Friday, February 5, 2010
I’ve been working on a routine where I hit Compare on Monday and re-stock the fruit supply, which has been working pretty well so far. I can always make things from the freezer or pantry, but when I rely on that too much, I end up not eating as much fruit as I’d like. Smoothies are a good freezer option, but better in the summer than in the winter. Having a frozen drink for breakfast isn’t so appealing in January.
So in Week Four (1/25 – 1/31), I continued the routine and went to Compare on Monday.
The main purpose was to get some citrus (tangerines, oranges, grapefruit), but also I knew I was going to make black beans and rice later in the week so wanted to get what I needed for that (tomatoes, green pepper, jalapeno). Avocados were on special for $0.69 each, which is exceptionally cheap even for Compare, so I picked up one of those while I was there. I had onions and garlic at home, and was using dried beans and rice from the pantry, and lime juice from the freezer, so all I had to get were the fresh vegetables.
For dinner on Monday, I decided to cook one of the spicy Italian pork sausages I had in the freezer, with onions and peppers, on a roll (also from the freezer). The sausage is from Whole Foods, and it’s really really good. Usually I’ll buy two or three, fix one for dinner the day I buy it and put the rest in the freezer. I had one in the freezer from December.
I figured the sausage was a good combination with the black beans and rice — you only need a little bit of peppers and onions to go with the sausage, so I could cut just a few slices of pepper on Monday then use the rest the next night with the beans. Usually I cook more than I need and then freeze the leftovers and use in omelets down the road.
Along with the sausage with peppers and onions, I had oven-fried potatoes using the Russet potato I bought the prior week on special at Whole Foods. I cut the potato into thick slices and soaked them in water for 10-15 minutes before cooking, which really makes them much better. They cook up softer on the inside, with the outside still brown and crunchy. I actually like these as much as french fries. (For specifics on the recipe, search for “Cooks Illustrated oven fries” and you’ll get links to the official version.)
I also had some leftover collard greens from the prior week, and some grapefruit sections for dessert.
On Tuesday I made black beans and rice with tomato salsa, with the addition of meat from the last of the roasted chicken drumsticks from the prior week, served over brown rice. I had some chocolate from the pantry for dessert.
On Wednesday, I had black beans and rice again, this time over white rice, with half an avocado.
On Thursday everything all went to hell. I had things I had to get done before I could leave the house and things I had to do out of the house before a certain time and things I needed to work on and try to get done before the end of the week and things I really, really had to get done by the end of the week. I ended up not finishing stuff when I wanted to and then just leaving so I could get out of the house and try to get through some of the other stuff.
I have two go-to places when this kind of thing happens, where I can get out of the house and get good cheap food without a lot of hassle. One is Cosmic Cantina, which is great if I’m really hungry and/or if I’ve been spending a lot of money lately (you can get a great giant burrito for $3 at Cosmic), and the other is Bahn’s, which I like if I want vegetables or just a little peace and quiet.
So Thursday I went to Bahn’s and had ginger tofu and it was well worth the $5.29 I paid for it, for a beautiful little plate of perfectly cooked broccoli and carrots and tofu, with fresh ginger slices on top, over steamed rice.
Then I was able to go work and get some things done.
On Friday I had a work lunch at Nantucket Grill and stopped at Food Lion on my way home to pick up dry milk (fl inst nonfat dry) and buttermilk (saco cultured btrm). Of course it was chaos because of the impending BLIZZARD.
But I’d been wanting to make a quick bread to use up the butternut squash that I cooked a few weeks ago and didn’t get around to eating immediately so stuck in the freezer to use later, but I used up the last of my dry milk before the holidays and kept forgetting to get a refill when I was near a conventional grocery store. There are no good dry milk options at Whole Foods.
Dry milk isn’t necessarily cheaper than fresh milk but it has the huge advantage of not going bad — an $8 box of dry milk lasts me for more than a year. Having dry milk in the pantry means I can make anything that uses milk — biscuits, pancakes, muffins, mac & cheese, hot chocolate — without having to go to the store for milk.
I was scheduled to go to Charlotte on Sunday and I like to have snacks to take with me when I’m on the road, and some kind of muffin/quickbread thing is always a good option.
For dinner Friday I had the last of the black beans and rice and salsa with avocado.
It started snowing Friday night and some form of precipitation was still falling on Saturday. I started to get nervous about freezing rain — I’m always woefully unprepared for weather. We had an ice storm in December 2002 with no power for four days and I didn’t even have a flashlight, I just had to go to bed at 5 o’clock when it got dark. And no heat or hot water. It was a drag.
But anyway, I was supposed to be leaving for Charlotte early Sunday morning to spend Sunday and Monday working for The Scrap Exchange at the NC/SC Festivals and Events Association trade show, Showfest 2010, and wanted to get snacks for that, but also decided I needed to get something in case it iced up and I didn’t go to Charlotte and had no power. And then it seemed like I should get something in case I didn’t go to Charlotte but did have power. But that was way too many things to think about.
I ended up getting the travel snacks on a separate receipt, because I get a $30 per diem for food for the two days. I’m planning on writing that up separately in a post about trip food.
So for emergency preparedness food I got corn flakes (Corn Flakes Cereal) and soy milk (Og Vanilla Soy Mil), which I can keep in the pantry for a few weeks until we are safely out of ice storm weather. I got peanut butter, which I was out of and figured would be good in case of weather, and a three-pound bag of Granny Smith apples (Granny Smith 3# Ba), which I wanted because I’ve mostly been eating citrus lately and needed something different, and also would work regardless of weather, along with some bananas (Yellow Bananas CV). Another safe bet no matter what the weather.
I got popcorn (Organic Popcorn) to eat as a snack when I got home and a refill of brown rice (Short Grain Brown) and a little bitty acorn squash (Squash Acorn Og) to cook for dinner or save for later, depending on how I felt.
When I got home from the store, I made popcorn and had an apple and a tortilla with peanut butter and jelly.
For dinner I cooked brown rice and ate the last of the collards that I had almost forgotten about, along with a vegan sausage that had been in the freezer since December when my friend Cathy was in town and we bought it to put on our health food pizza. It’s pretty good for fake meat, though I need to check the next time I’m at the store to see the sodium level. I didn’t notice when I was eating it, but later that night I started to feel like the water was being sucked out of my body; I really can feel high sodium foods an hour or two after I’m done eating them.
Sunday I got up at what one of my friends likes to call the butt-crack of dawn and walked to The Scrap Exchange to get the truck.
When I was young, just learning to ski, and my brother and parents still skied, we would go to Kissing Bridge on Sundays for the Dawn Patrol ticket — 6am to 9am. My parents liked this because you could ski and then come home and still have the whole day. I remember it as mostly being effing freezing. Once it was so cold that our adhesive tickets wouldn’t stick to the wire holder on our jacket zippers. What I learned that day was that if it’s too cold for your ticket to stick, it’s too cold to ski. Just go home.
But anyway, that’s what I thought of walking to the Scrap through the frozen tundra of Durham, my Dawn Patrol skiing days in Western New York.
So I picked up the truck and drove home and loaded it up and after a series of phone calls with the person who was supposed to be working at the conference with me, but who ended up being too nervous about the weather and decided to stay home, I drove to Charlotte by myself.
And it was actually quite a blissful drive. There was hardly anyone on the road, everyone was going a safe speed, no one was talking on the phone or putting on makeup, and no one was weaving in and out of traffic trying to get past people they thought were going too slow. If everyone drove like that all the time, there are a lot of people who are dead right now who would still be alive.
So I made it and the conference was good and I was well-fed and stayed in a nice hotel and got to watch tv, which is always exciting for me.
Sunday I ate at the conference, so nothing to report on that.
For breakfasts for the week, I had the usual mix: bagel with peanut butter, orange, tangerine, soft-boiled egg, grapefruit, steel-cut oats with toasted sunflower seeds.
And that’s it.
I know this is lame, but I don’t actually know what my total for the month was because I haven’t gotten a chance to add it up yet. But I know it was under $100. Money was not really a limiting factor at all last month, the problem I’m having is being organized enough to get everything done — work and shopping and cooking — and also write about it in a timely fashion.
I am planning on putting together a summary page that gives the weekly totals for my shopping trips and what I ate and cooked, like I did for the Dollar a Day project. But I haven’t gotten to that yet. Soon, I promise. One thing at a time.