The Rachael Ray of blogging

Kimberly Morales

Photo By Anne Stokes

Every day, Kimberly Morales’ Poor Girl Eats Well blog has new photos of beautiful meals—think Spinach, Red Pepper and Feta-Stuffed Pork over Herbed Couscous—that she’s made on a bare-bones budget. Delicious-looking fare, the kind of eats that makes you pissed for wasting $7 at Chipotle. The blog is the 32-year-old Morales’ first, but the forklift company sales assistant by day truly moonlights as the Web’s premier budget-eats blogger. CNN reads her blog, she gets thousands of comments, and her cats—Beni, Hana, Stuart—are Poor Kitties Eating Well, to boot. Make your kitchen recession-proof:

The pictures on your blog look grub; you do eat well.

My parents were both in the restaurant business for several years and they’re both excellent cooks, so I learned a lot just by watching them. Basically, cooking has always been a part of my life.

What is your monthly grocery bill?

These days it’s about $150 a month, $175 if I am being bad and splurging too much on cheese.

Bad Poor Girl, bad.

I’m addicted to brie, fontina, gruyere, feta, goat cheese in almost any form, Manchego, sharp cheddar. I could go on for days. I really have issues.

How’d your blog start?

I was having some of my spicy shrimp quesadillas one day, using up the very last of any “fun” ingredients in my kitchen before I had to resort to the bare-bones staples, and it occurred to me that, no matter how broke I am, I usually make some tasty food.

I have friends who think Chef Boyardee is the way to go until payday, but that’s not good enough for me. So I figured I’d start writing about it. Then I realized that with the recession really setting in, I could probably help folks who aren’t used to cutting back on food costs by letting them know what to shop for.

You shop a lot at Trader Joe’s: Don’t you think it’s pricey?

Nope. If it weren’t for Trader Joe’s, I wouldn’t eat as well as I do. They’re hands down the best way to go when you want to eat on a budget. I’ve even shopped for the exact same grocery list at Food Source, and I still save more money at Trader Joe’s.

You just have to know what to look for and stay away from anything that says “organic” on it. I’d love to splurge on organic food all the time, but the mark up is too high, and I need to be realistic about what I can and can’t afford.

Also, the key to shopping wisely at any store is to buy ingredients, not pre-made meals. Trader Joe’s makes that a little difficult because they have such awesome pre-made food, but if I can buy the ingredients and make several meals out of those instead, I am way better off.

What is your favorite meal to cook?

I like cooking anything, period. Anything with shrimp in it, and anything that ends up having melted cheese in it are always favorites.

Right now, my favorite would have to be the Pork Loin Medallions With Balsamic Honey Glaze Over New Potato Pancakes.

Do you miss any foods?

I think I miss impulsive buying over actual foods, to tell you the truth; I have to plan ahead and try to stick to that plan as much as possible in order to make things last as long as possible, so I can’t just buy that crazy round of brie in brioche whenever I want. …

It’s kind of like dieting the smart way—everything in moderation, but never deny yourself anything so that you don’t feel deprived.

How often do you eat out?

Not as often as I’d like, but I will indulge in restaurant fare about once a month if I can afford it.

Tell me about the “dessert shots"?

I have to give my mom credit for this one. She’s a huge fan of anything tiny for some reason, and during one of my recent visits to San Jose (which is where I’m originally from and where she still lives), she surprised me with some tiny raspberry cheesecake dessert shots after dinner.

I was hooked. I have a crazy sweet tooth, and I used to be a big girl several years ago, but I’ve managed to keep about 70 pounds off for about five years by enjoying everything in moderation (except for my current addiction to cheese). Dessert shots seemed like a good way to indulge my sweet tooth without going overboard on dessert servings. My favorite is my Key Lime Cheesecake Shot (which I have yet to post) and my most recent one, the Berry-Chevre Cheesecake Parfait Shot.

What do people say about your blog?

I’d have to say the coolest thing I’ve read was an e-mail from a gal who found my blog through the article, called “10 Meals for $10 or Less.” She thanked me for my blog and told me she had just been denied food stamps that morning and was completely stressed about how to feed her family of four. She just happened to have most of the ingredients for one of the two recipes that I had featured in that article, and she just thanked me profusely for helping her out.