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  • Breaking Out of the Dinner Rut: Apple, Bacon & Cheddar Grilled Cheese


     Guest Post from The Coupon Project

     

    When the chilly fall weather hits, many of us like to think about comforting foods like chili, stews, or that old standby - grilled cheese and tomato soup! Today I wanted to share a very simple way you could change up that plain ol' grilled cheese into something deliciously different. Here's what you'll need:
    • Bread
    • A few slices of cooked bacon
    • Sliced apples, such as Granny Smith
    • Good quality cheese - I am using cheddar
    • Butter, softened

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    I couldn't help but notice this Hickory Smoked Thick Cut Bacon at my Grocery Outlet store last week... it was only $4.99 and elsewhere you'd pay over $12! I thought it'd be the perfect ingredient to add to my new and improved grilled cheese!

     

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    The second fun ingredient for today's recipe: apples! My Grocery Outlet store was selling a bag of Fujis and Galas for just $1.50, but I opted for the tart Granny Smiths for a couple bucks more. These apples are on the small side, perfect for kids' lunches or recipes like today's, where you just need a few small slices.

     

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    There's no reason to go with a plain old cheese slices when you're shopping at Grocery Outlet! They have so many delicious cheeses at low prices to choose from. I opted for a sharp yellow cheddar, but I also think a Swiss cheese would work excellent with today's recipe.

     

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    I opted for a classic, old fashioned white bread and spread plenty of softened butter on.

     

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    Now, if you like a good mustard or maybe a flavored mayo, you could also consider adding that at this point. I'm not a huge condiment gal, so I kept this pretty straight-forward and skipped adding mayo or mustard and went straight for the apples.

     

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    Next, I layered on the cheese and crisped bacon. Yum!

     

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    From here, just cook up your sandwich in a skillet. I think the key to making a perfect grilled cheese is lots of butter, and lots of time. Keep it at a medium heat and let the bread brown slowly, giving the cheese time to melt. 

    The next time you're in a rut with your dinner, one idea would be to try changing up the ingredients or preparation a bit. And make sure to check out your local Grocery Outlet store for great ingredient ideas, too!

    To download this recipe in a PDF, click here: Download PDF

     Like this post? You might want to read the others in this series:

    Make sure to come back next month for another fun installment!

    Angela Russell blogs at The Coupon Project, a site that encourages families to live well for less. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her firefighter husband and two small kids. In her spare time, she likes to read, garden, and has recently taken up canning.

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  • Breaking Out of the Dinner Rut: Asian Mung Bean Salad


     Guest Post from The Coupon Project

     

    I recently happened upon a different item at my local Grocery Outlet store and I knew instantly that I had to bring it home for a fun dinner creation.....

     

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    Organic Sprouted Mung Beans for $2.99. Now I'm definitely familiar with bean sprouts, but not sprouted mung beans. I flipped over the package and it read:

    These tiny fresh-tasting beans have a rich creamy texture and nutty-sweet taste.

    Suggested uses included salads, pilafs, soups, purees, and sandwiches. Turns out, these are quite nutritious too! One serving (1/4 cup dry) contains 7 grams of dietary fiber and a whopping 10 grams of protein. It's also high in iron and vitamin C and low in fat. I'm thinking this would be a wonderful superfood for vegetarians to explore!

     

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    I decided to try these sprouted mung beans for the first time in an Asian-inspired salad. Today's recipe is quick, easy, and delicious! It's enough for 2 large servings, or 4 sides.

    Ingredients:

    Salad
    1 cup dry mung beans
    2 cups mixed salad greens
    couple sprigs cilantro, chopped
    1/4 cup chopped sweet peppers

    Dressing (from Once Upon a Chef's Asian Slaw recipe)
    2 tbsp honey
    2 tbsp vegetable oil
    2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
    1 tsp soy sauce
    1 tsp sesame oil
    small piece of ginger, minced
    1 clove garlic, minced
    dash sea salt

    Start by prepping your mung beans. Add 1 cup of dry beans to 3 cups of boiling water. Let boil for 5 minutes before removing from heat, covering, and allow to set 4-8 minutes.

     

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    While my mung beans were rehydrating, I got to work on the rest of the salad. I found some lovely salad ingredients at my Grocery Outlet store yesterday - organic baby kale, organic mixed Romaine, a big bag of sweet mini baby peppers for just $3.99, and a bunch of fresh cilantro.

     

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    Have you ever tried these peppers? If not, I recommend them! They are perfect for dipping in hummus, slicing on sandwiches, or great when your recipe just calls for a little bit of pepper.

     

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    Prepare your dressing by mixing all the ingredients listed above and stirring. This is one of my very favorite Asian dressings I've come across on the web, and I make it often. Incidentally, I found a 1 lb bag of ginger at my Grocery Outlet for $1.99 and the garlic for $0.33 each. If you can't use up all the ginger before it goes bad? Consider chopping and freezing leftover portions or making ginger tea!

     

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    By now, your mung beans should be cooked and your salad ready to assemble! Toss the greens in the dressing, top with the peppers, scoop on some mung beans and sprinkle on the cilantro. I did have a decent amount of the prepped mung beans leftover, so I will refrigerate them to use in another recipe in the next day or so.

     

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    The warm mung beans added a nice touch to this salad - and they had such a mild, pleasing flavor! I could see how well they'd work on any number of recipes. While researching their use for this post, I also learned that some people even enjoy turning them into a cake! Now how would that be for a nutritious alternative for your kids?

    If you're looking for new, fun ingredients to make cooking fun again without breaking the bank? You need to visit Grocery Outlet!

    For more ideas, check out my other posts for this series:

    Make sure to come back next month for another fun installment!

    Angela Russell blogs at The Coupon Project, a site that encourages families to live well for less. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her firefighter husband and two small kids. In her spare time, she likes to read, garden, and has recently taken up canning.

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  • Lesson 9: Back to School Lunches on a Budget


    Frugal Find Logo

    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    If you're sending kids to school, likely you're making the decision between hot lunches at school or sending a cold lunch.  We have four kids all in school this year and a hot lunch costs $2.50 x 4 that's a whopping $10 a day!  I've talked before about our ENTIRE family grocery budget being only $75/week.  This would seriously eat into our budget so the decision for our family was an easy one to make.


    Back to School Kids

     


    Of course, finances aren't the only factor that plays into sending a lunch with our kids to school.  Knowing they'll actually EAT the food I send with them is even more important.  I wanted to share a few examples of lunches we send with our kids each day.  First of all, we invested in a few containers with snug lids to put inside their lunch boxes so that we could cut back on the cost of Ziploc bags.  I also scoured local thrift stores and found a few Thermos containers so that I could send hot lunches from time to time.  Sending hot lunches is a great way to stretch your budget if you have leftovers from dinner.  For example, today my daughter is taking a bowl of White Bean Chicken Chili to school today—I think that beats a PB&J any day!


    Cost of food varies greatly from state to state, but I think you'll find that hands-down, eating at home (or prepared at home) food is always cheaper.


    Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking about creative (and frugal!) lunchbox meals:
    Bagel & Cream Cheese
    Homemade Uncrustables (PB&J or Grilled Cheese)
    Salami, Cheese, and Crackers - substitute ham, turkey, etc
    Peanut Butter and Apple "Sandwiches"
    Homemade Pumpkin Muffins
    Soups and Chilis

     Homemade Uncrustable How-To!

    There are also a few tools that make packing lunches a breeze for me.  The first one is the Apple Wedger which works great for pears too! When packing hot liquid lunches (soups, etc) the Thermos Leak Proof Stainless Steel Food Container is a must!  Of course if you're packing a cold lunch and actually want it to stay cold you'll need a couple Blue Ice Packs.  Also as I mentioned above, a good set of plastic containers are very useful and in the end will help you to save money by cutting out Ziploc bags. I like The Container Store Klip-It Lunch Cubes but there are many different products on the market, the key is to make sure they don't leak especially if you're putting fruit or yogurt into the containers.


    Lastly, I thought I'd share one of my family's favorite recipes: Homemade Granola Bars!  They're actually very simple to make and a lot heartier (and healthier) than your average Quaker granola bars. This recipe comes from my friend Sumiko who blogs at Near to Nothing.  She guest posts on The Frugal Find each week in our From Our Pantry on a Budget series!

    Granola Bars
    2 cups old fashioned oats
    1/2 to 3/4 Cup packed brown sugar
    1/2 cup wheat germ*
    3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    3/4 tsp salt
    3/4 cup mix-ins (see below)
    1/2 cup honey
    1 egg
    1/2 cup canola oil
    2 tsp vanilla extract

    Mix-ins:
    Dried cranberries
    Chocolate chips or peanut butter chips
    1/2 Cup peanut butter (plus some chocolate chips, of course!)
    Nuts
    Dried fruits (apples, bananas, cherries, blueberries, etc.)
    Pretty much anything your heart desires!

     Granola Bars!


    Directions
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 baking pan and set aside. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour wet ingredients into well.  Mix until combined, then spread into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press it evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until they begin to turn brown around the edges. Cut bars while still warm then cool completely. Store in an air-tight container or zip-top bag.


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  • $4-A-Day Challenge: Mark

    Hi, I’m Mark, the Marketing Director for Grocery Outlet at our home office in Berkeley, CA.   I’m going to share with you my experience this week in eating on only $4 a day, which is going to be interesting since I can occasionally blow $20 on just one lunch!  My wife told me I was on my own this week, so I’m having a “bachelor” menu. Mark and Lois

    Eating in Berkeley isn’t cheap, unless you shop at Grocery Outlet.  I’ll be doing all my shopping there, so I’ll be paying about half price for my food which will put me at a big advantage versus people who shop at regular grocery stores.

    So here’s my story, hope you enjoy it, I’m sure I’m going to learn a few things!

    Monday
    I had planned it all out, I would do my shopping on Sunday and have everything ready to fix during the week. Then family came in from out of town and we had to travel on Sunday and all of a sudden it was Monday morning and I hadn’t shopped. Now what do I do? I looked at my “rough” meal plan and went downstairs to our store to strategize. I had planned eggs ($1.49/dz) and hash browns (only $2.49 for ten Lindens hash brown patties!) for a couple of breakfasts, then I saw some Jimmy Dean Maple Sausage sandwiches for only $5.99 for a 20ct box (only 30 cents a serving!). Sounds good! However, as I picked up the box and looked at the ingredients, it struck me that I was making some less than healthy choices. Hmmmm….

    Nimble Bar
    So I started my Monday with oatmeal and frozen blueberries mixed together which was very tasty. Lunch was two yogurts (3 for $1 at GO) and a “Nimble” peanut butter nutrition bar. Ok, Nimble is supposed to be for women, but the price was right ($ .33/bar) and it has 5g of fiber, 10g of protein plus Calcium, Iron, Vitamins C, D, E & B6, Lutein and Beta-Carotene! Dinner was my one vice with a salad with two pieces of Red Baron 4 meat pizza (only $ .50 a slice!). I normally drink water for most meals and the savings will help me save up for some wine with dinner later in the week!
    Final tally for Monday; $3.35
    $16.65 left for the week


    Tuesday
    I scrambled three eggs and added some fresh fruit for a nice breakfast that only penciled out to $.62. I started to adjust my plan for the week and observed that healthier choices (salad, fruit, etc,) were actually bringing my costs down! Lunch was a nice green salad with a Nimble bar. You can get a lot of salads out of a head of lettuce! Newman's Own In fact I got a little “heady” and decided I could have a glass of wine for dinner the last four nights with a $3.99 bottle of Newman’s Own Merlot, a great wine that sells for up to $9 elsewhere. With Newman’s Own, I’m also benefiting the charities that they donate their proceeds to so it’s a “win-win”. A 750ml bottle is 25.4oz which translates to four 6oz glasses. Cheers!
    I’ve got this figured out!
    Final tally for Tuesday ; $3.45
    $13.20 left for the week


    Wednesday
    Felt a little hungry this morning so I grabbed for breakfast one of my yogurts I was originally going to have for lunch. Breakfast
    When I got to lunch, I found to my dismay that my lettuce was going bad! Rats! I had pre-washed it and put it in an airtight ziplock, but I hadn’t dried it properly and didn’t put it in the “crisper” drawer in the fridge (yes honey, I know!). So, I had some slightly rusty salad for lunch along with a Nimble bar and some “humble pie” (cost: “priceless”). Then for dinner, with my 2 slices of pizza I had to substitute fruit for the salad (in addition to the grapes from the wine of course!
    Ew!  Lettuce gone bad! With my lettuce gone, I need to start re-strategizing the rest of the week now.
    Final tally for Wednesday; $4.11
    $9.09 left for the week


    Thursday
    Take a look at a very nutritious breakfast bowl! This is oatmeal ($ .28), with frozen blueberries ($.83) , plus a light showering of an anti-oxidant trail mix ($ .25). I usually get off to a good start with breakfast, then it’s all downhill the rest of the day! Lunch was yogurt ($ .66) and a Nimble bar ($ .33).
    Oatmeal
    My wife and I have our bocce ball league tonight and I’m meeting her there, so I’ll have to grab something before I leave. A two pack of mini burritos ($ .79, $1.49 elsewhere) looked good (remember what I said above about going downhill the rest of the day?) so I had those along with a banana ($ .20) for some extra potassium.
    Mojo bar
    While looking through our NOSH (Natural-Organic Specialty-Healthy) section I noticed Clif Mojo bars for only $ .50! With all the “Nimble” bars I’ve had this week I figured I could use a little extra “Mojo”!
    Final tally for Thursday: $3.84
    $5.25 left for Friday!

     


    CHEATER ALERT!!!
    When I ventured into Melissa Porter’s (VP of Marketing and my boss!) office I caught her eating a full size salad bowl! We sell these pre-packaged salad bowls (complete with proteins, cheese, veggies, etc., even a fork!) for only $2.99, but that still would bust a $4-A-Day budget. I think there’s something fishy going on here!

    Melissa eating salad!


    Friday
    I’m in the home stretch and have a whopping $5.25 left for today! My only question left was, “what would Lois Prices do?”. I went to my old standby, 3 scrambled eggs with fruit for breakfast ($ .62). Lunch was yogurt, a Nimble bar and a banana ($1.20). So, $3.43 left for dinner… let’s see, what would I like?Glass of Wine
    Friday is always pizza night at our house, so I went for 2 slices of pizza ($1), some salad (ok, I had to borrow it!) for $.25 which left me with $2.18 for...hm, I guess that means I can have an extra glass of wine! Cheers!

    Total tally: $19.82
    $3.96/day
    Not bad!


    Looking back on the week, I was surprised at how cheaply you can eat with careful planning, preparing and of course, shopping at Grocery Outlet for the best prices! I do have a new found respect for those who face a tight food budget every day as it does require considerable thought up front as well as planning and preparation for a family. I look forward to using the things I’ve learned this week to eat for less money as well as eat healthier (and store my lettuce properly!).

    What about you? What have you learned on your $4-A-Day Challenge? Leave us a comment on Facebook and let us know!

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  • Back to School Lunches

    Any parent will agree that the world’s toughest food critics are children. Do you want to give your kids a healthy, balanced back-to-school lunch filled with protein and that will provide energy and nutrition and keep them satisfied? We know that this may sound like a lot to fulfill for a busy parent, but don’t worry—Grocery Outlet is here to help!

    To make certain that your child’s lunch doesn’t go straight into the trash when you drop them off at school, you need a lunch packing strategy. Fill out your child’s lunch box with a piece of fresh fruit like a green apple or red grapes, some veggies (such as mini carrots), and some dry snacks like trail mix. Then add a “main course” for your kid—try a Peanut Butter Berry-Wich or the The Mighty Mozz Sandwich. Both of these recipes will kick-start your kid’s appetite and are healthy, well balanced meals. 

    Best of all, you can find most all of the ingredients for a healthy, inexpensive lunch at Grocery Outlet.  We know there's a lot to do to be ready for school, but make a quick stop by your local GO store and you'll see how we can help you save on back-to-school lunches and snacks.


    PB Berry Wich

    (via epicurious.com)


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  • Spare your Savings this Summer

    So maybe the sun hasn't come out reliably this summer, but you can still save on summer fun by bringing summer indoors!  Team Bargainista has come up with some fantastic activities to do with your kids both inside & out of the house this month.

    Start the day with a craft—create some “Fancy Dinnerware” by following these craft instructions. This is a fun activity that keeps active hands busy inside if the weather is gloomy.

    Hungry for lunch?  A sandwich is  standard, but if you're out of fun ideas, try one of these 442 sandwich recipes!  Even if you don’t enjoy cooking, sandwiches are easy. Help your kids pick their favorite fixings at Grocery Outlet and set up a sandwich bar.

    Movie theaters are always a fun place to take the kids. See a matinee showing one of the newest kid flicks and save money—matinees will be less expensive and the theater will be less crowded during the day.  Or get a movie delivery service like Netflix, and rent your favorite flicks to keep the kids occupied.

    Try to get the kids to read more books! Have you been to your local public library recently? If you haven’t, head over there this week and bring your children. You local branch has many great things going on all summer long. Summer reading clubs are a great place for resources and research, and they usually have air conditioning on hot summer days. Check out books on foreign places and take a trip with your imagination. Research foreign customs and meals and recreate at home for lots less than a plane ticket.

    Stay cool, save money, and enjoy the sun or the shade.

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  • Brown Bag Bargains

    Going back to school means the start of a new year and a chance to craft some creative lunches for your kids. After the novelty of school wears off, try some of these ideas to mix things up. At Grocery Outlet, we have all the items you need to make these fantastically frugal meals your kids are sure to enjoy.

    Cookie Cutter Sandwiches
    Sandwiches cut with a large cookie cutter are always fun.  Try fall shapes like pumpkins, stars, and moons.  This technique also solves that pesky crust problem.

    Pin Wheel Sandwiches
    Spread your child's favorite sandwich filling onto a tortilla.  Roll it up and slice it into smaller pieces. Our favorite fillings are peanut butter and jelly, lunch meat with cream cheese or another kind of spreadable cheese.  If they don’t stay closed once they are rolled, secure with a toothpick.

    Cheesy Stars
    Use a small star cookie cutter to cut cheddar cheese pieces. In a separate bag provide crackers or apple slices. You can also use the cookie cutter to cut lunch meat.  These are really fun to stack.  Make a constellation!

    Dipping
    Kids adore dipping so try fresh-cut veggies with either ranch dressing, cottage cheese, peanut butter, or hummus.

    Try sending cookies along with a favorite yogurt for kids to dip.  This way they are getting less sugar than they would with a pre-packaged frosting treat.

    Fun Chips
    Use large cookie cutters to cut a flour tortilla or wrap. Arrange on cookie sheet and toast in a 400 degree oven for 6-8 mins.  Send to school plain or with bean dip for dipping.  Also, try brushing a very small amount of olive oil or cooking spray, then sprinkle parmesan cheese or a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. If you try the cinnamon sugar, send the chips along with a container of applesauce for dipping.

    Packaging
    Exciting packaging really appeals to kids, but unfortunately, what's inside is not always nutritious. Solve this dilemma by making your own fun packaging: stock up on cheerfully colored re-usable containers, fun party napkins and stickers for plastic bags.  Wrap ribbon around napkins for napkin holders.  Put googly eyes on the outside of containers (juice boxes work great for this). Write them notes—you can write messages directly on banana peels! Put in your favorite jokes, fun facts, or inside jokes.

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