Fall Savings & Hallowe’en

As summer rolls in to fall there are a number of events that spark changes in the sale pricing of food, some a bit surprising. All can be considered Cyclic changes in the market. Cyclic changes are changes that happen on a rather predictable cycle. The period of time from the Labor day sales right up to the beginning of our Thanksgiving sales is a unique one, sparked by seasonal changes and our cycle of Holidays.

holloween

While some may consider seasonal shopping to be a no-brainer, there are a few surprises in store. And Holiday pricing often extends weeks prior to the Holiday itself, much to joy of some and chagrin of others, although at the grocery store these changes may be more subtle and easy to miss.

Seasonal:

Fresh Vegetables & Fruits:

While items so popular in the summer are often still available, they begin to wane in quality and increase in pricing. In early Autumn, you’ll likely see great prices on broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, tomatillas, peppers and chilis as huge harvests are brought in and moved quickly. Stone fruits are often on sale to move quickly. By mid to late October, it’s a different story.

Potatoes and Onions are going to be at their absolute rock bottom prices, as will apples, pears, pomegranates, squashes, Brussels Sprouts. Turnips, rutabagas and beets will be plentiful. Cabbage, kale, spinach and other greens that enjoy cool weather and grow best in the spring and fall will be at great prices.

Moving into October, it’s likely the prices of these items will start to rise a bit and the quality begins to fall. Many summer vegetables will remain about the same pricing, too, but the sizes and bundles are smaller.

Frozen Vegetables & Fruits:

There is a “season” even for frozen vegetables and fruits. Coupons  and sales begin happening in abundance in early fall, and while there will still be sporadic great sales though out the winter, by spring they wane and become fewer.

Keeping this in mind, a good couponer with a freezer may very well be able to stock up for the year. Be especially careful of flimsy packaging (usa a Ziploc to bulk it up)and avoid vegetables that have obviously thawed and refrozen. If the package is mangled or the items frozen together or in chunks, avoid them.

Canned Vegetables:

Even canned vegetables are at a low during the fall! Start to pick up items that are at a great price: Tomatoes & tomato products will often be at the lowest price of the year, as will others vegetables, pie fillings, etc. When rock bottom pricing for an item hits the grocery store, buy for the year.

Dried Fruits:

Begin looking for dried fruits in early Autumn and watch for coupons and sales. It’s very likely the best pricing for these will be prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Meats:

Pork & Pork Products:

Fall is absolutely the best time to buy fresh pork – not only have the animals reached the size for the fall slaughter, there is a huge amount of pressure to process them during the fall in order to produce ham for the Christmas and Easter holidays. You’ll find pork shoulders, loins, ribs, fresh sausages on sale at the lowest pricing of the year. A person couldn’t go wrong with picking up and freezing what they might estimate they’ll eat until next season.

Beef:

While not as driven as the pork market, there will be some reasonable pricing. Chuck roast is often at a lower price than through the summer, and sporadic sales will be found on many other cuts. Cherry pick these sales and freeze what makes sense for your family.

Grains, pulses, beans, legumes, rices, etc.

These items will be falling in price, although the lowest pricing will likely to be prior to Thanksgiving. Beans are often at their best pricing right after a big holiday, and are often not advertised.

Canned Goods:

Many canned goods (including canned vegetables) are at their lowest price of the year in the fall! Think annually through out the season, know what a good price is and use coupons!

Holiday Sales & Hollowe’en:

While there are many Religious & Declared Holidays in the early fall & up to Thanksgiving (more on Thanksgiving in another post) few have as much impact as Holloween. Cities with groceries and markets serving specific populations will respond to the religious and ethnic holidays in a way the big chains won’t, though. Holloween sales begin in early September when coupons start coming out for candy and popcorn.

  • While Holloween used to mean just candy, as more families are throwing parties and get togethers, the grocery stores are slowly responding.
  • Look for good prices on “party” type foods in the week before Hollloween, as well as some great prices on Chocolate chips and other baking items. Ground beef is often at a low price as well as cheese, chips, dips, etc. Popcorn is often heavily discounted, and buying a bag or a jar, and enough to last the family for the year is the way to go from a frugal standpoint.
  • Candy, of course is the biggest seller of the season – thinking outside the box can lead you to great prices: Watch for coupons from early September on and use your Coupon Matching sites to purchase at a great discount. Pick up bags of candy (which can be used for baking and desserts) in the days after Holloween.
  • Recipes for goodies and cakes made with Holloween candy is only a google search away!

I’ll be posting more on the Thanksgiving sales, which overlap, in part, the Fall sales. In the meantime, clip coupons and watch your Coupon Matching sites.

The Best Food Holidays, What’s on Sale and What to Buy!

 

 

 

Cook’s Illustrated Jo Jo Spice Blend

Cook’s published this Jo Jo Spice Blend for their wonderful Jo Jos. If you’re not familiar, they’re wonderful, battered, deep-fried potato wedges – and unfortunately, they aren’t on this blog. But the Jo Jo Spice blend is!

Bomb Baked Potato Wedges with Cook's Jo Jo Spice Blend
Bomb Baked Potato Wedges with Cook’s Jo Jo Spice Blend

I’ve found it’s just as good on my oven-fries, Bomb Baked Potato Wedges and my Crispy Oven Roasted Chick Peas. I’ve also sprinkled it on chicken breasts, my Stupid Simple Sweet Potato Fries and whatever else strikes my fancy.

This mixture has a good bit of a kick to it!

Cook’s Country Jo Jo Spice Mixture:

  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt (decrease if not using kosher and adjust the amount you use in the recipe – see  conversion chart.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Mix together. Store in tightly closed jar. Makes enough for two recipes of Jo Jos.

Sparrow Tavern’s Veggie Burger . $3.75 for 8

Diners, Drive Ins & Dives is on Netflix this season and this episode features the Sparrow Tavern in Astoria, New York – a run down rock & roll type bar with gourmet style. One of their star items was the Sparrow Veggie Burger and even the carnivores were going on about it.

Sparrow Veggie Burger
Sparrow Tavern Veggie Burger – early version, I fixed the “cracking” flaw.

There was no actual recipe, but with a few rewinds I sailed blithely into the kitchen. The taste was fantastic! The burgers, not so much – they crumbled into what looked like a hash. I searched online for hints, but it seemed everyone who had posted about this burger had come up with the same initial recipe I had…they just preferred not to mention the flaws. Shove it all in a Pita, get a shot and who cares, huh?

It became apparent that my attempt to go light on the grains, potatoes and Panko (what I deemed the less healthier aspects) in the recipe was a partial cause of my failure. Too much moisture was another. Then there was the cooking time/temperature. A bit of tinkering, a few adjustments in the recipe and cooling the burgers before cooking made a huge difference. These burgers need to be handled with care, but they’re vastly improved.

Frankly, there’s a good bit of work here, but its all worth it, I promise! These burgers really are great. Even child number 2 asked for seconds, then asked if he could make one up later that evening. Then wandered into my room in the a.m. and said, “I was thinking about making up a couple veggie burgers, do you want one?” Yeah, I do! I love it when a veggie burger can bridge the gap between vegetarians and those who follow a Standard American Diet.

The potatoes, mushrooms, barley and brown rice all had to be cooked. I maximized my time by making larger amounts of the rice and barley. What I didn’t use was bagged and tagged and tossed in the freezer (short-term only) for down the road. My pressure cooker helped speed this recipe along, too. You do have a pressure cooker, right?

Had I planned ahead and made and served corn, potatoes, mushrooms and/or the peas earlier in the week for a dinner or two, making enough extra to use in this recipe, things would have really moved along quickly. I also left the skin on the potatoes, carrots and zucchini – healthier & easier!

This recipe makes eight good-sized, six-ounce burgers (depending on how large the zucchini and carrots are) but the burgers, after being baked and cooled, freeze well. Separate them with a bit of parchment or plastic and keep them in a Ziploc, ready to pull out and saute at a moment’s notice. I’ve started doubling the recipe just to have them stashed in the freezer. You’ll need a huge bowl if you do – I had to use my Dutch oven!

At the restaurant, these Veggie Burgers are served with a Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce (it is fantastic!) and frisee lettuce in a Pita Bun. I used my Super Easy Flat Bread with Romaine and red onion – these tend to be a bit *meh* on a hamburger bun. Accompanied at the restaurant by Sweet Potato Fries with rosemary and onion, my Stupid Simple Sweet Potato Fries make a great (and easier) substitute.

Eight burgers ran me about $3.75, not counting buns, Sparrow Tavern’s Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce or extras, leaving plenty in the budget for all kinds of add-ons and sides. Talk about a bargain! Sure beats one burger for about 10 bucks at the restaurant. Better, it costs about half that of the cheapest stamped out, premade hamburgers – and these rock!

Sparrow Veggie Burgers, makes 8 six-ounce burgers

  • 2 shredded carrots*
  • 1 medium shredded zucchini*
  • 1 cup cooked and drained barley (about 1/3 cup raw)*
  • 1 cup corn, thawed if frozen and drained by pressing against a strainer.
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed if frozen and drained by pressing against a strainer.
  • 1 1/2 cups (2 medium potatoes, about 10 ounces) mashed with an egg*
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced scallion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, diced and cooked until quite dark*
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (about 1/2 cup dry)
  • 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon Olive oil, divided. 1 teaspoon for mushrooms, one tablespoon for cooking burgers.

Using hands, heavily mix all ingredients except oil until it forms one cohesive mixture. The mixture should not feel “wet” but rather very thick and heavy, and the mashing should be firm enough to distribute all ingredients through out the mixture, but not so hard as to break open the peas. Refrigerate and leave for at least one hour, overnight is fine.

Measure out six-ounce portions (this works out to about a cup, loosely packed.) Form into a tight ball, really pack it. Place on a well greased baking tray. Gently press and form into uniform patties, rounding edges.

I found it easy to form patties by placing mixture into a one cup measure, pressing down firmly, packing to about 3/4 cup, then tapping the mixture out on the baking tray and then forming.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Do not turn patties. Rotate sheets from top to bottom about halfway through if using more than one baking sheet. Remove from oven, let cool, then cover and refrigerate. Once refrigerated, the patties are easier to remove intact from the pan with the help of a thin spatula.

When ready to serve, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add desired amount of patties and cook until golden brown, flipping once. It’s best to cook quickly over a fairly high heat, starting with the side that was on the bottom when baked. Over cook and they can be a bit mushy and crumbly, under cook and they won’t be crispy, so look for a good golden brown color.

*Notes:

  • Barley: A medium grain barley is perfect in this recipe, adding a good bite and chew. It’s not critical, however, and anything you have on hand will work. The amount dry varies depending on which type of barley is used.
  • Zucchini and carrots should be shredded with a large grate. I found the ideal texture was to push them very hard and quickly through the food processor, forming large shreds. The shredding option on a mandolin would work as well. This helped with excess moisture. If grating by hand on a box grater, drain as much moisture as possible by pressing against a strainer.
  • The amount of potato in this recipe is pretty critical. To cook potatoes, cut in quarters, cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes. Drain, then mash while dry. Add an egg when slightly cooled and mash thoroughly.
  • To cook mushrooms, roughly chop. Add to a saute pan with about a teaspoon of oil. Turn on heat, stirring several times, then  place a lid on the pan. Cook for about six to eight minutes until the mushrooms have given up most of their moisture. Remove lid, continue to cook until moisture is gone and mushrooms have turned a deep color, slightly toasted in places.
Zucchini and Carrots should be grated carefully
Zucchini and Carrots should be grated carefully, then strained if necessary

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area isPocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
Bag & Tag long cooking grains and freeze (short term) to make the most of your time
Bag & Tag long cooking grains and freeze (short term) to make the most of your time

Strategies Applied:

Maximize your time, here! See hints above on how to speed things along!

  • Zucchini: A common garden vegetable, zucchini can be expensive at the store. Watch for specials, look at Aldi. 3 were $1.68 at Aldi, 56 cents a piece.
  • Carrots: An inexpensive item even not on sale – but it keeps so well I buy a couple of packages if it is cheaper. $1.00 a pound is standard in our area, but the larger packages of 5 pounds are often on sale for $2.50 – that’s 50 cents a pound, or about 10 cents for two. Carrots will keep longer if you rotate the package, which is so often on the bottom of the drawer, so they don’t sit in condensation.
  • Frozen Corn and Peas:  Fresh corn is best in the summer, when sales run around 17 to 20 cents an ear, but in the winter frozen is reasonable. Fresh peas are often expensive and hard to find. Buy frozen on sale with a coupon – mine was free, but 30 cents a pound is not unreasonable. Left over corn or peas will be just fine if you have it. Even just on sale, a cup of the basic frozen will run you about 30 cents each, total 60 cents.
  • Bell Pepper:  There are two types of sales, per pound or per pepper. I usually look for the per pepper pricing; in my area it’s generally cheaper – I’ll then buy the biggest, most gorgeous ones I can find. The peppers are often bagged and sold by a unit price, too. A really good price in our area is about a fifty to seventy cents a pepper for the red, yellow or orange ones, and 40 to 75 cents for the green bell. This is one item I seldom buy at Aldi unless I can’t get a better price at my store. Cost at Aldi 89 cents, half is 45 cents.
  • Mushrooms: They are often on sale at my grocery for about 1/2 price, especially around holidays. I pick them up when they run 89 to 99 cents a package. I’ve seen them at Aldi for about the same price. Turns out, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods, the simple button mushroom has as many good qualities as it’s more expensive siblings! Go underdog! 98 cents.
  • Green Onion: I try to buy on sale for about 50 cents a bunch (usually during Holidays) then put the white tips in a jar of water in a sunny window to regrow. Kids love taking ownership of the project. I only need to replenish every few months. Cost is so minimal that I don’t even count it.
  • Russet Potatoes: Potatoes are dirt cheap – look for a great sales price of $1.99 for 10 pounds in the fall and winter; regular sales price is $1.99 for five pounds in my area. Store in a cool dry area, not near your onions – I like to store in a loosely closed paper bag.
  • Don’t know what to do with a large bag? Make what recipes you’d like to, then make Freezer Twice Baked Potatoes with the rest. I often pick out the smaller, misshapen potatoes for mashing and save the more regular sized ones for baking or other recipes. Whenever possible, I scrub and keep the skins on, even though they may not be shown that way in a recipe…cost for 2, about 12 cents.
  • Eggs: Stock up on eggs when they’re inexpensive, normally during Holiday weeks. Low prices in my area range from free (often with other purchases) to anywhere from $1.89 for 18 eggs. They last for weeks in the fridge – The date on the container is a ‘buy’ date, and you can expect them to last a good six weeks past that date. If you pick up two or three packages when they’re at their low, you’ll rarely need to pay full price.
  • Refrigerate right away and never store in the door; eggs keep best in a colder part of the refrigerator, in their own box. (Then put your partially used vegetables in the door where you’ll see them and remember they need to be used ASAP – the half a bell pepper or onion, etc.)  In doubt about an egg? If it floats in water, discard, just to be on the safe side. If they float, it means the egg inside is drying out, not that it is bad in any way. Cost for 8 cents.
  • Panko Bread Crumbs:  I generally just use homemade (which I keep in my freezer) but Panko is a larger, very crisp bread crumb and is quite a bit crisper than, say, Progresso. I do find coupons every now and then for Panko, and it does go on sale, quite often when other Asian items do – stock up on things like Soy, etc. after the US New Years when the Chinese New Year is coming up.  On sale, a box of Panko ran $1.99, a cup 50 cents.
  • Brown Rice:  Really look for coupons and sales – and stock up when both are available.  It’s worthwhile to get a good brown rice – don’t be fooled by the instant or quick cooking varieties or the ones that just look like brown rice.  Riceland often has coupons available – check their site – I count on about 20 cents a cup.  If I don’t have a coupon, I’ll buy a larger bag (cheaper per ounce.) Remember, though, brown rice is only marginally better than white rice – a few trace minerals and a smidge more fiber – but it is fantastic when cooked right.  Cost 10 cents.
  • Barley: Barley comes in different types and you’ll find it in different areas of the store. It may be near the oats in the cereal aisle – hunt high and low, and may be in the bulk aisle. Generally a small box runs about $2.50 but a little goes a long way. One cup yields about 3 1/2 cups cooked. Cost about 15 cents.
  • Olive Oil: I have a little strategy for buying olive oil – using coupons and sales to lower the price, so click on the link. I also look for new brands and stock up – heavy competition means that when a new brand comes to the store, it is often at a fantastic price for a few weeks, then settles in at around the same price as the others. I think it’s important to use olive oil as opposed to many others – the health benefits outweigh a bit more extra cost, and it can be had at a very reasonable price. I also like the fact that Olive oil contains no hidden trans fats like Canola or Vegetable oil. Cost for this recipe: 8 cents.

Put Your own Spin on it:

  • I imagine you could change out some of the vegetables. Sweet Potato may sub in nicely for the potato.
  • Although not tried, perhaps the grains could be changed – I could see wild rice or quinoa working well here.
  • I did use Panko rather than my home-made bread crumbs. Home-made would cost considerably less and seems a reasonable substitution.
  • While wonderful just as they are, these could easily be varied by adding different seasonings or seasoning blends. Cajun, Mexican, Curry, etc.

Nutrition:

Cal 214, tot fat 4g, 4%; sat fat 1g; mono 2g; poly 1g; chol 23mg; sod 193mg; pot 580mg; carb 40g; fib 6g; sug 6g; prot 7g; vit A 87%; vit C 55%; calc 3%; iron 8%.

Put Your own Spin on it:

  • Although I’ve so far only made these with Panko, another dry toasted bread crumb would likely work in this. Perhaps just a bit less if using a commercial one.
  • Another grain other than barley could probably be used, but it should have some moistness to it.
  • Vegetables other than those stated would likely work well, just make sure that they’ll “act” the same way in the recipe. Lima beans for peas, for instance. Perhaps other squash for the zucchini.
  • The flavor is wonderful just as it – actually rather of a surprise! Still, variations could be made to suit another profile, perhaps curry, adobo seasoning, Cajun, etc.

The Sparrow Tavern’s Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce .50 cents

A bit of spice tempered by a touch of sweet, this creamy Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce is a bit different and totally awesome. Developed by the Sparrow Tavern in Astoria, New York for their Sparrow Veggie Burgers, you’ll want to try a little on just about anything you can think of.

Sparrow Tavern Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce
Sparrow Tavern Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce

Note that I had no actual recipe to go by, but watched a video on Diners Drive In & Dives, so this is my approximation. I did make one small addition, adding a touch of sour cream for just  a bit of thickness and richness. Feel free to adjust to your taste!

If you’re looking to use this sauce with the Sparrow Veggie Burgers, it needs a good bit of spice to balance out all the flavors. A half cup is a great amount for four Veggie Burgers, double if making eight.

Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce, makes about 1/2 cup

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon cayenne

Whisk ingredients together, taste and adjust.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied:

  • Maple Syrup: I’m a freak for real maple syrup, and will happily take a lesser grade over a big, old jug of maple “flavored” corn syrup. It can be expensive, but I’ve recently found some at Aldi at a decent price, and it’s not half bad for $3.99. If you wish to substitute, try a little honey. Cost 20 cents.
  • Mayonnaise:  Buy your condiments in the summer when there are coupons out there and big sales – I look for about a dollar for a 32 ounce jar (notice I said jar – the squeeze bottles generally cost the same and hold less, plus you can’t get all of it out.)  If you miss the summer sales, another great time of the year for condiments is right before the Super Bowl. Cost for 1/3 cup is about 20 cents.
  • Mustard: I’ve seen couponers say they never pay for mustard: in my area I rarely get it for free, but pay pennies for it during the summer months. I look for sale prices and coupons and I’ll often buy the “off” brands. (Make a salad dressing right in the jar or bottle to use up the last bit – just shake it up.) Cost for a tablespoon $1.89 a bottle is about 4 cents.
  • Sour Cream:  This is on sale so often, and goes on a deep sale right before almost any holiday. I expect to pay $1.00 for 8 ounces or even less – it lasts a long time in the fridge if you keep it clean and don’t dip into with dirty utensils, and put the lid back on when using. I also like to keep mine upside down. If it separates, just stir back together.  A tablespoon is about 6 cents.

 

 

Fabulously Frugal Cooking & Shopping

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