Food Lately: Last Week, This Week

 

meals 9_17_17

So, last week got really intense with everyone trying to make up everything after the long period of time off from the hurricane. Pictured above is everything that I remembered to take photos of as far as dinners are concerned except for the stuffed peppers, which I shared in a recipe post last week. The pita pizzas were ok, but not great. Mostly they ensured that the pitas were eaten. I didn’t take a photo of the hot dogs we ate because a) not very interesting and b) we ate in a hurry in transition from one thing to another. Anyway, here is my plan and how we actually did:

  • Italian-Style Stuffed Peppers
  • Pita Pizzas
  • Hot Dogs & Sauteed Cabbage (weird combo, maybe)
  • Chickpea, Cauliflower, & Potato Curry
  • Spinach Pie

What We Ate:

  • Italian-Style Stuffed Peppers √
  • Pita Pizzas √
  • Hot Dogs & Sauteed Cabbage (weird combo, maybe)  √ I don’t remember what we had as a side, probably just veggies and dip.
  • Chickpea, Cauliflower, & Potato Curry 
  • Spinach Pie NOPE I didn’t have time to fiddle with the filo dough this past week and the weekend was pretty full, too, so not sure if I’ll get to that before the spinach is used in other meals.
  • ADD ON: Simple Pasta Bolognese & Roasted Broccoli √  I used up a jar of Barilla pasta sauce — the sweet peppers variety — and it made a fantastic bolognese. Then I feel like I get extra points because I immediately used the leftovers to make a small baked spaghetti for Michael and I to enjoy this week.

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This week’s meal plan:

  • Southern Style Chicken Breasts, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Green Salad
    • Pantry — potatoes, garlic
    • Fridge/Freezer — Perdue Encrusted chicken breasts, milk, salad greens, cabbage
  • Baked Spaghetti, Green Salad
    • Pantry — whole grain pasta, pasta sauce, onion
    • Fridge/Freezer — ground beef, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, salad greens, cabbage
  • Sticky Sesame Cauliflower & Tofu, Rice
    • Pantry — rice, soy sauce, honey
    • Fridge/Freezer — tofu, cauliflower, pepper strips
  • Spinach Pie
    • Pantry — onion, olive oil, garlic
    • Freezer/Fridge — spinach, cottage cheese, feta, filo dough, butter
  • Egg Roll in a Bowl
    • Pantry — coconut aminos, garlic, onions
    • Fridge/Freezer — ginger, carrots, green onions, cabbage, ground beef

I’m also gearing up for my “shelftober” challenge and wondering if my $15 budget was a little too ambitious. Mostly because we have very little fresh fruit in the house right now and that always makes me feel like I need to stock up. We shall see, I guess!

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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?

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.

Food Lately: Musings & Meanderings

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This photo looks like it is trying out for the “one of these things is not like the other…” game

Honesty I don’t  remember exactly what we ate over the last couple of weeks, but these are the things I managed to grab photos of…

  • Skillet Lasagna
  • Sesame Chicken Stir-Fry
  • Pasta Pomodoro
  • Sausage, Sauteed Cabbage, Mashed Potatoes

Actually I did make curried butternut squash soup, although unfortunately I ended up having to throw it out because I didn’t remember to snag it when the power went out. You can see that quick and easy skillet meals are my saving grace right now.

The storm, as I have mentioned, wiped out a lot of food in my fridge and freezer. Not the big deep freezer, but my over fridge freezer. For possibly the first time ever, I have ZERO bananas in my house, fresh or frozen. Because I’ve been working to keep a more reasonable amount of food on hand, our fridge wasn’t as stuffed as it might have been. Which probably contributed to how quickly things warmed up, actually, but also meant that my losses there were comparatively low. My freezer, on the other hand, was pretty much not salvageable. Partly because that freezer has become the place where I throw things to “save” them but that we really don’t want to eat and because, frankly, everything just melted. The few things that I had in there to prolong life, but not because they need to be frozen, are what survived. Namely, nuts and yeast. I am looking on this as a golden opportunity rather than a tragedy. I’d like to use that space much more efficiently and keep only a small selection of convenience foods, anything that needs to be defrosted for the upcoming meal plan, and baking supplies that I use regularly in the small freezer. Basically this means moving the whole wheat flour from the garage freezer and stowing in a basket the frozen ravioli and precooked chicken that have made my life easier this semester. One other basket will hold items for the upcoming meal plan and one final basket will hold opened bags of fruit or vegetables so that I make sure to use them quickly.

I’m also getting serious about using up some of the stock that is STILL in my deep freezer. Several big roasts are on the meal plan in the coming six weeks or so, just to finally get them out of there. Going forward, I then plan to do a better job of storing food we actually eat rather than food I think we should eat. For example, the 40lb purchase of chicken breast from Zaycon was actually a good buy — we’ve almost completely eaten that down. The turkeys I bought after Thanksgiving, on the other hand, are not, since neither of us really ever feel like a full turkey dinner and for the two of us it’s kind of ridiculous. And so on and so forth. On the one hand I feel a little frustrated with myself, but on the other I’m pretty excited. This is me settling in to a better, more efficient way of thinking about food and cooking for us that reflects who we are rather than some mythical vision of us that absolutely doesn’t exist.