Category Archives: Food

Today

DH is working on upgrading the electrical system on his motorcycle. He helped me with some of the leaf moving (rake, then relocate). Later today, we’re off to the storage to work on that.

There are probably more books here ready to be gotten rid of. I gave one  to a neighbor. Have another to ask a second neighbor about and the yard is tidier than it was. All good.

The fertilizer I used up (we’d had it for 2 years, why?) was rained on for the next two days. A lot of it went into the bulb beds, and the daffs. and other bulbs are shooting up green sprouts all over the place. Partly because it’s time, but partly because they got fertilized just as they were starting their spring push. The rain was a blessing for them.

So we need to buy more mulch for the bulb bed to keep out the weeds (grass), but the bulbs should spread out quite a bit this year because of the timely fertilizer and rain.

I’ve been working on the spring/summer food/garden plans,  Between the farm we belong to and the garden I grow (sometimes, didn’t last year) we are usually drowning in green stuff by June. I want a better plan for what comes in/when and what I intend to do with it this year! I’m about 25% done with this piece. Finished the initial data gather yesterday. Pulling it together.  There are 2 or so more data gathering steps before I can make an actual plan, but it should get there.

Off to the storage — ho!!!!

J

We took a file box full of books and a few besides to the market which has the book bin. Gone! I have gone through one box since we got home and have started the 2nd. There’s about 10 more books in a bag to be donated, wherever it is we go next that will take them.

Zero Waste?

We have always recycled. That is for nearly 40 years now. Before you get on me about recycling and its virtues: in college my husband (then roommate) and I recycled our glass bottles at our college’s glass blowing program, had the local boy scouts cued in that whenever they had a paper drive we’d contribute, etc. Later we drove to the base recycling, because it was the only one available to us, it wasn’t the town’s dump. So, okay? I believe in recycling and have always practiced it, for for 39+ years now.

So, zero waste as a concept isn’t new to me. The “movement” I see is new. I agree with it, but I think the ludicrous “posts” I see of a family of 4 having only a quart jar of waste a year to be a cheat. Why? Because if you read these blogs, etc. a lot of what you see is what you’d expect: use vinegar, home-made cleaners, permanent cleaning tools rather than paper towels, etc. But you also see things like the cheat (well, I consider it a cheat) I found which turned me off of all such blogs.

The cheat? The person bought a pair of shoes and left the shoe box with the store. That ISN’T zero waste, it’s just being nasty, giving someone else your garbage. You might just as easily take all your other waste in a plastic bag and stuff it in a municipal trash can.

recycling process

Yes, there are things you can do to lower your waste. You can deliberately find a use for something you might otherwise discard. You can buy big packages of supplies (food and otherwise) and make smaller, more convenient collections of those things yourself (preferably in something other than disposable bags). You can use rags instead of paper towels. You can not buy things with pieces which are trashed every time they’re used. You can pay attention to what you buy and what winds up in the trash. How many bags of garbage does your household generate? Can you do better? (We use 1 a week, plus recycling.)

You can also save money and avoid a huge amount of waste if you just use more of your food. Or learn how to cook, right? Prefab food generates container and packaging you don’t have if you cook yourself. Think about it: when I buy a package of ground meat at my local green market, it’s wrapped in 2 pieces of paper. [I admit, if I’d remembered, I could take a lidded, freezer-safe container with me and use that. I didn’t last time, hopefully I will next time.] Anyway, because we make our own bread, the packaging for us to get hamburgers on the table is the wrapping around the meat. Everything else comes in a big package (like a head of lettuce or bottle of catsup) and is used multiple times. Contrast that with the paper napkins, wrappers, receipt, salt, pepper, catsup packets and bag which make up a bag of 2 hamburgers from your local Mac’s. Is it cheaper? No. Is it faster? Well, my local Mac’s is 25+ minutes away, so yes it is.

food waste

But don’t tell me you’re zero waste and go to a store, buy a pair of shoes and leave the packaging. Get your shoes repaired rather than buying a new pair. Buy a used pair? Donate TWO pairs to a charity when you buy that new pair? Try making it a policy to have minimal shoes. For me that’s 5 pairs: daily shoes, snow boots, fancy shoes, sandals, house shoes. My fancy shoes, if I have them, (I don’t at the moment.) are usually either solid white or black. My daily shoes are shoes I wear when I’m going out, they tend to be walking shoes. The house shoes are slippers or slip ons I use in the house, sometimes I use socks. Honestly? If I wasn’t in a snowy climate, I could manage without the boots and could use the sandals as house shoes and for the fancy shoes too, I have previously. That would leave me with daily shoes and sandals.

For restaurant take out, you can do what a friend of mine has done for decades: put a picnic basket in your car with real plates, cloth napkins, food containers, etc. in it and ask the restaurant to package your food that way. Some fast foods may not be able to cope with that, but some can. Pay attention, do what you can, and keep looking for new ways to lower your impact on the world.

I’m not zero waste, but I admit what I do and don’t foist my garbage off on others as if that somehow makes it “vanish.” It doesn’t. The idea that the things we discard don’t count or will vanish is a lot of the reason we got where we are. So, don’t tell me you’re zero waste and foist your garbage off on someone else. If it comes with the goods you buy, it’s yours. Deal (and be honest).

Revised To Do List 3/6

to do list 1

Keep using pantry goods. Empty the freezer before June 1. Should be as empty as is practical to make it!

Finish the doormat.

Box up the rest of the stuff for the flea market in April

Finish getting the tax info to the tax person before the appt.

Get ahold of my student and tell her when I’m available this week.

Get at least one piece of one item off of the long-term list!

Needs to be Home Made, Again

We bought a package of croissants Sunday. They were terrible. As DH said, “Never even smelled butter.” Obviously no butter in them, and lousy chemically after-taste. This is the reason we don’t get donuts at the big chain, in every town, donut shop, ick. The refrigerated/partial prefab croissants aren’t too bad, they at least have masked the chemical taste or actually use enough butter that you can pretend it’s not “imitation” food.

I have recipes of course. And I usually have all the ingredients. So it’s just the doing. One more thing to add to the list of things we need to make here.

bakery

You’d think to read this that we’re total food snobs.

In some ways I guess I am? My Dad grew up eating au cuisine food, although to hear him tell it he didn’t realize that until he was an adult. When I grew up we ate really well, if not fancy.

When things got tough (and they did) we ate out less and ate more pot roast which then became other things. But the meat was decent, because he wouldn’t eat anything else. In those days, meat was still the centerpiece of the meal.

Like most people in the US I think, I’d forgotten what beef tasted like, really. We had an occasion to buy some fancy prepackaged ground beef, not the supermarket grind, and it was yummy, like the stuff I’d grown up with, and unlike McD’s where the meat is just a platform to pile other foods, with no taste of its own.

So I decided I should buy only the fancy stuff. That was a few years ago. And slowly, over that time, we keep learning that the stuff at the supermarket is tasteless (or tastes bad). Like the “ministeaks” last month or the corn tortillas last week and the croissants last weekend.

I didn’t set out to be a gourmet cook, a food snob or a DIY cook. I’m getting there because I can’t afford good restaurant or supermarket food, and the cheaper foods mostly taste bad.

It’s like Christmas cookies. We got a batch last year which had obviously been made with cheap margarine, flour, sugar and “stuff” (sprinkles and chocolate chips.) I swear the chips were scented? Anyway, all of it was so bad, we both tried one cookie and the rest wound up in the trash. Another plate was given to a mutual friend who said they arrived burnt. Why would you do that??? For heaven’s sake folks, if you’re going to make something as a gift, make one thing, well, and spend the money or don’t do it at all. Also, don’t give away things you wouldn’t want to eat yourself!

Honestly. I think people in this country’s taste buds are so inured to lousy food they think that anything that slightly resembles traditional foods is okay. I’d rather someone just said “Happy (whatever)” and that’s it. Really! Food doesn’t have to be made of premium ingredients to taste good, but these days apparently, if you make it as cheaply as you can, it’s possible to ruin vanilla wafers, sweet pickles, tortillas, ground beef, croissants, and no doubt a lot of other things.

So, on my list to master this year: pie crust, croissants, tortillas. DH is working on crackers. On my list to make again (or keep making): apricot jam, marmalade, bread & butter pickles, apple butter. I need to learn how to can, so the stuff I make will last longer. Every jar of food I make winds up in the fridge, as it’s put into sterile jars, but not canned.

I’m grateful I work from home so I can do things like start a pot of marmalade simmering.

What do you make rather than buy?

J

Four Leg Quarters — 13 portions

I have never knowingly bought (or eaten) the major brand of chicken. Battery-raised chicken somehow has never appealed. I’m sure I’ve eaten plenty of it and probably bought some which were sold without the brand name on it too, but I’ve tried!

A month or so ago, I got a package of “ministeaks” at our local market, on sale. When cooked up, these things cupped? Okay, I figured that was just the part of the cow, the way they were cut.

But they tasted “odd” too. Not like nearly-going-bad beef, like something else. We both tried the “steaks,” then I pitched all of it. I’d read things about meat purveyors “jigsawing” steaks together with “meat glue.” (See link.) I never thought I’d suspect our local chain supermarket of such a thing. I do now.

My gut reaction was simple. I want better food than this. The way to do that is to find it elsewhere, so I did. We went to the local tiny “health food market” and bought 1 lb of ground beef (about $9) and 4 leg quarters (about $15).

The ground beef we had hamburgers from one night (2 servings), then meat loaf, 2x (4 servings). That makes 1 serving about $1.50. Not great, but I can live with it.

The leg quarters? The first thing I did was to disjoint them into drumsticks and thighs. The drumsticks became broth/meat in a chicken soup (4 servings). I froze the thighs. A while later I cooked 2 of the thighs in a chicken stew (3 servings). The last 2 thighs were used in a chicken and barley dish (2 servings). The remains of the chicken stew, the bones, and the meat left on the thighs became chicken soup (4 servings). That makes my expensive chicken @ $15 about $1.15 a meal, per person.

So, my “expensive” meats weren’t so expensive. If you buy a pound of ground beef and make 4 patties and the burgers are dinner, these days at the cheapest, it’s $5/lb, or $1.25 a serving. My beef dishes cost about .25 per serving more than that, but the chicken was .10 a serving cheaper.

In general, meat prices from lowest to highest usually are:

chicken < pork < beef < veal

chicken pig cow.jpeg

Although not on that list, if chicken and turkey are the same price and are whole birds, turkey is almost always a better deal. Why? Because there’s more meat on a whole turkey per pound than there is on a whole chicken.

Yes, this and other “odd” food facts are mine. Blame it on of one of my weirder hobbies: I read about wholesale prices, retail prices, supply and demand, etc. for food and food industries. I read old publications (some very old) and newer ones too. I find them interesting! YMMV.

J

Planned Visit

Going back to a town I wrote about, 3 years ago, haven’t been up there since. From what I can tell, the town’s economy is faltering, again. This seems to happen in this town every 3-5 years. Discouraging!

On the other hand, there was (still is) a good used bookstore and a few great clothing consignment shops and antique stores. Unfortunately, my favorite consignment shop seems to be gone, as well as my fave antique shop, alas. But, there are other good ones, and they’re still there. Also gone (from what I can tell) is the crafters’ consignment shop. [I wondered at the time if it was a viable biz model.] We’ll see! Two of us are going to the spice shop, and maybe one of the consignment shops, maybe.

I thought it was 2015 when I was there, but it was 2014.

If the cafe is just as good, then everything is just fine!

What do you look for when you go to a new town? What do you miss when you go back to someplace you knew a few years back? I’m curious!

J

Menu Planning That Isn’t

I discovered that one of my war-time books has a chart with how much food should be used, how often, and what that corresponds to for stored foods (canned, brined, frozen or dried).

Yes, I know the nutritional amounts are likely off, but the last information I found like this was how many row feet of each veggie you needed to grow, per person, per year.

That’s great, if you grow most of your food,  in feet rows; I don’t. I have a few garden beds and get food from markets and a CSA. Also, I don’t regularly buy things like 25 lb bags of wheat berries from Honeyville or other such suppliers.

What I had/could find made it hard to have any idea how much food I’d need to store. Do I have room? Do I really want to do this? (Probably not.) But it was an impossible question to answer before I found this chart.

I believe in the pantry principal, as a money saver, and have for years. (See Barbara Salsbury’s Cut Your Grocery Bills in Half.) But again, how much is sane? What is ridiculous? Where will it just be too much and wasted?

I’ve been working on it. The CSA runs 6 months a year. The plan has always been to not only use the fresh stuff while it runs, but set aside enough to use the rest of the year. Otherwise, it isn’t worth it as it increases our food budget 25% for the year. But if we can buy less during the other 6 months, then it means that I suddenly can afford to feed us organic, fresh or home-preserved food.

I haven’t managed this yet. Two reasons: year one I had no idea how much food I was going to get. Last year (year two) our fridge broke then worked then broke — and we tossed a huge amount of produce accordingly.

But now I know what I SHOULD have!

On the “I’m trying to empty the pantry and freezer by June 30” quest. . . I had one large loin pork chop in the freezer. We had it baked over sweet potatoes, onion, a small amount of raisins, and water. I made gravy from the drippings. Turned out exactly the way I planned, yummy. Today we ate the other 1/2 of this, I diluted the gravy for stock, added some more Better Than Bullion (chicken), chopped the meat added some thyme and made cornbread of a sort. Great lunch. One $3 piece of meat, 4 meals. (It was on sale.)

Not only did I use the pork chop from the freezer, but sweet potatoes and onion from the pantry as well as raisins, BTB, thyme and the fixin’s for cornbread. No recipe for the entrees, no preplanning, just the seat of my pants. I did use a recipe for the bread.

Tonight we should do meatless, but I have a partially picked chicken in the fridge to deal with . . . we’ll see!

One of my other discoveries from the WWII booklet is that I probably should feed us more elaborate meals, I usually do 2  items a veg and entree, sometimes salad. When you’re trying to stretch things the plate gets a bit empty sometimes, more items would help that and also with the empty the stores project too.