So I’ve been dealing with some rather scary stuff lately (can we say Peeping Tom? EEK!!!), and I haven’t been all that inspired to eat, let alone write. But this actually worked to my advantage so that I could finally bring you the mostly mini-mart meal that I’d talked about last month. When you’re dealing with life’s problems, making fun new creations in the kitchen isn’t top priority; you just want to eat and get it overwith. As I’ve mentioned in the past, there have been some readers that have grumbled about not having access to places like Trader Joe’s or local farmers markets (which should be a federal offense, in my opinion), making it more difficult to access the low food prices I’m able to find. I try to make sure I feature different types of food stores when I do the $25 Shopping Cart, and I also use major grocery store prices when calculating most of my meal costs so that I reflect costs more fairly, though one can still do some great, low-cost grocery runs at any store, if one shops wisely.
However, that doesn’t really address the issue of accessibility. Let’s face it: not everyone lives in places that have major chain grocery stores, or even a Costco so that one can do some bulk buying. Sometimes the only available store is the corner store, and we all know they don’t often have the lowest prices or the best selection. Still, I don’t believe that this means one would be forced to make a meal of Twinkies & some orange soda (ugh, I think I got a cavity just typing that!). Again, if you stay creative and build around what you may already have at home, you can have a tasty, relatively healthy meal.
I’m lucky enough to have one of these mini-marts around the corner from my apartment. Like with most neighborhood stores, you get to know the folks that work there, so it’s always fun to pay them a visit. This time around, I came armed with the knowledge that I had some lettuce at home that I wouldn’t mind turning into a salad, with some help from extra fixings, of course. As I wandered through the store, I scoped out some cans of Herdez Salsa Casera, this amazing Mexican salsa that could only be more delicious if they’d prepared it at my table; a fine assortment of beans; Salsa Verde Doritos….. Presto! I decided I’d be having my favorite “taco” salad. I picked up a can of pinquito beans (small pink beans in cumin, garlic, and other spices), some of the Herdez salsa, a bag of the Doritos, and a small block of pepper jack cheese. The grand total was $7.96, which seems a little high for such a small amount of groceries on first glance. But with my giant head of green leaf lettuce (on sale at Safeway for just $1/head!) and the fact that I wouldn’t need to use all the cheese, I knew I could make at least two giant salads out of this stuff, if not three. Not bad at all, especially when you consider the “prep & cooking” time for this meal is all of 5 minutes. This is a quick, cheap, tasty no-brainer of a meal that you can definitely modify by adding chicken or beef, or a different type of bean. And it’s only a tiny bit bad for you because of the chips, but we all need a little treat now & then!
PS – this is also the first cheese I’ve had in *drumroll please* SEVEN WEEKS! Hope you’re all as proud of me for my cheese detox as I am!
Mini Mart “Taco” Salad (serves 2-3; total cost per serving: ~ $2.75)
1 can pinquito or black beans
6 oz. your favorite salsa
3 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded
Couple large handfuls of your favorite tortilla chips (I like to use Salsa Verde Doritos because they have a nice spicy kick)
Chicken or beef (optional)
Sour cream & guacamole (optional)
Rinse & dry the lettuce and chop into bite size pieces. In the meantime, lightly drain the beans and heat over medium low heat for about 4 minutes, or until completely heated through.
Assemble your salads by placing about a cup of lettuce and a large handful of tortilla chips into bowls. Add the beans and top with shredded cheese, salsa, and a small dollop of sour cream or non-fat yogurt, as well as any meat and extra garnishes. Sprinkle with a little extra cheese in my honor, and enjoy!