30-5:30, but 10am-6pm are really the busiest hours of the day. So my first few hours of work are usually pretty relaxed. Plenty of time to enjoy a good breakfast!

The weekend wasn’t half bad either:

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On Friday, I left work early to go to visit my Grandma with my parents. We stopped at a rest stop in Vallejo because my mom and I have bladders the size of peas ~truth~. My aunt was in town from Connecticut and the 5 of us went out to a Japanese restaurant in Novato called Masa’s for dinner. It was unfortunately not great, and the rolls were tiny for the price. But it was still nice to go out! Then my Grandma and I watched the episode of Downton Abbey with the TURK. Bahahaha.

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Because Safeway is 4 blocks from my apartment and Groc Out is 2 blocks away, they tend to be my grocery go-to’s. Welp, this weekend my super boyfriend drove us the extra mile (literally, it’s just 1 mile from his place) to Foodie Mecca, Jr…. Trader Joe’s! (The title of Foodie Mecca, Sr. is reserved for Whole Foods of course, haha)

I hadn’t gone grocery shopping in nearly two weeks, and was due to stock up on some essentials (rice, quinoa, legumes, etc) so I kiiiinda went crazy. Expect another Week in Groceries post to come soon 🙂

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Later, we watched our friends compete in the dodgeball league’s annual Flip Cup tournament…we didn’t get enough people together in time and, let’s face it, I’m just not in flip cup shape anymore when it comes to drinking! The two teams comprised of all our friends ended up facing off in the finals 🙂

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Yesterday, my brother and I finally made it to a Kings game. He was a coach in our YMCA’s Jr NBA league and all the participants got free tickets to the Kings vs. Bobcats game. Unfortunately, we were both still pretty sickly from last week’s colds (Andrew more than me, as you can tell from his not-so-pleased face and cup holder full of Kleenex!).

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The Kings are kind of a big deal ’round these parts. What you see there is Mayor Kevin Johnson giving this interview at halftime. On Thursday, he announced the two rich guys (whales) who are hoping to buy the Kings from the Maloof family so they don’t sell the team to Seattle buyers. KJ has garnered quite a coalition of community donors who want in on the team, hopefully the league sees what a great basketball city Sacramento is!

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The Kings didn’t do too badly either…they ended up blowing the Bobcats out by nearly 40 points 🙂

Have a great week!

Who’s the home-team favorite in your town?

Meatless Monday: Late Autumn Grain Blend

Told you guys I had something for you this Monday! Remember my summer skillet? I thought it was pretty freckin good as is: Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend with summer vegetables like zucchini and tomatoes and just a touch of white wine and basil. (OK, it WAS pretty good!)

However, I came up with a winter version (err…apparently it’s still technically autumn…) that I think might top it!

Unfortunately, I made this at night so the pictures aren’t great. But it made a delicious and festive lunch and, just like many grains, is great warm or cold.

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If you haven’t had it before, this Harvest Grain Blend from TJ’s is a mix of Israeli couscous, orzo, mini garbanzo beans, and red quinoa. It’s a favorite of mine to pick up at Trader Joe’s. It has a fun combination of textures, and it’s a bit more interesting than your plain ol’ rice or quinoa.

To give it a autumnal spin, I added caramelized onions, toasted walnuts (pecans would be great too), dried cranberries, and pomegranate arils. Then I mixed in a rosemary vinaigrette and O-M-G. This was wonderful the night I made it, but it actually tasted even better the next day!

Like I said with my Summer Grain Blend, you don’t have to use the TJ’s blend…brown rice, quinoa, or traditional couscous would be great carb options for making this flavor combo. And I hope you do!

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Autumn Grain Blend
serves 4 as a side dish, or 3 as a “main course”

3/4 cup Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend (dry), or rice, quinoa, etc
1/4-1/3 cup walnuts
1/2 small onion
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pomegranate arils

for vinaigrette
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 sprig rosemary
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp oil (I used walnut oil to stay in theme!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put walnuts on a baking sheet and place in oven, toasting the walnuts until they’re fragrant, about 6-8 minutes. When cooled, roughly chop the walnuts and set aside.

Meanwhile, start caramelizing your onions. Slice onion into long strips (mine were about 1.5 inches long). Heat oil in a pan on medium heat, and add onions. Stir to coat. Turn heat down to LOW and keep on cooking the onions on low heat, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent and well caramelized.

Once walnuts are done and onions have started, prepare your grain blend according to package instructions. While that’s cooking, prepare the vinaigrette: roughly chop rosemary as well as you can. Whisk together with vinegar and mustard. While whisking, slowly drizzle in as much oil as desired.

When everything is done, stir the ingredients into the grain blend one at a time: caramelized onions, followed by the dressing, then cranberries, walnuts, and pomegranate arils. Enjoy warm immediately, or chill in fridge to enjoy later.

Meatless Monday: End of Summer Skillet

Living in an urban area with no car, you’d think I wouldn’t know how to make myself a good meal very often.

That’s the whole point of city livin’ when you’re young, right? Carrie Bradshaw never cooked. Her dinner always consisted making reservations at a swanky restaurant for a romantic dimly lit dinner date at that week’s hottest new restaurant with Mr. Big or a New York Yankee.

Not that Sacramento is anything like New York City or Chicago or even San Francisco, but hey. It’s not hard to eat out every night when you live within walking distance of half a dozen fairly nice restaurants.

My goal each week is to avoid that trap.

It’s not easy to make meals from scratch every night. I would be lying to you if I told you I did. But I do buy fresh produce from the market (or my parent’s backyard) (or from a box) every week, and it makes a huge difference in my meals. With fresh meat and produce, you can go a long way… especially with the help of Trader Joe’s:

I got most of my groceries from TJ’s in college, but there aren’t very any that are conveniently close to me now (why wait for a ride when I can walk 4 blocks to Safeway?). TJ’s makes it easy to make meals at home. Pre-made sauces, actually appetizing microwave meals, you name it. When I was in SF a couple weekends ago, I stopped in Berkeley on the way back for coffee and chit chat with my long time friend Briana, and was stoked to see she lives right above the amazing Trader Joe.

I picked up some Luna bars, some cookie butter-stuffed dark chocolate, and their Harvest Grain Blend. This stuff is really good — a mix of Israeli couscous, orzo, mini garbanzo beans, and red quinoa — and though it would be fine on its own, it lends itself perfectly to a 20-something who needs a quick dinner, but wants to add their own personal culinary flair too.

This recipe isn’t so much of a recipe as it is a challenge. I challenge you to buy the Harvest Grain Blend…or some other grain you’ve never tried before…and add whatever you want to it! Add your favorite veggies! Or your favorite sauce! I added the last of my parent’s summer garden veggies. I served it with chicken to my parents. Add whatever you want, just add something. Gone are the days that being 20-something means take-out every night. Free yourself! And your wallet 🙂

Now I will get up off my soapbox and just show you all the recipe already.

End of Summer Skillet
serves 2-3 as a side dish

1 Cup Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend (or grain of choice — Israeli couscous, orzo pasta, barley, rice, etc)
olive oil
1/2 small onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 zucchini
1/2 bell pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1 small tomato
1 tsp dried basil
s&p

Prepare grain blend per package instructions. While it’s cooking, dice all veggies to a similar size and shape (except tomatoes). Set aside cooked grains when finished.

In a somewhat large skillet on medium heat, heat olive oil and add onions and garlic. Cook until translucent. Add zucchini and bell pepper and cook until slightly soft. You don’t want to fully cook it yet, but you want there to at least be some brown bits on the pan. When this happens, add white wine and use spatula to deglaze the pan. Let the wine bubble until much of the liquid has evaporated.

While your other veggies are bubbling, chop the tomatoes to your preferred size, making sure to reserve the juices. Once most of the white wine liquid has evaporated in the pan, add in both the cooked grain as well as the tomatoes, tossing to make sure everything is coated.

Cook until heated through, and add basil, salt & pepper to taste.