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  • Italian Wedding Soup and Spaghetti and Meatballs


     Guest Post from The Coupon Project



    Every month in 2014, I'll be working to give a plan for a couple meals you can easily put together for your family by shopping Grocery Outlet. My goal is to keep the menu to $2 or less per serving, based on a family of six. In addition to finding terrific bargains at Grocery Outlet, I'm going to work to save money by using similar ingredients across both meals. For instance, in January I shared an awesome hearty slow cooker chili recipe and then we took the leftovers and turned them into burritos for the next day!

    For February, it's all about meatballs! Meatballs are delicious and quick to make, plus they can be used in a variety of dishes. We'll start by making up a big batch of meatballs the first night we'll make an amazing Italian Wedding Soup. The next night, we'll simmer the remaining meatballs in a simple spaghetti sauce.

     

    Ingredients

    Chances are you may already have many of the ingredients needed for either or both of these recipes like I did!


    Here's what I ended up buying at Grocery Outlet:
    - 1 lb lean ground beef
    - 1 lb ground bulk sausage (OR for leaner recipes, opt for a 2nd lb of lean ground beef)
    - bag of onions
    - bag of carrots
    - 1 clamshell organic baby spinach
    - Fresh grated Parmesan cheese (I found this for just $1.99!)
    - Loaf of sourdough bread
    - 2 (28 oz) cans of whole tomatoes (I found these for just $0.99!)
    - 4 cans chicken broth

     
    From the pantry:
    - 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
    - 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
    - 1/2 cup dry pasta (for soup) - any kind you have will do!
    - dry spaghetti noodles
    - minced garlic
    - 6 oz can tomato paste
    - 2 eggs
    - 1 tsp sugar
    - 1 bay leaf
    - 1/4 cup olive oil
    - salt and fresh ground pepper

     
    All together, I paid $23.27 out of pocket at Grocery Outlet for the items from my grocery list above! That works out to $11.64 per meal, or $1.94 per serving (based on 6 servings) - just under my $2 menu plan goal!

    Not only that, both of the following recipes are absolutely delicious. Even my picky eating children adored them!

    Step One: Meatball Prep!

     

     Meatball Prep

    The first step is going to be the most time consuming, but lucky for you, it's not that time consuming! I recommend you make all the meatballs for both recipes on the same night, to reduce mess and prep time.

    In a large glass bowl, mix the lean ground beef, sausage (if using), breadcrumbs, 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, 2 eggs, 2 tsp minced garlic, and tbsp Italian seasoning.

     

     Meatballs!

     

     I find the easiest way to mix is simply by hand! If you can't get over the "ew" factor, you could process in a mixer. Once mixed, roll into small meatballs. I worked to make mine as consistent in size as possible, for even cooking times. You're now ready to make the next two recipes!

    I should mention that the Italian sausage made these meatballs quite tasty, but definitely upped the fat content. If you're looking to reduce that, I recommend you swap out the sausage for another pound of lean ground beef. Another idea would be to pre-cook the meatballs for the recipes below, to cook off some of the fat.

    Night One: Italian Wedding Soup


    Italian Wedding Soup

    I drew inspiration from this recipe at AllRecipes.com for today's easy and delicious soup! Start by bringing your 4 cans of chicken broth (8 cups total) to a boil. Then, add 1 cup diced carrots, 1/2 cup pasta (I used corkscrew), 1 cup spinach and 1/2 of your batch of meatballs. Cook for 10 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked. That's it! I served mine with the loaf of sourdough bread.

     

    Night Two: Italian Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs

     

    Spaghetti & Meatballs

     

    Once you've tried this delicious spaghetti sauce, I dare you to go back to the jarred stuff! I took inspiration from this recipe at Allrecipes.com.

     

    Spaghetti Sauce


    This recipe is incredibly simple to prepare, but it does require some time - so make sure to plan ahead! Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Stir in the 2 cans of whole tomatoes, salt, sugar, and bay leaf. Cover, reduce to a simmer for 90 minutes. Next, add your meatballs, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and pepper to taste. Cook another 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are fully cooked. Serve with the pasta of your choice. I also love mine topped with a little Parmesan.

    The next time you're planning your family's menu, think about how you could save money by using similar ingredients or leftovers for a second meal. Then, make sure to shop Grocery Outlet first to save even more.

    Join me next month for another menu plan and shopping list!

    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 the rare event she finds spare time, she loves gardening, hanging out with her girlfriends, and watching old cheesy monster movies.


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  • Your Holiday Home – Inside and Out

    Decking the halls can be overwhelming and expensive. So if you haven't had time to tackle your holiday decorating yet, we put together some budget-friendly ideas to help inspire your inner elf.

    DIY all the way. Making your own decorations will save money and it's sure to get you into the holiday spirit. Pinterest has more holiday DIY ideas than the North Pole has snow. And don't forget to get the kids involved. One of our favorite bargain bloggers, Charlene at My Frugal Adventures, has a great tutorial for Easy Homemade Children's Christmas Ornaments. Check it out and get your craft on!

    Poinsettia points. The poinsettia is a classic. And the bright red blooms will last for weeks. So go ahead and add them around the house – inside and out. Right now we have a great deal on 6-inch potted poinsettias for only $3.99. You'll save up to $5 on each one!

     

    Poinsettias

    Twinkle, twinkle. Twinkle lights add instant holiday glow. We like to add them to a mantle, a door frame and even above a headboard in the bedroom. And the new LED lights use less energy, up to 75% less, so you'll save money on your energy bill.

    Pinecones everywhere. Take a winter walk and gather pinecones to spruce up your holiday home with a natural twist. You can glam them up with glitter or keep them au natural. Before using, it's a good idea to bake pinecones at 200-degrees for 20-30 minutes to dry the sap and kill any bugs.  

    Now it's time to get decorating so you can enjoy it for the rest of the month before we ring in 2014! Happy Holideals from Grocery Outlet!

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  • Last-Minute Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks

    It happens. Sometimes, despite our best intentions to plan ahead, the holiday happenings creep up on us and we find ourselves strapped for time. But don’t let it keep you from playing host to the most wonderful meal of the year. Here are three quick tips for the Last-Minute Lucy’s out there.

    Mini bird. If you don’t have time to thaw and cook the whole turkey, opt for just the breast. A five-pound turkey breast will cook in just about one hour and will serve 6-8 people.

    Less is more. You don’t need eight different side dishes. Just choose your favorite three side dishes. After all, the true Thanksgiving bounty is the abundance of loved ones. And the turkey sandwiches on Friday!

    Store bought shortcuts. Dressing up store bought products is a great way to save time and impress guests. Add fresh garlic and parsley to boxed mashed potatoes. A store bought pumpkin pie looks great topped with homemade whipped cream, sprinkled graham cracker crumbs and a sprig of fresh mint.

     


    Thanksgiving Dinner

    Easy Thanksgiving Decor

    Thanksgiving is all about the food, so don’t let a fussy centerpiece steal the show. Consider these ideas to let the great American feast take center stage.

    Thankful notes. Use a butcher paper table runner and place colorful markers at each place setting. Ask your guests to write or draw what they are thankful for. In fact, ask them to do it before each course is served.

    Outside in. While you are whisking the gravy, ask your guests to take a nature walk down the block to collect fall foliage and acorns. Then they can place their treasures in a clear glass vase (or a few) on the table.

    Go nuts. Use your existing serving dishes, like a clear glass trifle bowl, and fill with whole walnuts. You can also layer with clementines to add a dash of bright orange color.

    Pumpkin redo. Use those leftover pumpkins from Halloween for a winter white tablescape. Just paint pumpkins in creamy white hues and you can even add gold glitter for a little sparkle.

    Whatever you choose to decorate your table, we’re certain the family, friends and food gracing your table will be the most memorable.

    Happy Holideals from Grocery Outlet!



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  • Back to School Savings

    Back-to-School season can cost you both time and money. Being of the frugal-minded, we want to help you alleviate some of the cost. Below, are a few easy-to-do suggestions on how to save money on school supplies.

    Think simple and plan. Make a list of the bare essentials for school and plan a budget. Knowing what you can spend in advance will help prevent surprise purchases and added stress. Stick to the bare minimum, like paper and pencils, and expand from there. Keep in mind, they’re going to class, not combat.

    Practice patience. During the first week of classes, teachers will usually send home a list of required items and materials for the school year. Holding off on a shopping spree and waiting for an “official” school list will prevent you from buying unnecessary items and help save on costs.

    Scavenge your space. Start your shopping at home. You’ll be surprised to find that a lot of the items on your list are probably right under your nose. Gather barely-used pens and pencils from your “junk” drawer, or borrow scotch tape and glue from your craft box. Better yet, help your children clean out their rooms, while keeping an eye out for lost rulers or erasers.

     

    Back to School

    Recover and recreate. Be creative with your old findings. You can spruce up used notebooks and binders with collages, using recycled paper, old magazines and stickers. If you’re sew-savvy, you can use loose fabric and a spare button to make a one-of-a-kind pencil case. Making it a family activity will help ensure your kids are happy with their refurbished supplies, while lessening your shopping load.

    Stay Organized. Encourage your family to keep all school essentials in one place. This will save time when a last-minute school project comes up and emergency report covers or construction paper is needed. But most importantly, staying organized will help you avoid unnecessary expenses during the school year, when things tend to get misplaced.

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  • Go Green Bag!

    We're excited to announce our Go Green Bag Contest on Instagram!  You see, we think the Earth is pretty fantastic and we bet you do too.  In honor of Earth Month, we're inviting you to submit your designs for the front of the bag on Instagram using the hash tag #GoGreenBag.  Every entry will be entered to win a $100 Grocery Outlet Gift Card.

    Please read below for the official rules.  We can't wait to see your designs!


    Contest Rules!

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  • Cooking with Wine

    With our wine sale earlier this month, you probably have a bunch of bottles stocked up.  Inevitably, there’s half a bottle lying around after dinner that you cork back up and then forget about, and before you realize it, it’s turned to vinegar.  Such a waste!

    The great news is that there’s a simple way to use up leftover wine—cooking! You can up the Wow Factor of any dish by adding a little bit of wine to the recipe, which saves you money and cuts down on waste.


    Cooking with Wine


    Here are some ideas on how to add wine to your cooking:
    • Add wine to your marinade.  The acid in the marinade will help the meat absorb the flavor of the wine.
    • Replace some of the water, vinegar, broth, or fruit juice in a recipe with wine for a richer, fuller flavor.
    • Use a little bit to add flavor to soups, stews, gravy, and hearty dishes.
    • Make sangria!  Add chopped fruit and a little sugar and you have the perfect summer beverage.
    • Mix with oil and spices to baste turkey, roasts, or braise vegetables.
    • Make a pan sauce using the juices from the meat, some wine, and some spices.  Perfect for sautéed or browned meats.
    • Create a classic French dish like Coq au Vin.  Julia Child’s classic recipe is worth a try: Coq au Vin Recipe

    The rule of thumb is to pair red wine with heartier fare, and white wine with lighter dishes.  But we say experiment!  Your palate is what’s most important.  Try a bunch of things and find out what works best for you.  Always consult the recipe if you’re cooking with wine—the author may have had a specific flavor profile in mind and has done the legwork ahead of time.

    What do you like to drink with different foods?  


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  • Cut Back on Food Waste

    This weekend I finally cleaned out my fridge.  It was scary.

    In December we had the holidays, followed by the mad rush to get back into the normal swing of everyday life, and as a result, my refrigerator hadn't had a good going-over in quite some time. I lost a lot of food due to my negligence, and I'm sure I lost quite a bit of money to boot.

    Food waste is a serious problem.  As of 2011, it's estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food (about 1/3 of total worldwide food production) were lost.  In developed countries like ours, most of that waste happens at the consumption stage, when the food has already reached the consumer.

    Food and Dirt

    I was pretty shocked at how much I had to throw in the compost bin and trash can, and it made me wonder how I might cut back on food waste in 2012.

    My plan:

    1. Plan my meals.  It always feels like a hassle, but I just do better when I have a plan.  It cuts down on shopping time, helps me eat healthier, and I know what's in my pantry and fridge so that fewer products go to waste.

    2. Shop my kitchen first.  Look at what you have around you before you spend.   You might have the kitchen staple you've just put on your list, so check your fridge and your pantry before you head to the store.

    3. Store produce properly.  Tired of finding a drawer of wilted, slimy vegetables?  Some fruits emit ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas that speeds ripening and can lead to the premature decay of nearby ethylene-sensitive vegetables.  It's important to store foods that give off ethylene gas separately from those that are sensitive to it.  Check out this guide for tips on how to store produce and when to eat it.

     4. Use less-than-perfect produce to make stock.  If you've never done this before, it's pretty easy and uses up any discarded vegetable bits you've got in your fridge. This website has several different stocks to make with instructions: Reluctant Gourmet.

     5. Eat leftovers.  When I put mine away now, I put them at the very front of the fridge at eye level.  Sometimes I even write the date on the top of the box, so I know how long I have.

    If I follow these rules, I should have a much more pleasant fridge, and less of my money and my food will end up in the scrap heap.

    What about you?  How do you reduce food waste?  Share your ideas with us.

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  • Being Eco-Conscious at Grocery Outlet

    It may surprise you to know that Grocery Outlet is on a mission to become eco-friendly.  Even though our primary goal is to bring you quality products at extremely low prices, we also include sustainability and eco-responsibility in our overall strategy.  Here are some things that Grocery Outlet has done in our corporate offices to reduce waste, save energy, and make our planet a better place:

    1. We used to provide free bottled water for employees. We've now switched to filtered drinking water coolers and drinking glasses. We recycle the paper cups we do use.
    2. We bought Duplex Printers—we encourage printing on both sides of the paper.
    3. We switched to energy saving smart power strips
    4. We bought energy saving dishwashers. We switched to motion lights in offices to save energy.
    6. We made the change to organic, fair trade coffee and biodegradable coffee filters.
    7. We provide incentives for employees to ride their bike or carpool to cut down on emissions.
    8. We recycle cardboard, plastic, cans, bottles, paper, bubble wrap, and Styrofoam, as well as cartridges, staplers, and other difficult items to recycle.
    9. We buy recycled copy paper and office products.
    10. We switched our janitorial supplies and paper towels to more sustainable, eco-friendly products.
    11. We try to make electronic copies more than paper copies.

    Also, we've made sourcing organic, sustainable, and eco-friendly products for you a priority.  You'll regularly see brands like Amy's Organic, Kashi, Annie's, Nature's Gate, and many more in our stores.  The eco-friendly product that I'm most excited about is Bear River Valley Cereals.  We're featuring these cereals in our July ad (consider this a sneak peek!).  Bear River Valley cereals use 75% less packaging than other brands, and the manufacturer supports renewable wind energy.  Also, all shipping cartons are made from 100% recycled product.  You can learn more about Bear River Valley here.


    Bear Valley

    Best of all, each cereal is only 99 cents!  You save up to $2 on this cereal.  That's something to cheer about!

    This is just one of many examples of how Grocery Outlet can help you save money and the planet.  We'll keep our eyes out for more fantastic eco-bargains.  Stay tuned!

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  • 10 Simple Ideas for Re-Using Jars

    I'm always thinking about creative ways to both save money and the environment at the same time.  I turn to Apartment Therapy's Re-Nest blog often for its useful and fantastic ideas on how to be an eco-frugalist. 

    One article I return to constantly is this one: 10 Simple Uses for Spaghetti Jars.  It has great ideas on how to re-use those jars—packaging we mostly overlook before we (hopefully) throw it in the recycling bin.  You can save a lot of money by re-using and re-purposing items you might otherwise throw away.  And the nice thing about jars is that they look great and don't degrade while leaching icky chemicals the way that plastic does.

     

     Jars

     

    Here are some of their tips on how to re-use jars, plus some of our own:
    1. Storage of bulk foods - re-use jars for storing sugar, flour, grains, rice, etc. when the original packaging wears out, or if you split with a friend.
    2. Watering your houseplants – skip a watering can and fill up a jar instead.
    3. Cold drinks - add some lime or lemon juice or some cucumber to a jar of water, put the lid on and give it a little shake. Then stick in the fridge until you need some refreshment. Works well for iced tea too.
    4. Breakfast on the run – add instant oatmeal, dried fruit and brown sugar to a jar and toss in your bag. Once you're at work, at some hot water, mix well and enjoy.
    5. Leftovers – who needs expensive Tupperware? Great for dips, sauces, and soup.
    6. Organization - keep various screws and nails of all sizes in these, or cotton balls and swabs in your bathroom. Jars are clear so you can see what's inside.
    7. Gifts – pass along those sauces, mixes, and other edibles in a jar. Tie a pretty ribbon around the lid and you’re done.
    8. Make your own flavored olive oil – mix oil with your favorite herbs like rosemary or basil and let sit for a few days. Drizzle a salad or dip in some fresh bread.
    9. Ribbon or string/yarn/twine storage - Cut a hole in the top for a twine dispenser or slit for ribbon dispenser.
    10. Piggy bank – corral loose change and keep handy for those parking meters and bus fares.

    Check out our varied selection of pasta sauces and jarred foods to spice up your lunches and dinners. We offer sauces, jams, pickles, peppers, and all kinds of other jarred foods whose packaging can be reused in creative ways.

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