Mission Accomplished: $80/Week at Whole Foods Market & 2 Muffin Recipes!

Anwar and I met at college, and on our first date, he said, “Well… if your Grandpa was Italian… You must be able to cook?” Hope in his eyes.

“Of course I can!” I considered my gift for assembling exceptionally beautiful sandwiches, boiling pasta and adding jarred sauce, and… I’d seen it done.  I actually thought I could.  Ha!

“My family takes food very seriously.”  First date.  Goodness.  Smitten by him, and given insight into his passion, I made a point of always having his favorite foods on hand… Twizzlers, Twix, Hot Pockets, Whoppers… anything those prepaid points could buy in the school store.  Every time it was like a miracle.  He just lit up, and fell in love with me a little bit more with every bite.

Not too long after we eloped in the woods during an undergrad summer vacation.  By this point, I’d grown very aware of how high the bar had been set as far as culinary matters go.  “My mom said to never marry a woman who can’t cook…”  and “My mom said a good cook ____”  No pressure.  The first time I went to his parents’  home for Thanksgiving, wedding band sparkling, I actually wept at the table.  I’d never seen, or tasted anything like the 17 or so dishes before me- a perfect symphony.  I looked at him, devastated, and said,

“I will never, ever, ever be able to do this for you.”  His father re-tells me that story every single time I see him.

“Do you remember the time…”

Well, I took the leftovers home, and quickly brought them to my girlfriend whose mother was from India… a lot of the preparation and spice concepts that she had learned from her mom overlapped with these West Indian Dishes.  She dissected each and every side, and carefully wrote down the directions while she recreated it for me in her kitchen.

While my fellow grads spent their days building their businesses and excelling in law and med school, I (to their disdain) spent my time learning everything I could about cooking by making Anwar Thanksgiving dinner about every other week until Christmas of the following year… when… I served up each and every dish (Well… I put a CUP of salt in the rice and peas… humiliating… so almost every dish!) to his family.  It meant so much to be able to reassure him that there was hope.  I might just have a shred of talent after all.  And, if I didn’t, I compensated with stubborn (obsessive?) determination!


I made a huge mistake once while reading the above book.  So inspired by the outcry against North Americans consuming unnecessary quantities of the earth’s resources, and the call to eat less so that we had more $ to help the impoverished people in the world, I went… overboard in my efforts.  Anwar never got over the butt of the lettuce showing up on his unlucky spoon from one of the crock pot soups that I had made.  No matter how many times I have told him these past 7 years of wedded life that, “The book did not tell me to do that!  Don’t blame the book!  I was just thinking… let’s not waste anything!” he still protests every time he sees me take it off the shelf- as if it has maddening powers within it!

For this project, I knew I had to get double dipped in the teachings and applications of More With Less.  These efforts bore much fruit… or… well, you know what I mean.


In true Whole Foods Market form, the cashier got into the spirit of our project and pulled out the coupon book to make sure we were getting every deal possible!


A.ma.zing customer service.  Seriously.  Such a nice experience.  And, now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… the grand total for ingredients to make 21 meals:




Success!  And it even included some nice luxury items, like 3 of like these lovelies:


Whose kid is that playing with the oysters?  Where are her parents?




Nevermind.  Is that her father taking a selfie in the cheese case?


Her mother’s not paying attention.


Because she’s dreaming up some bomb muffins!  Check it:


To make these Cinnamon-Topped Oatmeal Muffins for your breakfasts, preheat your over to 425 degrees and grease a muffin tin.

Mix 1 c flour, 1/4 c sugar, 3 t. baking powder and 1/2 t salt.  Then stir in 1 c quick or old fashioned oats and 1/2 c raisins.


Stir, stir.


Add 3 T oil (There are a few items I did not purchase, like oil & salt.  I’ll tell you what they are as I go).


A beaten




And, 1 cup of milk.  I opted for unsweetened coconut almond milk because 1) I’m in love with it  2) It was on sale and 3) Anwar won’t notice that it’s not cow milk in a baked good… as opposed to cereal.


No need to cry over a little spilled milk.  Just keep going!

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Stir together 2 T sugar, 2 t flour, 1 t cinnamon (did not purchase today), and 1 t melted butter (we had a lot of left over butter from Christmas, so I did not buy more.  If you decide to make all of these recipes, you will very likely find that you don’t have to buy every ingredient either… perhaps you’ll already have sugar and raisins, for instance).  Stir together, and…


top the muffins before you bake for 15 minutes.


Let them cool a little, and then try them out on someone you love!


What can I say?  Seven years of marriage later, and I still wait to see if I’ll get the response I’m hoping for!


Win!  And, they’re 143 calories each!  So- have 2 for breakfast with your coffee!

Now, since I’m in muffin mode, and would like to have these last for several breakfasts (yeah right… that’s why I got oatmeal for back up!), I decided to delve into the Whole Wheat Pineapple Muffins.  As a new bride, when I discovered a recipe that got a reaction out of my husband like the one above, I made it a staple.  I don’t think he realized it came from this book!  You can see how often I visited this page…


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix 1 c white flour


1 c whole wheat flour


and 3 t baking powder (I had this on hand).


Separately, cream 1/4 c sugar and 1/4 c butter (the book calls for margarine… not happening)


until it looks something like this:


Add one egg.


Beat well; stir in: 1 can of crushed pineapple, undrained (I didn’t read that right when I made it… the book calls for 1 cup… go for the whole can.  It was awesome).


Add dry ingredients,


and stir just enough to moisten the flour.


Bake in greased muffin tins for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from tins at once.


I visited Anwar while he edited a film in the other room,




Yay!!!  155 calories each!

One tip: the second you unpack your groceries, place the dried beans in containers with lots of water.  Drain them and refrigerate them in sealed containers once they’re nice and plump (8 hrs or so).


 This will have you prepped long before you start the recipes for your weekly meal plan!  I’m so excited to dive into the rest of this week!  Here’s a sneak peak of the plan for the dinners coming up:


And little chef just prepped some French Bread, which we will use with the sun butter recipe from a past blog and some 365 Jelly or bananas for lunches!


Sending you a hearty helping of love as we all leap into 2014, ready to get healthy, save $, and get out of/stay away from debt!

Living Off $80/Week at Whole Foods Market & A Hummus Recipe!

I read the “Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions” yesterday, and 3 of them included: Lose Weight, Get Out of Debt, & Save Money.  This gave me a newfound sense of purpose for this blog effort- as it touches on these three things.

It also got me thinking about why I love the Whole Foods Market SO much… why it’s worth it to me to get creative with seeking out values just so I can go there on a regular basis.  And I realized, especially in these brown and grey winter months, that I just feel better in there!

The flowers- so fragrant and thoughtfully arranged with their colors saying, “Hello!” every time I see them.  “Stop, slow down, allow us to engage your senses.”





The produce… everything feels right in the world in the produce department.  Doesn’t it?  Health seems within grasp.  Surrounded by the beauty, I can think clearly.  Oh, beautiful nature!



The familiar faces.  There’s such a high job satisfaction with the team members, they tend to stick around.  It’s nice to see the same faces enough that there’s a sense of having a local grocer, and… they’re nice!  Happy-with-job people are nice people!  Eager to help.  Never in a rush.  Willing to linger and answer questions, and find things with you instead of pointing to the aisle and giving the, “don’t think I’m walking there” face that we all know from conventional grocery stores.  (So frustrating to spend 25 minutes looking for an ingredient).  They’re just great!



Samples of the chocolate truffles imported from France? Jackpot!


Beauty, beauty everywhere!






I like going there.  It inspires me.  And I just no longer buy into the “I can’t afford to go there” mentality.  It’s like Tiffany’s in Breakfast With Tiffany’s!  Of course we can!  If we go in and buy one latte, or fill our basket with high end prepared foods… it’s the same experience.  We are received the same, treated the same.

So, with New Year’s Gusto, I introduce my new project: Can we live off of $80/week, 21 meals in 7 days, while shopping at Whole Foods Market?  I intend to find out- starting on Monday, and I will be posting as I go this January to keep you updated and inspired with recipes and new insights, so check in often!  I’m going to spend the next few days strategizing so that I go in with a plan!  Can’t wait to share it with you.  In the meantime,

since hummus is amazing,



Here’s a super yummy recipe for making a big old tub of it yourself to save some dinero:



Here goes:

2 cans of garbanzo beans, drain the liquid out of one.

3 rounded teaspoons of tahini (a little spending up front, huge savings over time)

1/2 c extra virgin olive oil.

2-3 cloves of garlic.

1.5 tsp salt.

1 whole lemon, peeled.

I throw in whatever for some extra flavor (dill, roasted red pepper, kalamata olives, cilantro).

Purée the mess out of it.




pair it with something awesome.  We’re hummousdilla fans in the Allen home.


Bon Appétit!

Laura’s Keep-Calm-and-Decorate-On Chili

You know that space of time between Thanksgiving and getting the tree up?  When the rest of the world seems to have it all together, even my husband who wowed me with his Christmas Spirit when he took it upon himself to film, learn and record the bass line to the music, and compile that which very evidently came to him like a vision.  Introducing, my favorite film to date that my talented man whipped together:

I texted him with a shopping list (this might be a handy visual for all the ladies out there- send this blog to your husbands!).  And, cameras in tote, he picked up the ingredients for chili- a dish I could depend on to span over three dinners and to fill my freezer for the nights when I might say, “While I did manage to address the 45 cards, I did not manage to make a single recipe from my pinterest board!”

Here you go husbands!  To bless your family with crazy amounts of nourishment, avoid the financial and health-devasting traps of quick restaurant fixes, and to love your wife… grab two of each:



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load ’em up:


And take a moment to savor the $15.26 grocery bill!

A pretty great dish to have on hand for the month of December:


Laura’s Keep Calm and Decorate On Chili

12 cloves minced garlic

2 T chili powder

2 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1 T ground cumin

1 tsp cayenne pepper

4 cans (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes in juice *(see notes below)

2 15 oz can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained

2 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained

2 15 oz can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained

6 cups hot water

*3 cups dry TVP, ground meat, or nothing!

2 cans drained and rinsed whole kernel corn

2 large green bell peppers, dinced

1/2 c low sodium soy sauce

2 T hot pepper sauce

*1 T onion powder

2 T unsweetened cocoa powder

2 t sugar

1/4 c cornmeal

salt to taste

Add an inch of water to a large pot and bring to boil.  Add garlic and steam away for 2 minutes.  Add chili powder, Italian seasoning, cumin, and cayenne and stir it for 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, beans, hot water, TVP, corn, bell pepper, soy sauce, hot pepper sauce, onion powder, cocoa, and sugar.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer.  Cover for 30 minutes.  During last minutes, stir cornmeal through chili.  Season with salt.

*Some notes:

*I almost didn’t add the TVP (textured vegetable protein) for the sake of the blog post.  I thought, “well, I didn’t buy it, forgot I had it… It will mess up the post.”  And then… I thought… “well, how often do I get a chance to clear 3 c of TVP out of my cupboard?  How did I end up with so much TVP?  The point of this post is: CHILI is FORGIVING!  So… I’ll just suggest that folks get liberal here.  Either: buy some, use a pound or two of ground meat of any kind, keep it three bean- and eliminate 2 c of water, add another 3 cans of beans… so many options!  Be free!”  So, I went ahead and threw it in there.  No need to do this.

*Also, because I did not have 4 cans of tomato, and only 2 (add $4 to cost of bill if buying suggested 4), I used up a jar of 365 tomato basil marinara sauce.  Delightful substitute!

*And, I strongly encourage you to use dried onion, not fresh.  Fresh gets moody, goes bad, and ruins a whole pot of any given soup so quickly.

*Lastly, the second it cools, load up the freezer, and enjoy a nice pot in the fridge- waiting to meet you at 5 pm for 3 nights in a row!

Giving you plenty of time to…

Deck the Halls!

Big Savings In Making Our Own School Safe Sunflower Butter

The “Nut Free” policy in schools has made sunflower butter, an approved alternative, very popular amongst us moms.


The $6.99 – $9.99 price tag… has not.  Knowing how quickly one of these jars empties, I found my eye looking longingly at the $1.99 – $3.99 peanut butter, and thought… “I wonder how much it costs to whip some of this up from scratch?”


And… “I wonder how complicated it would be?”


(Let’s take a moment to give thanks for the enormous, beautifully displayed Whole Foods Market dry goods section!)

I brought my pound of seeds home, added 3 T of coconut oil (substitute with any mild tasting oil) that I had in my cupboard


(I posted some of the benefits of my favorite oil below!)


I blended them for 8 minutes,


added 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar (optional) and 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and hoped that my sunflower butter (this is with only HALF a lb of seeds- so less than $1 worth)


would make a favorable impression on Peanut Butter’s best friend.


They got on quite harmoniously, I’d say.


Tucked between some lovely bread, I packed the above sandwich in Samaria’s lunch box, and made breakfasts with bowls of oatmeal topped with plain yogurt, a dollop of this sunflower butter, a bit of in season yellow delicious apples, and a smattering of my new favourite super food, Cacao Nibs.


The smooth texture, and sweet taste, of the sunflower butter pulled the dish together.  And, as an added bonus… with the addition of those cacao nibs, the two ingredients truly do give the scandalous sensation of having chocolate for breakfast!



*Coconut oil for weight loss, digestion, metabolism & sugar cravings: One 2009 study looked at the weight loss link between women’s consumption of coconut oil and found that it reduces abdominal obesity. Researchers discovered coconut oil is easy to digest and also protects the body from insulin resistance. Metabolism A study reported in the Journal of Nutrition found that coconut oil boosts metabolism. Sugar cravings: good quality fat is more satiating than carbs, so if you cut down on sugar you will feel less ‘ravenous’.  (Adapted from Detox Tips)

Grandma’s First Trip to Whole Foods Market

I think it goes without saying that the topic of, “What shall we do for lunch?” came up more than once while Grandma


and I watched Samaria’s 12 pm soccer game on Saturday.


Immediately after the game, we experienced the joy of introducing Grandma to Whole Foods Market!


As we slowly perused to store, tasting samples at every turn


and then announced, “Everyone choose what they’d like for lunch,”


Grandma, like so many of us that went before her, became an instant WFM fan.


I made a beeline to the Sushi Bar


where Nan came out to visit,


and point out the favorites of her creations.  A delight in and of itself.

Anwar made his selection from the hot bar,


and eventually… after some typical Allen Family absurdities… IMG_4703

and my stop at the soup bar (where else can one pair world class sushi AND vegetarian chili if they so wish?),


we sat down and enjoyed our Family Lunch.


“Reminds me of Scotland,” said my Scottish grandma.


In other words, “It reminds me of home.”

The highest praise, indeed.


Paying close attention to the well advertised One Day sales at Whole Foods Market is a savvy way to save some serious loot.  Like the recent $1 Organic Kale deal in honor of National Kale Day!


So fun to go celebrate the abundance of


this super food!


Samples served up


defying the common notion that Kale lacks charm.


Au contrair!


This dish seems, rich with fall vegetables and fruits, seems to sing its very own Harvest Song.


Kale, yeah!