Eat from the Pantry: Tex-Mex Bi Bim Bop Casserole

How much do you think your family spends on food each year? Family Green Me spent 2009 tracking our spending in Mint and we were shocked by the reality of our food spending.  I knew that we spent a decent amount on food and my estimate was pretty accurate for our dining out expenses, but my grocery estimate was about 1/3 of our actual expenses!!! (Ill let you in on how much we spent at the end of this post.)

Id like to attribute part of my massive grocery expense to the fact that I like to stock the pantry. In fact, if I didn’t look so human, you might think I was part squirrel (and or I watched the Crash Course one too many times) as I’ve accordingly acquired a huge amount of bulk, frozen and pantry goods since the summer months. With this in mind and I had already decided in December that we need to eat more from the pantry and buy fewer impulse foods or meal ingredients at the grocery store. And so, I was ready to bite when I saw a friend post a link to the Eat from the Pantry Challenge for January, which is being co-hosted by MoneySavingMom and Life as Mom.

We were actually pretty successful with our food budget and eating from the pantry for December and so I am quite excited at the challenge to really batten down the hatches and eat primarily from the pantry this month. The meal I made tonight was absolutely delicious and rescued multiple food items that normally would have been snugging up in my compost pail rather than my belly! It truly is immensely satisfying to have combined both left overs, frozen veggies and old veggies to make a delicious vegetarian meal!

Tex-Mex Bi Bim Bop Casserole (Food Fusion at its best!)

4 cups pre-cooked white rice

1.5 cups pre-cooked black beans (previously seasoned with cumin, allspice, bay and paprika)

1 small napa cabbage, chopped

1 small red onion, chopped

1 cup corn kernels

1/3 cup Veganaise

6 tortillas (I used homemade, gluten free)

12 oz tomato sauce (unseasoned or fire roasted)

1 tsp Kosher (or coarse) salt

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp paprika

1 to 2 cups grated cheese (vegan or dairy)

Directions: pre-heat oven to 350F and pour 1/2 of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 913 casserole pan. Next, dump your rice, beans, corn, chopped cabbage and onions, and spices all into a big mixing bowl. Measure out 1/3 cup Vegenaise and stir all ingredients together until coated and evenly distributed. Lay 3 tortillas in bottom of casserole pan (you may have to break one in pieces to get full coverage). Spread mixture into pan and top with remaining 3 tortillas. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Cover with tinfoil or a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil or cookie sheet and bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Cut and serve like you would a lasagna and enjoy!

I realize that this recipe sounds totally nutty; however, it was really, truly, delicious. Mr. Green Me even went back for seconds, a rare event in our household! Another bonus? This was a mostly local meal! The beans, corn, cabbage, tomatoes and onions were all grown in CO and either stored, frozen or canned before use in this meal! If you dont have identical ingredients on hand you should be able to keep spices, tomato sauce, rice and Vegenaise (I prefer the grapeseed variety) the same, but substitute celery, carrots, potatoes or any other kind of vegetable in place of the cabbage and the corn, and achieve similar results. I served ours with a side of turnips au gratin (left overs from the previous night).

This month we have already spent $126 on grocery stores and $54 dollars on dining out. However, for the rest of the month the goal is to spend $25 per week on groceries, netting out at $250 for the entire month. We are going to leave our dining out budget at $150 per month as that is generally not a problem and still brings our total Food Budget for the month to a very reasonable (IMHO) $400.

Goals:

  1. Spend $25.00 or less per week to purchase milk for Little Boy Green; some cheese; and, our weekly eggs. Green veggies or fruit may be included on an as needed basis.
  2. Eat and use leftovers until they are gone versus ignoring leftovers until they are fated to be reborn in the compost.
  3. Eat meat two times or less per week. Eat vegan or vegetarian 5 days per week.
  4. Use frozen vegetables, remaining vegetables from our CSA winter share (still have beets, squash, an onion and potatoes), and frozen fruit before buying new fresh fruit and veggies.
  5. Make bread or pasta from scratch with my vast bulk reserves rather than buying the pre-packaged kind.
  6. Use dried rice and beans until I start to make a dent in our bulk stores. I think we might have enough to get us through March on simply rice and beans!
  7. Send Mr. Green Me to work with leftovers for lunch rather than buying him stand alone lunch packing items.

Hopefully this post has inspired you to both join the Eat from the Pantry Challenge and also to take a look at your food expenses. Who knows, if you are like us, you very well might be able to afford that dream vacation (or solar panels or new windows or preschool for your kid) if you could reign in your food spending!

Dont believe me? While reviewing our year we discovered that we spent nearly 14% of our income on food (groceries, eating out, wine and beer, etc.) in 2009. Now, if you believe statistics, this percentage is on the high end of average. However, that would assume that our family income is also average, which it is not, so I am pretty sure that we spend way more on food than the average American. According to statistics our household income definitely puts us in the category of folks who live a pretty comfy life. My food goal thus for the year 2010 is to cut our food budget in half, while also donating to our local food bank on a more regular basis! Ill let you know how that is going as the year progresses!

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