Last month I had very little after bills. This month, I have even less. Combine the $570 oil bill, the $320 electric bill, the quarterly $120 water bill, the quarterly $156 sewer bill, and then add in all the other usual bills and I have to say we’re pretty much bust. These things definitely weren’t planned when I made up the budget back in September. I’ve been lucky enough not to live paycheck-to-paycheck this past year. The money comes in, it sits in the account until the following month when it is used in this order:
- pay all the bills.
- buy groceries/medications/household items
- stuff that needs to be done
- spending money
Technically savings is #4, but it seems to get raided more and more this year with the new house. Once May comes around and we can move the oil to the equal payment plan, and in September we can move the electric to the equal payment plan, there will be less budgetary strain in the winter.
So since the money ran out somewhere during #2 this month, other than scrambling about for a few extra bucks of revenue from that pile of stuff I’ve been meaning to sell on eBay for 6 months, I do what I generally do in these circumstances: EAT ON THE CHEAP. One of my favorite go-to recipes is Chicken Bog. I originally got this recipe from Home Ec 101, but have made several changes to that original version to make it my own. This version takes a lot longer to make, but I think is more filling/cheap/nutritional. For example, I use whole grain rice instead of white rice. I use whole chickens instead of more expensive boneless/skinless breast and take advantage of the good bone broth that adds nutrition. I use smoked sausage instead of spicier andouille. I use the schmaltz (chicken fat) from the chicken rather than adding a bunch of butter.
- 1 whole boiler-fryer chicken approx 3lbs (currently about $7.50, which is a shame)
- 1 small onion (about $.50)
- 1 lb smoked sausage (precooked) (about $3.99)
- brown rice or combination brown/black/red/wild rice ~2 cups (like Lundberg Farms Wild Blend about $3.50, or less if you buy bulk and blend your own)
- Thyme ($.02)
- Parsely ($.02)
- Garlic Powder ($.02)
- frozen chopped spinach (I got mine for $1.99)
- Take the giblets out of the chicken and put it in a large pot (with skin on!). Cover with water, bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 90-120 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
- Take the chicken out of the broth and set it in a bowl to cool, because stripping a hot chicken is not fun. Once cool, strip off/toss the chicken skin and shred the rest of the chicken.
- Strain the broth into measuring cups. Let it cool. If you’re interested in lightening the fat content, you can place it in the fridge/freezer for a bit until the fat congeals and scrape some off the top.
- Slice the sausage in half lengthwise and then slice into half-moon coins. Chop up the onion. with a bit of oil (or lard, or schmaltz since it’s sitting right there) cook the sausage & onion together in a pan until onion is softened and sausage is slightly browned.
- Here’s where the measuring of the broth comes into play. For brown/wild rice in this dish, the amount of rice you use should be 1/3 the amount of broth you have. I shoot for 6 cups of broth and 2 cups of rice. If you don’t have 6 cups of broth to begin with, add water until you get there. If you have more broth, you can either freeze the extra for other dishes or add more rice accordingly.
- Combine broth, sausage, chicken, spinach, and herbs in the pot. bring to a boil.
- Add measured rice, cover, reduce heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Stir. You’ll notice it’s quite watery and the rice is hard. Let the pot sit for two hours. Yup, just walk away. The rice will continue cooking/softening.
- Stir and serve, it should still be nice and hot.
Amount: This makes me about 8 servings (at ~$2.25/serving), and it’s hugely filling. I generally make by the double batch, then separate into containers for each meal and freeze most of it.