Budget Day 40: Almost Halfway and Tortilla Fail

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Oh my gosh…here on day 40 I can’t help but think about how we are almost halfway there. I still plan to be on a budget when all of this is over (and we will still of course be eating “real food”), but I am pretty sure I will be giving myself more than $125/week to spend. And it is hard not to look forward to that! In the meantime I will just have to keep dealing with the temptations of all the delicious expensive food I see (and can’t afford to buy) every time I go shopping…including things like artichokes, scallops, mangoes, proscuitto and other cuts of meat, fresh mozzarella, and olives. This list could just go on and on!

So back to reality…as I mentioned I tried shopping at Bi-Lo the other day, but couldn’t get everything on my list so I had to make another run to the store. I still needed some staples like nuts, seeds, and cheese, so I decided to go to Trader Joe’s since they seem to have the best deal on those items (and I also needed bread which is right next door). Here’s what I got for $31.74 from Trader Joe’s…

  • Pumpkin seeds $5.49
  • Sunflower seeds $1.49 (it is hard to beat that deal!)
  • Sliced almonds $2.49
  • Mushrooms $1.99
  • Monterery Jack cheese $3.07
  • Cheddar $4.29
  • Raisins $2.69
  • Cashews $5.49
  • Parmesan cheese $4.12

I also spent $5 on a loaf of honey whole-wheat bread from Great Harvest. And then I had to run back to Trader Joe’s the next day to get…

  • 1 Avocado $1.32

I also “charged myself” to pull some local meat out of our freezer since it was purchased pre-budget…

  • 1 pound of local ground pork $4.17

Then right when I thought I was doing okay with about $15 left to spend at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday I forgot that I had to take out $4 more for some vanilla beans that I’d ordered from the internet. I make my own vanilla extract (which is a very simple process by the way) and ever since I found this website that only charges $2 per bean (and free shipping) I’ve never bought them from anywhere else. So long story short…I only have $11 and change left and we desperately need eggs! So unfortunately I won’t be getting much else this weekend. That sucks.

In other news we enjoyed chowing down on the ground pork this week and managed to stretch it over three meals. First we made tacos and to help make the meat go further we laced it with a whole container of diced mushrooms (pictured above) and some chopped carrots as well. I attempted to make some corn tortillas to wrap everything up in, and while they tasted delicious they looked quite disastrous. This is my second time making them and in my opinion they are nothing but a pain in the neck to try to keep together! They just fall apart and crumble so easily no matter what ratio of masa harina/water I use. And I find it difficult to make the tortillas thin enough without having them break into a thousand pieces. I can’t believe how much easier it is to make the flour ones. If anyone has homemade corn tortilla advice (or has experience with a tortilla press) please share! Otherwise I will not be attempting these again anytime soon, which is too bad because all four of us loved the dinner.

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53 comments to Budget Day 40: Almost Halfway and Tortilla Fail

  • Lisa Shulman

    Please share the process for making vanilla extract. Thanks!

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Sure! It is super easy. You just take two vanilla beans and cut a long slice down each bean to split them open (careful b/c this part can get a little messy since there are thousands of little beads inside). Then you drop them into a 375ml bottle of vodka and voila! It does take a few days or longer before it starts to infuse the vodka though.

      • Bernadette

        I was wondering if anyone had tried making vanilla with a different alcohol, maybe rum? I’ve recently found that vodka makes me sick, but I’d like to try making my own vanilla extract. I’m not sure if a tiny amount of vodka would affect me, but I’d like to try something else, if possible.

        • 100 Days of Real Food

          I have not tried anything other than vodka Bernadette, but keep in mind that dishes containing vanilla extract are usually baked/cooked. Do you think it would still cause the same affect as drinking it straight?

        • JoAnna Courtenay

          the vanilla I usually get from Costco is made from Madagascar rum, so I’m thinking rum would work just fine and I think the flavor would be a richer one…

        • Jessi

          I stated making my own corn tortillas a few months ago and will never go back I store bought. I usually put in more water than the recipe calls for. I also use hot hot water. I then make it into a log and wrap in Saran wrap. When I first started without a tortilla press I just took a gallon ziploc bag, 2 sides off, put the slice of dough between, and roll out. It is much easier to peel back the plastic than it is to peel the tortilla off of something else. I now do the same method with the bag but do it between my tortilla press. Makes it so easy.

      • Brandi

        Do you use any particular brand of vodka? How long do you leave the vanilla beans in? And does this last indefinitely on the shelf? I’d love to try this and it seems so much cheaper in the long run!

        • 100 Days of Real Food

          I use a mid-grade smirnoff vodka. I don’t think the brand matters that much, but I didn’t want to go with the cheapest one out there (like popov…sp?). I leave the vanilla beans in the vodka indefinitely, but it takes a week or two before the vodka starts to be infused. And I think the shelf life is pretty long although we usually use ours up within a few months so I haven’t experimented with keep it much longer than that. Good luck!

          • Laura

            I was reading some other articles on vodka and vanilla beans and they say to only use 2-3 ounces per bean. Is it ok to use the whole 375ml bottle for only 2 beans?

  • Rachel

    I just went to Great Harvest and Trader Joes today too! I spent $62, including my loaf of bread, and it will feed us for a week. I hate that you are going to give up on the budgeting when you’re done w/the challenge. I’d be happy to meal plan and budget shop with you! :)

    Btw, the Great Harvest Honey Wheat is the best bread I’ve ever had. I was expecting it to be dry and sort of thick like a lot of “healthy” wheat breads, but it’s soft, chewy, mild and absolutely delicious. Now I know why it’s a staple for you!

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Oh I’m definitely not going to give up on the budget completely, but I will just give myself a little more money to spend. Maybe $150/week instead. :) Do you live in the Charlotte area? You should try shopping at the Matthews Farmer’s Market too!

      • Roxanna Valdvinos

        I didn’t read through all of the replies but to make corn tortillas at home 1. do NOT use Maseca. It’s processed. Use Bob’s Red Mill or some other unprocessed Masa Harina. Masica is also a derivative of a Monsanto product. 2. Use a little oil or lard in your dough 3. Use 1 cup of wheat flour for every 2 cups of masa harina flour.

  • Heather

    Funny, I would rather make the corn than the flour. I use a tortilla press for the corn and they have turned out well, making it a quicker process than rolling out the flour. I think my press was right around $10 at the mexican market and there are some available online.
    Thank you for you rblog we are transitioning to real food. Problems…coffee creamer! Any suggestions?

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Well after hearing how easy it is for you I might have to get a press and try it again! Also, instead of coffee creamer have you tried just straight-up milk or cream? To give my mochas some flavor I use a mixture of unsweetened cocoa and 100% pure maple syrup. If you are looking for flavor maybe try a touch of vanilla or honey too. Good luck! :)

    • Jessi

      Pinterest! One can sweetened condensed milk, fill the can again with regular milk, couple tsp vanilla, mix altogether and you have wonderful coffee creamer. You could also just use milk in a milk frother and that is wondrful too. If canned stuff scares you, I’ve seen recipes for making your own sweetened condensed milk.

  • Lisa,

    I know you’ve said you’re not really a fan of beans, but this meal is a great example of how you could use beans with a small amount of meat to “extend” the protein. When I make a meal like this one, I frequently combine fresh veggies with the meat like you did, but I’ll also frequently add a can of black beans, which really stretches everything nicely. With some spices like cumin and coriander, it all comes together really nicely!

    Best of luck in your continuing challenge!

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Lyndie you are so right!! As soon as I read your comment I went and told my husband (he actually loves beans) and we were both bummed we didn’t think to do that with our tacos. This would have been the perfect meal (b/c of all the flavoring) where I would not have minded eating the beans and they would have helped stretch things even further. My goal next week is to think of another way to incorporate beans b/c I admit I have not been trying very hard with them! :)

  • Heather

    I use Masa and water and a press, and have never had any problems! I make it just as the recipe on the bag indicates (water + Masa), my press is this kind http://www.mexgrocer.com/9116.html I think they are so easy, and they’re so cheap to make!

  • Sue Brownell

    Try some Hispanic friends about advice on the corn tortillas. I’ll have to ask mine. Most of them make tortillas daily and know the ‘tricks’.
    Good luck.

  • Kelly

    I have found corn tortillas at Trader Joes’ are really good and there are only 3 ingredients, white corn, water, and lime!

  • Joan

    Has anyone tried the homemade tortillas sold at Compare Super Market? I love picking up hot homemade tortilla’s 50 for $2.50. The store is also great for those hard to find Latin ingredients, but they have a very limited (non existent) organic section.

    • Lyndie

      I have gotten the fresh homemade tortillas at Compare Foods on Independence. They are quite good. My understanding, though, is that most corn tortillas are made after some processing of the corn, such that it is not strictly “whole.”

  • sherry

    I have a stupid question. Are tortilla chips just corn tortillas cut up and fried? Surely they can be made at home, the bags at the store have gotten to the price of gold!

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Yes, you can definitely deep fry homemade tortillas at home…and they are SOOO much better than the stuff they sell out of a bag!

  • Yes, Sherry, they are! And you can easily bake them at home instead of frying them. It’s also nice to sprtiz them with oil and lime or cayenne or whatever flava you like. I agree, chips in the store are SO expensive! I was just looking for some to take to a party with me and the best I could find was $2 for 14.5 ounces — ridiculous. It was about 40 chips. I could have made those for like a nickel!

  • maggie sanders

    Lisa…I have tried black beans with left over white corn, onions, and small cubes of sweet potato and cilantro, little citrus, and seasoning…good just by itself or can add a few shrimp…tonight I did a few seared scallops with the corn, cilantro, garlic, tomatoes, and spinach…it was great! I have also done lentils with dried apricots(the good one…unsulphured?), touch of gava syrup, cumin, garlic, curry, and carrots…serve as a side or over brown rice and very good. Beans Rock!

  • Lorie

    I’m also not much of a bean eater but I have discovered that I don’t usually mind them IN a dish such as chili, tacos, soup, etc. Whenever I use ground beef I always add about a 1/4 of lentils per pound. Now I always thought lentils or a legume but after reading something in Real Food by Nina Planck I’m not so sure. I’ll have to research that more. Also, making homemade refried beans from dry pinto beans are SO easy. After cooking the beans just puree them in a food processor. I freeze them in 1 c. batches. To some I add taco seasoning. Some I leave plain to use as a thickener for chili or taco soup. Then they’re easy to pull out of the freezer. I’ve made cassidillas with refried beans and cheese. This is something we can all eat, even my 9mo old DS. Hope this helps.

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Thanks for the suggestions…going to try beans tonight and see how it goes over!

    • So easy to make the beans in a crock pot from dry beans too, and so much less expensive. clean the dried pintos carefully first looking for rocks that sneak in >.< a little salt, onion or onion powder, and water and keep them cooking overnight just covered with water. When they are done and very soft drain off the liquid, mash the beans with a potato masher and add in liquid as needed for your prefered consistency. They freeze fine! – saraJ

      • Tama

        You are a genius. I use my crockpot for weekly for soups, whole chickens, chili and this has never occured to me. I have been resisting making my own pinto beans, even though I eat beans 3 days a week, because I don’t have time to slave over the beans on the stove like me mom used to. THANK YOU!

  • Kimberly E

    Do you have a recipe for your taco seasoning? I promised myself that after I ran out of the store bought packages I would make my own, but I’ve having a hard time finding a good recipe.

    I love the tortilla recipe! I’ll be trying the waffle recipe next. I used the last of the box mix tonight. Moving on to whole foods, one step at a time.

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Our taco seasoning isn’t really an exact recipe, but try tossing in equal parts dried oregano, chili powder and Emerill’s Essence. Then adjust according to taste…and remember you can always add more so start small! And I am so glad you like the tortillas! Baby steps is the best way to go :)

  • Katherine

    Have you tried adding quinoa to stretch ground meat? When I fix tacos, sloppy joes or anything like that I usually do 1/3 meat, 1/3 beans and 1/3 quinoa. Even the carnivore in the house will eat it. :)

  • Natalie

    I’m quite impressed you got that pound of pork to stretch 3 days! Although my kids are a little older (5, 6 and 10-and two are boys), we can slam through 2 lbs of ground beef (even with adding black beans and chickpeas) in one taco meal! I’m curious, what were the other two meals?

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      I bet it is hard keeping up with 3 hungry boys! For the 2nd meal I mixed the meat with a bunch of cheese and frozen corn and made quesadillas (with whole-wheat tortillas instead of corn tortillas) and then the 3rd meal was some of the quesadillas leftover.

  • Jessica

    Have you tried Maseca? Most real corn tortillas are not supposed to be so thin unless you have a press! http://www.sweetlifebake.com has amazing Maseca recipes you could use. I use the Homesick Texan’s tortilla recipe which uses milk and olive oil instead of shortening or lard as in traditional flour tortillas. I wonder if coconut oil would suffice as an alternative to shelf stable lard. Real tortillas are usually made with Lard. Anyway, the tortillas come up so fluffy but my mom always tells me they need salt. I can never make them as good as hers but hey she has more practice. I hope this helps.

  • Amanda

    I have made my own vanilla for well over 6 months now. I use 3 beans split up the middle in a bottle of vodka. It does keep indefinitely on the shelf. Any time you use any, just top it off with more vodka. Eventually the vanilla bean flavor weakens as it seeps into the vodka, but just replace the beans after a while. No big deal. I also make my own honey wheat bread out of freshly ground wheat flour I grind myself with my Nutrimill. The normal wheat flour you buy becomes bitter after 3 days, which gives bread that bitter taste. But this is amazing. And I can buy a bag of golden kernel wheat for half the price of flour! Each cup of wheat, amounts to at least 1 and 2/3-3/4 cup of flour. My oster breadmake comes in handy as well if I need to get other stuff done and not worry about checking the over or forgetting about the bread or rekneading it and letting it rise. Just put the stuff in and 3 hours later u have bread! It helps that we can buy our honey in 5 gallon buckets every other fall from the local bee keeper. $125 per 5 gallon pail.

  • Courtne

    We make our own tortillas all the time now. I notice other people have said to use a little more water then the recipe asks for and make sure it’s warm water. I also recently read that you should knead the dough a bunch and then let it sit covered for about 30 minutes. Then you can press and cook your tortillas. We did this and the tortillas didn’t tear as much.

  • Marcos

    For the tortillas… Are you using a plastic bag to help you handle them? Cutthe sides of a bag and press the tortilla between the plastic sides. It is much easier to handle without breaking.

  • I grind my own wheat, rye etc. when baking each week, and when I need cornmeal I grind up organic popcorn which makes great cornbread. I’m now inspired to try corn tortillas with the fresh ground corn meal. Anyone know if the grains used for popcorn are a monsanto product, I’d be curious. They say it’s organic, but not whether it’s a GMO.

  • Dawn Bowerman

    Our family (2 parents 3 kids) has been trying to cut out processed foods and also eat gluten free. We don’t have allergies but I thought it might help with my low energy and sore joints. I went to Great Harvest and bought their gluten free bread. It’s fine (at $8 a loaf!) but there are a lot of ingredients that I don’t know about like xantham gum, tapioca starch and rice flour as far as processing. It got me thinking that maybe it’s healthier for my family to choose the Honey WHole Wheat bread with only a few ingredients, all of which I know over the gluten free version. So many choices….
    Thanks for your input-

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there Dawn. If you do not have a gluten sensitivity, then stick with the bread that has the fewest and most whole ingredients. All the bread from Great Harvest is delicious! :) ~Amy

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