Week One

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

As noted, I’m a little bit behind with this project, since I started without anything being ready. So now that it’s Week Three, in an effort to not get any further behind, I’ll try to give a little update on what happened in Week One.

Week One started with leftovers from the holidays and the prior week. However I was trying to turn over a new healthy leaf for the fresh new year so I went to Compare on Tuesday 1/5 for some fruit. They have great prices on citrus, and also I really like Valencia oranges and for some reason Whole Foods hardly ever has Valencia oranges, they only have navel oranges, which I don’t like.

Receipt Week One, part I

While I was there I got a bag of onions for a dollar and a butternut squash, which doesn’t sound like what Calabaza (tropical) would be but that’s what I came home with. Maybe some of you Spanish speakers out there can tell me what I actually paid for. I also got a lovely, very large green pepper.

One of the fascinating things I learned over the course of the past year, which I will write about more later, is that eating whole grains with no salt or sugar really puts the kibosh on food cravings. After having spent a few weeks eating lots of sugar and fat and tasty things that make me want to eat more tasty things, I decided to start out the new year with the Rice Diet approach of fruit and rice to get things back under control.

This approach really does work, but creates some problems of its own, which, as noted, I will discuss in detail in a separate post.

So a few days of that and then I decided to start things off with one of my best, cheapest recipes, the vegetarian chili.

Week One Receipt, part II

This required a trip to Whole Foods for tomatoes (listed on the receipt as All Purpose Crushe) and spices (Basil Leaf, Oregano Leaf, Chili Powder). I wanted to make cornbread to go with the chili, so I bought some cornmeal (Organic Yellow Cor). I also bought a jalapeno for the chili, and some millet (Organic Hulled Mil) and almonds (Blanched Sliced Al) to eat for breakfast.

I’ve been trying to figure out the millet thing, it seems like it has potential if I can figure out the best way to cook it and what to serve it with. I’m making progress but not quite ready yet for the full treatise on millet. You can stay tuned for that.

I also bought some bananas, and I got ten cents back for bringing my own bag. Yay, Whole Foods.

So I made chili and cornbread on Wednesday and ate that on Wednesday evening, Thursday evening, and Saturday evening. On Wednesday I used up a little bit of white rice I had left that I wanted to finish up and ate some of the chili over that and then another small bowl on its own. On Thursday and Saturday I served it over brown rice, which I had in the pantry. I ate the cornbread on Wednesday with the chili, and also as snacks and for breakfast over the weekend. I actually like cornbread with peanut butter, which I think probably sounds weird but is actually very good. If you like peanut butter.

Other meals for the week were mostly grains (millet with raisins and almonds; oatmeal) along with fruit (tangerine, orange, banana).

Receipt Week One, part III

On Friday, I was over near the Whole Foods running other errands and decided to stop for things that I was going to get on Wednesday but decided not to because I had left my wallet with the gift card at home and was spending cash I had in my pocket which was going to throw off my carefully designed system of using the gift card for all grocery purchases so I would know how much I had left for the month. (This is actually a strategy I use all the time, not just for this project. I put $100 or so on a Whole Foods gift card then use that for all my food purchases. I tend to spend more when I’m using a credit card or debit card than when I’m using cash, but I was running into a problem with not having cash when I needed food and everything getting all complicated. So this is my solution and I have to say it’s been working well and I really like it.)

I dig pomegranates and they’re only cheap a for a few months. I buy them when they get down to $2 each (or less), and they had gone up to $2.50 but I got one anyway figuring it would be my last for the year. But now they’re back to $2 so I’m not sure about that. The pomegranates at Compare were the same price as at Whole Foods, but the ones at Whole Foods looked better.

I also bought some more bananas and figs (Unsulphured Turkis) and a Gala apple which was supposed to be on special however after getting home I discovered I was charged the regular price not the special price. This actually happens fairly often, but if you catch it, they give you the item for free. Usually I don’t notice until it’s too late. The one time I remember bringing it up was when I bought three things, and two of them had the wrong price — one was less than it should have been and one was more. That one I did take to customer service, because I noticed it before I left the store (the total I paid was not what I expected to pay, so I looked at the receipt after I was through the line) and one of the things that was more was something I only bought because it was on special. So I got the full price back and had some free food. But generally I think it evens out, sometimes you’re charged less and sometimes you’re charged more.

This happens to be one where I don’t love Gala apples, so I definitely wouldn’t have bought one for $2.49/lb, I know I only would have bought it on special, and $2.49/lb is not an on-special price. They almost always have some kind of apple or pear that is less than the rest — sometimes as low as $.99/lb, usually $1.69 or $1.99, so that’s what I get.

On Saturday 1/9 I made scrambled eggs with spinach and mushrooms (before putting the mushrooms in the freezer) and a smoothie made from stuff in the freezer along with some juice leftover from a Scrap party that I brought home and almost forgot about. I’ll give the universal smoothie recipe in another post. It’s good.

I also tried to get through some soy milk I had opened, having that with cornflakes left from when I made cookies last month. Boy did that taste like candy after a week of no salt, no sugar added grains! Holy cow.

And Sunday was a leftovers-from-the-freezer day — I had some chicken-leek soup and some whole wheat pizza, which I have to say I’m not a huge fan of. I think if I’m going to have pizza, I’m just going to have pizza. I’m willing to make it healthier by using less pepperoni and cheese and more vegetables, but I’m going to have to draw the line at the crust. I made that with a friend who was visiting and interested in eating more whole grains, and I’ve tried it before and not loved it but I was willing to give it another shot. But the final verdict is now in, and whole wheat pizza crust does not make the cut.

So that’s more or less Week One, and I’m sure this whole project is going to be just as fascinating as that. I know everyone will be hanging on the edge of their seats waiting for Week Two. Hoo boy.

10 Responses to “Week One”

  1. Chard Lady Says:

    Enjoying the posts on your new challenge. Your WF probably doesn’t have Valencia oranges because they aren’t in season right now. Here, all the stores have lots of fresh local navels available.

  2. Ginger Says:

    This is me, tapping my fingers, anxiously awaiting next week! It’s cool that you scan your receipts. I like looking at receipts so much more than a self-made price list.

    I love my little town, but I miss Whole Foods and the 10 cent refunds. I had to comment because chili over rice is one of my all-time favorite winter-time meals, whether I’m watching my pennies or not. (Usually I am. I can’t help it.)

  3. Anna Says:

    Actually, I thought it was a great read. It inspires me to get focused again after all the goodies of the holidays. I’m doing it gradually, this morning I had my no sugar homemade banana nut bread, it’s whole wheat with oats and walnuts. Yesterday I enjoyed black bean wraps with onion, spinach and cheese. Keep up the good work. What is your goal anyway? $ 100 a month? Anna

  4. lessisenough Says:

    Yes, the money goal is $100 a month and the food goal is at least one whole grain and/or vegetable recipe a week, plus a generally healthy diet. I’m not so concerned about the $100 a month part, but trying to make sure I cook something good — and interesting enough to post — is slightly more of a challenge.

    It still feels to me like someone reading a grocery list, which is just not inherently interesting, and I feel like there’s an odd level of exhibitionism/narcissism involved (like I’m so fascinating that everyone needs to know what I ate for breakfast). That’s why I was making fun of it. But I guess if people like it and want to read it, then who am I to judge…

  5. Melodie Says:

    I really like the idea of using a gift card for grocery money, I’m going to have to try it at my co-op. I don’t spend any money on luxuries or eating out, but once I get in the grocery store-watch out! I almost always overspend. I think eating must be my hobby;-)
    Thanks for the project. I think it is very useful and am thinking about making my own variation just for my own personal use. Gotta get out of the unhealthy holiday eating habit! I’ll have to try your whole grains, no salt, no sugar approach.

  6. Carrie Says:

    Do you have PASSIONATE VEGETARIAN by Crescent Dragonwagon? Packed with great recipes, including about a million things to do with beans and grains. She also has a bunch of recipes for “calabacitas”–a sort of squash and hot pepper stew you can put over rice–which is how I know what calabaza means! Anything in the winter squash/pumpkin family, I think.

    Right now my kids are enjoying pumpkin custard–I’ve decided that without the crust, it counts as a vegetable. They are scarfing it down like chocolate pudding, and it’s the easiest thing in the world to make if you’re not dealing with crust.

    Bert Greene’s GRAINS cookbook is another one I like, although he’s not really about healthy or cheap. But he does have ideas for every grain you can think of.

  7. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for the cookbook ideas, I don’t have either of those.

    And, just an aside, what a fabulous name is Crescent Dragonwagon. Wow!

  8. sandy Says:

    personally, I love reviewing other peoples’ grocery receipts and recipes/menus–gives me great ideas. I love Whole Foods but sometimes get sticker shock when I am there. It’s awesome to review someone else’s receipts and see that you can shop there and not ruin your budget. Thanks for the website.

  9. chloe Says:

    The Durham County public library has The Passionate Vegetarian cookbook. I have recently been enjoying that public resource as a way to give cookbooks a test run; they have quite an extensive selection.

    BTW- how do you get the bag refund @ our WF? After reading your column, I’ve made a point to actually bring a bag into the store, instead of just carrying the stuff out in my hands. But still no refund yet. Do you generally have to ask? Or do the checkout people know you?

  10. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for the library tip.

    I don’t think I get special treatment at Whole Foods, that’s just their policy. It used to be five cents but they raised it to ten cents last year when they eliminated plastic bags. Sometimes they miss the refund when they run everything through before I remember to give them the bag, or if I’m using my backpack and don’t give it to them, but generally I put my bags on the track along with the food I’m buying and they ring in the refund as they pick up the bag and hand it to the bagger.

    If you’re buying just a few things and just don’t take a bag, they don’t generally give it to you. (That seems like a bit of a gray area to me — who’s to say at what point you “need” a bag?) It’s only if you use your own bag instead of taking one of theirs that the refund applies.

    Personally I would like it if every store charged everyone 5 or 10 cents for every bag they took. That would get people bringing their own bags!

    But anyway, you should definitely ask about it the next time you’re there with a bag.

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