Shelf-tober

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So. I missed out on the whole Shelftember thing that a number of bloggers are participating in. But as I’ve been trying to minimize in many areas of my life, one space in my home that has come under more serious scrutiny is our pantry and freezer. I’ve already mentioned that I’ve had a bit of a mindset shift regarding what I stock up on in our deep freezer — namely, stuff that we’ll eat. You know, you type these things out and they seem even more obvious than you know they are (which is really obvious!). Still, it’s taken me a while to shift from buying the best deal to buying the best deal on food we like. Partly I think because I feel a little…ashamed maybe?…about not loving food x or y or z when they might be a super low-cost and nutritious food.

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In the pantry I’ve had some similar perspective shifts — I used to like to keep a super wide variety of grains and beans on hand because it made me feel like I was ready for any event or any recipe that struck my fancy. But honestly I make a lot of the same things over and over — the oat bran, cracked wheat and spelt hadn’t been touched in a very long time. Similarly, I used to just reflexively buy pasta when it was BOGO. Then one day I really took stock of what I had and realized that I had 24 boxes! I use half a box each time I cook pasta, which makes four servings for us. I tend to make pasta about twice a month (more recently, but still), which works out to one box of pasta/month. Do I really need to have 2 years worth of pasta on hand? I completed the pantry inventory in February, I think. Since then (and even before on some items), I have been really intentional about not bringing in new stuff* if I already have those things on hand and using up what I have. For example, I really prefer to make pasta pomodoro with angel hair pasta. We have not died or suffered culinary indignation even though I’ve used spaghetti, linguine, etc. the last few times I’ve made that dish.

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The other day I reorganized the over the fridge freezer (benefit of having totally wiped it out — you can create a whole new system!) and got a bug to go through my pantry as well. I tossed a number of grains and flours and beans that had been sitting around for a while and were either rancid (most likely), well past their prime and would take forever to cook, or just simply things we don’t use and won’t use and keeping it on hand was just cluttering up my space and causing me stress. I still have work to do in there — I’ve been storing extra glass jars, not canning jars, just nice glass jars, just in case and realized that I’ll never use all that I have and I buy things packaged in jars all the time, if I really need one — but now feel like I’m breathing more easily and like my stored food is less of a burden and more a blessing, which is what it should be.

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Anyway. The point of this whole post is to say that even though I didn’t know about Shelftember in time to really make it happen this month, I am committing to a Shelftober. I’ll follow the basic plan set forth on FunCheaporFree, although since it’s just the two of us I’m going to drop the weekly amount to $15. That will be what I can spend on fresh produce, dairy & eggs. I will keep shopping every other week, though, so my actual amount spent each shopping trip will be closer to $30. Otherwise I’ll be shopping solely from my pantry. Happily I have plenty of coffee on hand so no caffeine motivated emergencies are likely to crop up. 😛 Is anybody else gearing up for a pantry challenge in the next month or so? If you’ve been participating in Shelftember, how is it going?

*Ok, I’ve totally been buying that Rana refrigerated tortellini and ravioli. But only recently and we make eating that a priority — because it’s yummy. What can I say?

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Meal Plan, Meal Prep: Sept. 17 – 23

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Meal Plan

  • Italian-Style Stuffed Peppers
    • Pantry — quinoa, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs & spices, tomato sauce
    • Freezer/Fridge –Italian sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, Parmesan
  • Pita Pizzas
    • Pantry — leftover pitas, herbs & spices
    • Freezer — mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce
  • Hot Dogs & Sauteed Cabbage (weird combo, maybe)
    • Pantry — onions
    • Freezer/Fridge — cabbage, hot dogs
  • Chickpea, Cauliflower, & Potato Curry
    • Pantry — curry powder, chickpeas, potatoes, coconut milk, rice
    • Freezer/Fridge — cauliflower, naan, peas
  • Spinach Pie
    • Pantry — onion, olive oil, garlic
    • Freezer/Fridge — spinach, cottage cheese, feta, filo dough, butter

Lots of simple meals this week. I had a few more on the list and then decided to be realistic. So far I have made the first two planned meals, so that is a good start. We’ll also eat leftovers a few times. Our fridge is ridiculously full and I am eager to get it back to the more reasonable level I had maintained last month or so.

Meal Prep.

  • Cranberry Tea Loaf
  • cranberry-orange cookies
  • cranberry-orange cookie dough (freezer)
  • cranberry-orange scone dough (freezer)
  • hard boiled eggs
  • cut up veggies (cauliflower, cabbage, carrot sticks, celery)
  • chickpeas (soaked & cooked, 1 for freezer, 1 for fridge)
  • coffee (grind beans)

The cranberry explosion is me using up some cranberries that thawed but were still good to use after the storm. I still need to complete a few things this evening, but hopefully will get that done. I may be dreaming.

Sausage & Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

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I had some peppers and mushrooms in the fridge that really needed to be used up, so I decided to cobble together some stuffed peppers. These were super yummy, so I am recording what I did for posterity.

Sausage & Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

serves 4 -6

Ingredients

  • 3 large green pepper, cut in half and partially steamed (I used the microwave)
    • reserve tops and chop for use in filling
  • 1 c. quinoa
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 med. onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 c. chopped green pepper (from tops)
  • 8 oz. sweet italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 1/4 c. chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (I used Penzey’s dried)
  • Italian seasonings to taste: red pepper flakes, dried basil, oregano, parsley
  • 1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
    • I stirred in a little Worcestershire sauce, sugar, garlic & onion powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Rinse quinoa and add to a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until cooked through. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and onions. Saute until translucent. Add mushrooms and salt as desired. Allow mushrooms and onions to sweat a bit and wilt further. Stir in chopped green peppers, saute a few minutes longer then push to one side of the skillet.
  3. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking up with a spatula. Once crumbled to your desired consistency, stir in vegetables. Continue to saute until sausage is cooked through.
  4. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. Allow to cook while you choose additional seasonings. Add to your taste and bloom for a minute or two. Turn off heat.
  5. Stir in cooked quinoa — I didn’t use the full amount, maybe 2/3 of the final amount. Once incorporated stir in Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  6. Pour 2/3 of the can of tomato sauce into a 13 X 9 baking dish (you can spray or not). Add any seasonings you might want.
  7. Fill pre-steamed green pepper halves and nestle into baking dish. Top each pepper with remaining tomato sauce and about 1/2 tablespoon of Parmesan.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until hot throughout and peppers are tender. Enjoy!

We had a simple tomato and cucumber salad on the side.

NOTE: I had leftover filling, probably enough to fill another two pepper halves. Next time I make this I’ll be sure to have four peppers. This time I was just using what I had on hand, so I’m pleased that it mostly all evened out in the end!

 

Groceries: Sept. 17 – 30

This two week deal continues to work for us, although I should point out that we purchased some snacks as part of our hurricane prep shopping trip. About $30 worth of basically junk food. I am undecided as to whether or not I should include these items in our grocery budget or in the life happens fund. We’ll see.

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On Friday the 15th I had Michael drive us (I’d had a migraine for three days — I do not usually require a driver) to the Import/Ethnic store nearby. I specifically wanted to pick up some locally baked, SOFT pita bread. While there we also picked up filo pastry, 5lbs of couscous, and wasabi peas. The total came to $18.85. I’m going to put the price of the individual items under their appropriate category, because it turns out I like seeing where and how I spent my money.

On Saturday I decided to take advantage of the fact that Sam’s Club had opened it store’s to everyone as a way to help out following Irma. I was especially interested in checking their price on sugar and seeing what flour products they had available. They have better prices on some items than BJs, including on dried black and pinto beans. I think the rice is also better priced there, and they had 90/10 ground beef, which I prefer, although the 88/12 at BJs isn’t all that different. Anyway, not sure that I’ll change over to Sam’s but it was nice to take advantage while I could. I also hit Aldi and Publix. Aldi was wiped out of A LOT of dairy and produce – they had no eggs at all, and hardly any milk. My goal when shopping is to have my savings equal or exceed what I spend. So far I have been meeting that goal!

Bread 9_16_17

BREAD & PASTA

  • Rana Ravioli/Tortellini, 4 bags @ $4.29/ea BUT BOGO + 2 $1 off coupons
  • Artisan Rolls, $3.89 BOGO
  • Hot Dog Buns, $.83
  • Everything Bagels, $1.59
  • Filo Pastry Dough, $3.50
  • Large Pita Bread, $1.85

TOTAL: $18.24

Dairy 9_16_17

DAIRY

  • Stonyfield Whole Milk Yogurt, $1.75 (I had a BOGO coupon)
  • Brown Cow Yogurt, $1 (BOGO coupon)
  • Daisy Cottage Cheese, $2.69 BOGO + 2 $.50 coupons
  • 1% Milk, $2.09
  • Good Culture Cottage Cheese, FREE + $.44 credit/moneymaker
  • Arla Cream Cheese, $.30 (I had a digital coupon for a free packet, but it only covered $2.99)

TOTAL: $6.39

Pantry 9_16_17

PANTRY & SNACKS

  • Brown Sugar, 7lbs @ $4.38
  • Publix Pancake Mix, FREE
  • Pringles, $1.75 BOGO
  • Raw Florida Honey, $11.28
  • Ranch Dressing, $.89
  • Old El Paso Dinner Kit, $3.29 BOGO + $1 off 2 coupon
  • Vlasic Sweet Gherkins, $2.99 BOGO
  • Hatch Chili Peppers, $1.89 BOGO
  • Squeeze Ginger, $3.99
  • Couscous, 5lbs @ $8.75
  • Wasabi Peas, $4.75

TOTAL: $42.96

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PRODUCE

  • Romaine Hearts, $2.29
  • Spinach, 2 8oz bags @ $2.99 BOGO
  • Naval Oranges, 3lbs @ $3.69
  • Red Seedless Grapes, 2lbs @ $1.78
  • Bananas, 3lbs @ $1.38
  • Strawberries, $1.29
  • Potato Puffs, $1.89
  • Carrots, 5lbs @ $3.28
  • Cabbage, $1.69
  • Cauliflower, $1.99
  • Grape Tomatoes, 2lbs @ $5.48

TOTAL: $27.75

Proteins 9_16_17

PROTEINS

  • Publix Fried Chicken, $7.99 + .56 tax
  • Chicken Strips, $4.99
  • Eggs, 2 doz @ $1.39/ea
  • 90/10 Ground Beef, 6.10lbs @ $20.34
  • Nathan’s Hot Dogs, $2.89
  • Bacon, $3.99

TOTAL: $43.54

My total spent on groceries this weekend was $138.88. At the beginning of the month I spent $158.14. Some of this week’s groceries ARE making up for what was lost when the fridge died, but for the most part they are just regular groceries. This brings my total for the month to $297.02. That is just enough left in my budget to grab another container of half and half if I run out. 😛 Also, since I shopped at Sam’s today, I don’t think I will really need to make a trip to BJs next month, at least not for any super large item. I’m still pleased with the two week shopping/meal planning routing, although it backfired a little last week w/the power outage. The hurricane snacks would bring the total up to $327.02. All in all not a bad overage considering the lost food.