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Spice of life: Coupons, planning meals not forbidden


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The recent financial climate has really changed the way we look at food. We are either cutting back on our spending because we have to or are pushing full steam ahead because we don’t think past the now.

I am not a coupon clipper, a menu planner or a bargain buyer. I just don’t have it in me. I am a smart shopper, and I watch how I spend my money; but I am not at the level that some of my friends are.

During the past several years, popular saving sites such as The Queen of Free, Bargain Briana, Chaos is Bliss and IN Good Cents have helped Indiana shoppers get great deals both online and in the grocery aisles. So I may not be chasing deals, but I know where to look when I need one.

So this is the part where I eat a bit of crow. A few weeks ago I walked into the kitchen and caught my husband and son clipping coupons. I was shocked to say the least. I didn’t even realize they knew coupons came in the paper, let alone things we actually buy were advertised there. That’s how little attention we have paid to these inserts over the years.

You would think my family had struck gold. They were giddy with the prospect of saving money and snagging a few deals. Of course, I had to one-up their discovery. So while they were clipping away, I sat down and planned our menu for the week.

I had just received a preview copy of a Gooseberry Patch cookbook that is soon to be released called “Weeknight Dinners.” It is a one-stop menu planning source, and I tapped into this pot of gold.

Before I knew what I had done I plotted a course for six-straight dinners at home that not only were interesting recipes but promised leftovers. In our house that means lunch for my youngest and me.

Not to be outdone, my husband went through his pile of coupons and matched what he had to my shopping list and sweetened the deal by skimming the store ads to scan the sales.

Genius! Why have we never done this before? We were inspired this time. We may do it again, but that day snowballed off the momentum of excitement. My kids got in on the action, and I would like to think they learned something.

So I did something new that I had said I didn’t want to. It may not be a habit that sticks, but at least that week we had a consistent dinner menu scheduled, and that’s what I needed.

One of our favorites that week was a simple and comforting white chicken chili. Truthfully, I could eat this every week. Hearty and filling, this quick dinner can be on the table in 30 minutes. Serve it with a salad and some tortilla chips for dipping, and you are set.

White Chicken Chili

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons of olive oil

6 cups of chicken stock or broth

3 16-ounce cans Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups of cooked chicken (rotisserie works great), chopped

4-ounce can chopped green chilies

1 tablespoon of ground cumin

Salt/pepper to taste

Dash of hot sauce, optional

Directions

In a large Dutch oven-sized pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent and fragrant.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top each bowl with sour cream, cheese, cilantro, optional.

Heather Tallman lives in the Center Grove area and writes the cooking blog Basilmomma.

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