I’ve posted my copycat Zuppa Toscana recipe before and it’s good, but this recipe is better! Heartier, more filling, and best yet- Loaded with Veggies. We got all of the veggies from our Yasukochi Family Farms CSA box. To learn more about these awesome produce boxes, check out my post here.
1/2 lb of Italian Sausage (hot or mild, your choice)
3 T. crumbled cooked bacon (I like the kind from Costco)
2 T. Butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T. Italian Seasoning
1 Bay Leaf
3 medium potatoes, sliced into bite-sized pieces (I left the skin on- it’s up to you)
1-quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 bag triple-washed spinach
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk (or 12 oz milk of your choice)
In a large stockpot, cook and crumble Italian Sausage
Add in bacon and heat until sizzling
Add butter, onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until onions are translucent (about 10 minutes).
Add garlic, and herbs/bay leaf- cook until fragrant.
Add broth, and scrape brown cooked bits off the bottom of the pot.
Add Potatoes, cook on medium with the lid on the pot until the potatoes are soft (about 15 minutes).
Remove lid, turn the stove up to high, add spinach. Stir and incorporate the spinach until wilted.
Turn the stove down to low, add milk, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Remove Bay leaf prior to serving.
This makes 10-12 servings. Serve with bread of your choice. I like to top with a little parmesan cheese.
If you prefer Kale, substitute for the spinach and add another 5-10 minutes of cooking time.
This soup keeps well in the fridge for up to a week, and it freezes well.
If you are a vegetarian, substitute 2 cans of rinsed/drained cannellini beans in place of the Italian sausage (or meat-free Italian sausage), and use crumbled vegetarian/vegan bacon. Use Vegetable broth, and 12 oz. alternative milk (I like almond or hazelnut for this recipe). Add in 1/2 t. Fennel Seed, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (to mimic the flavor of Italian sausage) when using beans.
The last Monday of the school year (back in June), after I dropped the kids at their respective schools, I went to Target. I bought curtains. Now, for those who either know me in real life, or I’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that prior to blogging full-time, one of the jobs I had in the past was a historical costumer. So I know how to sew.
Why did I buy curtains? I’m frugal.
Let me explain. I got really nice curtains for each kid kids bedroom. They are 63 inches long, they are black-out curtains meaning that they are treated with white plastic that once the curtains are closed at no light filters through. Each curtain panel was $11. So for two sets of curtains, they cost after taxes about $46. Which is decent. I could not walk into a fabric store and buy all the supplies I need it for two sets of curtains for the same amount of money.
For $46, I saved myself about two hours’ worth of measuring, cutting, and sewing. Plus a trip to the fabric store. For those of you who have been to a fabric store lately, you know how dangerous it is once you get in there. So many new ideas, craft supplies, cool fabric. And I try to have willpower, but I do love to make things.
I could have in theory found cheap fabric either at the fabric store or at Walmart, or I could’ve even gone to a thrift store and look for fabric, or old sheets. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted something that looked nice I wanted something or I wouldn’t have to spend hours getting something done just to save a few bucks. And that’s the difference between being cheap, and being frugal.
Everyone’s heard the old adage “Time is money“. And it’s true. Even though I may work at home, it doesn’t mean that my time is not worth anything. When I do paying gigs, no matter what they are, I won’t take them if I feel that my time is not being compensated well enough. And for this, new curtain project, I felt that $46 was well spent.
Now I know not everyone has extra money lying around to do whatever project that is looming on your horizon. There are other ways you can flex your frugal muscles.
If it’s a sewing project, you can go through your fabric stash if you have one, you can find coupons online for fabric if you wanna make your own project.
Look online and see if there are discounts available or deals or sales on whatever your project item is.
Check your local buy nothing group online.
Hit up your local thrift store. I have gotten many good pairs of sheets sets, bedding, and even curtains at thrift stores. A lot of people change out their curtains every year and wash and donate their “old“ curtains to a thrift store. My bedroom curtains came from the Goodwill in my town. And I paid less than $10 for both of the curtains. And they’re beautiful and I love them.
Prior to hitting up Target, for the past month, I’d kept my eyes open anytime I went out to a thrift store, or when I was out shopping to see if there were curtains that were perfect for our needs. I was not successful. So instead of continuing the search even longer for something secondhand, I bit the bullet and spent $46. Because to me, getting a project done and checked off my to-do list for $46, was worth it. I didn’t need to keep going to thrift stores every week, trying to find the perfect set of curtains or the perfect fabric.
Frugality versus cheapness is something that goes beyond purchasing home goods. Let’s look at groceries. I know back in the heyday of couponing, a lot of people would go from store to store to store to stock up on deals and bargains. I will admit that back before I had kids I would do that. Because I had lots of free time. But now that I have two kids, my free time is limited.
And couponing is not what it used to be. So I shop at the same stores every week. Unless something is free, I tend not to deviate from my usual shopping. I shop at three stores. Which, seems like a lot, however, two of the stores are in the same shopping center, right next-door to each other. And I buy specific stuff at each store because it’s the only place to find what I want within my budget. So every week I head to $.99 only, Grocery Outlet, and usually Food 4 Less.
We get our CSA box every week for $25. And it’s an amazing deal. It saves me both time in that I don’t have to try to go to two or three grocery stores that have decent produce to find exactly what I want, and it saves me money. A $25 produce box has everything we need for the entire week. And I am able to use what is in that box to plan my weekly menu. We seldom have waste from our CSA box. And what we don’t eat by the end of the week just gets rolled over into the next week. In the past, I was spending half or more of a grocery budget each week on produce, and half the time it was too much, and it will go bad or I would have to stash it in the freezer. I still stash veggies and fruit in the freezer, but not to such a large extent.
Another thing that for me is frugal but not cheap is Dream Dinners. Granted, Dream Dinners can cost upwards of $250 plus a month for a minimum order. And that’s either 12 dinners that serve 2 to 3 people each or six large dinners that are for 4 to 6 people each. I like Dream Dinners because from the time you start cooking to the time dinner is on the table it’s 45 minutes or less in most cases.
And there are times when I’ve had a long day and it’s just been so crazy that I don’t want to cook. But instead of going through the drive-through, ordering a pizza, I can just pull out one of our dream dinners and have food that’s ready to eat in 45 minutes or less. There are no difficult directions, and the food is always delicious. And one order with 12 medium meals is enough for a month for us.
I tend to use them on nights where I know that I’m going to want something that’s quick, something that’s easy. Dream Dinners are cheaper than take out for our family. If I was to do take out 2 to 3 times a week every month that would be upwards of $600. That’s based on an average of what we usually order when we get takeout.
These are just a few examples of how I am frugal. Obviously, these may not be the ways that you save time vs. doing it the cheapest way. Everyone has ways that saves time and money, and I’d love to hear from you!
This week we are planning some fun activities to get us out of the house: Going to the zoo, meeting up with some friends to play and have lunch.
The kids have been digging the free school lunches- It’s a great way to encourage them to try new foods. That’s great because the price of groceries has gone up exponentially over the past few months. We’ve been eating less meat to save money, and I’m leaning more on stores that have good deals like Grocery Outlet, and using my cashback apps like Fetch Rewards. I’ve been cashing out Fetch rewards for Target Gift Cards. I’ve been combining the Target Gift Cards with grocery sales and deals in the Target app, and picking up via curbside pick up. It’s a great option if you’ve got kids and you’ve got a busy summer.
And I’ve been getting a lot of really great freebies from Social Nature lately too. It’s fun to try new foods.
The CSA Box arrives in a few hours, but they send an email over a few days before with a sneak peek of what’s going into the box. This helps me meal plan for the week.
Veggies and fruit are delivered each Monday by Yasukochi Family Farms CSA. For $25, it’s a great deal. I don’t have to pick anything, go to the store, or carry it upstairs. I can’t go to the store and get the same amount we get weekly for $25. Seriously. It’s a deal. I spend about an hour on Monday afternoon cleaning and prepping veggies for the rest of the week.
I cleaned out the fridge last night and that really helped me figure out what to plan for the week. I’m trying to use up what we’ve got. I need to make a small trip to the store to get more milk, bread, and a few other things for our snack bag.
I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I try to update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for a kitchen inventory printable, I have made my own and you can find them for sale here on my Etsy Store.
I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day.
Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2 for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids. The kids are nuts about pancakes. The Big Kid has been on a protein shake kick in the AM.
Lunch: We pick up free school lunches during the summer for the kids, I also have a plastic tote in the cupboard full of self-serve snacks. I buy treats and snacks in bulk and fill up snack-sized zip-top bags.
Dinner: Usually, I do a crockpot meal on Mondays, but now that we are home all the time, we’ve been having an odd combination of fully home-cooked, scratch meals, and frozen entrees and veggies. I have been posting our meal plans on Instagram too- As well as pics of stuff we are doing to keep busy.
Sunday: Leftovers (We had so many random leftovers)
Monday: Pasta, Roasted Veggies, Salad
Tuesday: Fritatta, Fruit Salad, Toast
Wednesday: Nugget night: Nuggets, crackers, cheese, fruit
Thursday: Bean, Rice, and Cheese Burritos, Roasted veggies
Friday: Takeout Night
Saturday: Leftovers, fruit, salad
Please stay safe you guys!
Talk Back: What are you cooking for dinner this week?
The box was bursting! I’m so excited. Here is what we received in our box:
Sugar Snap Peas
Baby Bok Choy
Mountain Meadow Mushrooms
And the incredible Large Bouquet of Flowers! I divided the bouquet into two vases, and they are in Little Bit’s Room and on the mantle. There are a variety of add-ons berries, honey, eggs, jams, etc available each week.
Each Monday in March, we’ll be receiving a CSA box from Yasukochi Family Farms full of locally grown and sourced produce. I love Yasukochi Farms because everything in the box is all grown using organic farming methods while possible and using local, responsible and sustainable farming. The other thing that is incredible is the convenience of having these farm-fresh items delivered straight to your doorstep (with no additional delivery fee). It saves me a trip to the store where all the produce has been transported, touched, and picked over. My CSA Box is packed just for me!
No matter if you have a small or large household, Yasukochi Family Farms has you hooked up! There are two box sizes: Regular (feeds 1-3 people), or Jumbo (feeds 4-6 people).
If you don’t live in the delivery area, you can check out Yasukochi Family Farms at many of the local Farmers Markets in Southern California. A complete list can be seen here.
What am I making with all of these tasty veggies:
Last night we had roasted asparagus.
I made up a big salad for the week with the spring mix, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and bell pepper.
I also chopped up the bok choy, celery, carrots, snap peas, and onion and made a stir fry kit to have later in the week for lunch (with rice and Thai stir fry sauce)