Category Archives: frugality

Fruit & Herb Lists

I made up those as well, this morning rather than yesterday. One of my issues with doing things like this is that I tend to make melanges, stews, goulashes, etc. of whatever is to hand, rather than to a recipe. That means that I don’t save many pieces of specific recipes, I want things I can then mangle or change to suit us.

There are “zipper” songs where you include wording to suit whatever you’d like. These are sort of zipper recipes: I can go in many directions with them.

berries

smoothie/Rodale p 267

melons

berry-melon ice/Rodale 271

peaches

cobbler/Rodale 284

Here’s the herb/spice list

anise seeds

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

basil, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

bay leaves

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

chervil, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

chives, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

cumin seeds

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

dill, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

dill

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

dill

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

dill

Dill Cabbage Soup/Rodale 74

fennel seeds

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

garlic

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

garlic

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

marjoram

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

parsley, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

oregano

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

paprika

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

rosemary

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

sage

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

scallions

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

thyme

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

And I’ll add my normal recipes, like: HM garlic salt, onion salt, salt substitute and chive butter. Some of which I have recipes for, some I don’t.

 

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It Occurred to Me

This morning, again, that I need to have the freezer EMPTY by Memorial Day.

To that end, I looked at what remained: a shelf of stew/soup veg mixes, a shelf of fruits, a shelf of asst. veggies.

I have ONE container of salsa verde left, a large one, and it’s not full. I have ONE container left of stewed tomatoes.


Conclusions?

  • We eat a lot of stewed tomatoes and salsa during the winter.
  • We do not eat home froze veggies for soups or stews without a specific recipe attached otherwise.
  • Same with the fruit.
  • Obviously, I need to do less generic, unplanned food storage and more prep so that I  waste as little as possible!

I made up a really basic chart, or it’s a start anyway.

Vegetable

Recipe/Used In

Asparagus

Fresh, Pickled Asparagus/ WP p 115-9

Beans, green

Fresh, Frozen? Pickled?

Chilis

Fresh, Dried, Froz: Mex Lasagna Rodale Home Freezing p 183, HM chili sauce

Corn

Fresh, Frozen Corn Casserole/Home Ckbk

Garlic

Fresh, Pantry Dried ristra

Onion

Fresh, Pantry Dried. Any way to buy with leaves for a HM braid?

Peppers

Fresh, Roasted Froz: HM roasted pepper soup base

Potatoes

Fresh, Pantry Dried

Radishes

Fresh, Pickled, HM Radishes from Hell

Tomatoes

Fresh, Froz: HM stewed

Tomatillos

Fresh, Froz: HM salsa verde

Zucchini

Fresh, Puree Froz/Rodale Home Freezing p233

 

I’m not likely to do all of this, we get about 1 bunch of asparagus a year and it gets gobbled up right away. I make my spring risotto with sausage or ham, the asparagus, onion, etc. I don’t have a recipe for this, I’ve been doing it so long I long ago lost it. When I went to make it a few weeks ago, I had to do an internet search to remind myself how much rice to how much broth. After that I just used what I had, like always.

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Photo by Julian Hanslmaier on Unsplash


Three containers of mixed veggies are in the composter. There’s 4 more waiting to go.

I think I need to make a cobbler or fruit pudding or something with some of the fruit. I have peaches, rhubarb and apples to use up. I have a rhubarb cobbler we like I use it for, so that’s easy. The apples I don’t have anything for. I’m not fond of cooked apples, I’m not sure why I put them aside, except it was an unexpected bonanza of cheap apples. The  peaches will probably be used in a peach-blueberry cobbler I make too.

So the apples need to go. I think there’s 4 or 5 packages of apples. There were 3 large containers of apples. I forgot the persimmons when I made the list too. I don’t know where the recipe is, but I know I have one. Persimmons are used for persimmon pudding here.


Assuming I get rid of the obvious above, that’s about a dozen packages of food going in the composter. That’s great, but it’s still only about 1/2 the problem!

Sigh.

Two More Down

I realized a little while ago that my bucket list is almost entirely foods to make rather than places or events. I’m weird, no surprise!

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Photo by Sarah Boyle on Unsplash

Yesterday I made noodles and a cheese rind broth. Both have been on my to do list for a long time. Both will work, both will be repeated. The noodles were cooked in the broth, making an almost Parmesan sauce. Interesting.

 

Getting Ready for Retirement: Food & Fuel

We have been, slowly, trying to change our eating habits and others, preparatory to DH’s retirement, at some unknown future date. We don’t want him to retire particularly, but it will happen, and because he works on contract 1 or contract 2, if the company loses the contracts, he’s likely to lose the job he has supporting them, then. It’s entirely out of our control.

To that end, I’ve been for years slowly but surely moving us along a pathway towards lower monthly expenses as much as possible, and of course the easiest, first way to do that is almost always food.

You can’t really control what the bank charges for a mortgage. You can’t control what the oil man wants for heating oil or propane. You can control the cost of the food you buy, so that’s almost always the first place people start to cut down, including us. The only problem with this is that for many people, food is only 10% of their total expenditures, so even cutting the cost in 1/2 isn’t a significant saving overall. Of course it counts, but don’t kid yourself you’ll suddenly be awash in available funds if you cut your food bill in 1/2.

For us, this is complicated by the fact that we’re food snobs, and like it that way. There are traditional cheap foods we could use.

  • MAC & CHEESE: I don’t like mac and cheese, even homemade. I’m fairly certain they gave it to me, with orange soda (which I also abhor) one time I had stomach flu. DH likes it. I like cheese on pasta, but not baked and BROWNED, and not cheese food.
  • BEETS: DH hates them on principle. They are an economical food to grow because you eat all of the plant: roots and leaves. I can take them or leave them. Yellow beets I can sneak into stews sometimes. The greens I can add to soups & stews, sometimes.
  • HAMBURGERS: Unfortunately, I grew up eating prime beef. I like beef that tastes like beef. Much of the “beef” out there doesn’t taste like anything! Form without substance. (Also see ground beef, below.)
  • STEAK: See above comment about prime beef. My reaction to the insane price of beef these days is to buy very small hunks of steak, when I can find them on sale at the co-op and freeze them. I only buy and keep one. Steaks this size aren’t very efficient foodstuffs, it’s an expensive piece o’ protein and usually only one meal. I try to use it as a condiment rather than as a plate filler when I serve it.
  • BREAD: We bake our own. When a decent loaf of bread is as much as about 2/3- 1 lb of beef? I’ll bake it. I also buy enough flour between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 to last until about April. Why? Staples are cheapest between the holiday sales, prethanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. Because of that, the prices go up the MOST they do all year after New Year’s and during February. They level off by the end of March. Staples, like flour, go on sale again for Easter.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/FISH: I stopped eating fish long ago, because I heard something which indicated to me that we were overfishing. As someone who grew up on the Pacific Coast and dearly loves fish, this wasn’t easy. And, yes, I admit, I slip about once or twice a year. DH isn’t fond of fish, which helps.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/CHICKEN: We use bulk pack chicken thighs from the co-op, approx. $2.50 a lb. I buy a 5 lb bag and divvy it up into 3 piece portions, approx. 1 lb each. That’s 2 meals worth, a dinner and lunch the next day. This works for us. I no longer buy whole chickens, chicken breast in any form, etc. Chicken thighs are mostly white meat, some bone and for our household each piece is about 1 portion. It works and it’s cheap.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/GROUND BEEF: I’ve been known to buy meat from a friend who raises cattle, but mostly I buy a pound or two at the local natural food market. The stuff tastes great (see hamburgers, above) but it’s expensive. I get 2 meals from a pound of meat. We have friends who add black beans to ground beef and although this was yummy, I never remember that when it might be useful!
  • OTHER PROTEIN/VEGETABLE: I’ve been known to make lentil burgers. They weren’t bad, but not the success I’d hoped for. Let’s say this is a work in progress. My long-term notion for these is to combine lentils, black beans and ground beef, but it is, as I said, not finished. . . .

Other ideas:

Switch to wood heat, almost entirely. Why? Because we live on just under an acre of land. I can grow some of our fuel. Not enough to keep us warm all winter, but some of it. I can’t grow propane, fuel oil or pellets.

Along this line, we have registers to install between rooms to distribute the wood heat more evenly. We also will maybe buy an ecofan or other fans to help distribute the heat. We have one big fan on our staircase that in summer is used to pull the hot air up to the ceiling and in the winter to push down the hot air.

We’ve been concentrating on things we can do to stay warm and fed. That base layer of Maslow’s, right?

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Photo by Anna Popović on Unsplash

Pantry Soups & Other Ideas

This was started in February, just so you know!

Twice now I’ve made what I call “Yellow Hand Soup.” The first time it was mostly carrots with a butternut squash and 1/2 a sweet onion. This time it was mostly sweet potatoes with a butternut squash and 1/2 a sweet onion, no carrots at all.

The first time we had it with grated cheese. This time we had it with carmelized pecans.

Both times I cooked the squash in the micro then scooped the cooked flesh into the pot with stock, the onion and other vegetables.

The first time I had a new bag of carrots from the CSA to deal with and a bag full in the fridge. This time, I’m in the same boat, but with sweet potatoes, which we use much less often. Both times, the idea was to use what we have the most of, before it goes bad.

As a part of the food planning for this spring, I’ve also been researching how long various veggies last. The idea is that I’ll arrange menus to use up the most fragile foods first. I don’t have anything really fragile still in stock, but I will next spring!

There’s a buzzfeed list of how to store your foods, and how long. You can find it here. I don’t agree with all their times, but if you get your food from a market in a city, they’re probably right. I don’t, I get much of our food fresh from the farms where they’re raised, so no time is spent in warehouses, on market loading docks, or in walk-ins.

YMMV!

It’s another way to cut down that 40% we all supposedly waste, right? Use the foods which will go bad the fastest before the others.

Other Stored Food Meal Ideas:

Things we eat regularly from canned foods:

  • corn cheese soup (creamed corn, some onion, cheddar cheese, s & p)
  • bean soup. (rinsed beans, onion, mush with food processor or fork, add seasoning, onion, bacon or sausage if you have it)
  • fried rice: rice, LO meat, onion, other fresh or frozen veggies, as available.

From fresh foods:

  • ____soup (some veggie, appropriate stock, onion, celery. Can be curried, creamed, or just veggie or you can add meat and make beef vegetable soup, etc.) Or, you can make it stew by adding cream sauce, or making gravy instead of stock.
  • ____ stir fry (usually baby spinach, onion, maybe LO meat
  • meatloaf (ground beef, onion, seasoning) or meat balls (same) or hamburgers. If meatballs, can be with pasta or served in Albondigas soup.
  • chicken ______ , recently I’ve made creamed chicken with dumplings, curried chicken, fried chicken, lemon chicken with rice, chicken salad.

From frozen foods:

  • Sausage soup (frozen sausage, onion, frozen greens).

I rarely use recipes. Do you have standards you make with whatever you have to hand? I’d be interested to know what food you make! Because I don’t follow recipes, the quality does vary, it’s almost never horrible, but sometimes it isn’t as good as it could be.

 

 

My (Still Being Tweaked) Food Tracking

I came up with a schema which seems to work. It tracks what we use up, what comes in, provides a way to make a shopping list AND track additions to the pantry. However, it’s still being tweaked.

I’ve found the easiest thing to do is to enter the items from the shopping receipts. What I end up with looks something like this:

(item source) Description *| | | | | Remainder Long Term Freezer/Pantry Qty

  • Source: pantry, fridge, freezer, store name or initials.
  • *: Indicates a change in the stored quantity.
  • The next four columns stand for Fri(dge), Pan(try), Fre(ezer), Dry. I put a + when something is added to the storage or a – when it is removed from storage.

So, if I use some frozen chicken, these columns will look like this:

| *| | | -| | which tells me there’s a changed quantity (*) and it’s taken from the freezer.

  • Remainder: If the change is a net addition to the stored foods, I put it in italic. If the change is a net decrease and I don’t replace it, it’s put in bold and [bracketed]. If there are leftovers, they are just listed. As I use the left over items they are lined out.
  • Long Term Freezer or Pantry Qty: Gives a rough estimate of what I should have of the items in long-term storage.

I used a butternut squash this past week for example. I have the end of a shelf of them. (I had so many I was giving them away in December!) I have NO interest in counting squashes. The last column reads: “6+ butternut squash” which tells me I don’t need to buy any for some time. The same is true of any veg. I keep quantities of, long term: potatoes, sweet potatoes, whatever.

At the end of a meal, I go through and line out what I used and list any left overs. The next time I work on the chart, I make sure I update those items.

The really great thing about this? Going down the “Remainder” column gives me a potential shopping list. And going down the far right column gives me a partial pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory.

Although it sounds complicated, it really isn’t. It’s still too easy for me to forget to add things or note what I’ve used making a meal, but as I said, I’m still tweaking this. I suppose, if I also didn’t want to track the left overs or generate that shopping list, I could eliminate that column:

Description, * |fri |pan |fre |dry |,  Long Term Freezer/Pantry Qty

Listing the leftovers has been good, we’ve been using everything up since I started this!

The other big “issue” is that I have no computer in the kitchen, so I have to go back and forth. I think ideally, the answer to that is to make this a blank form I keep in the kitchen on a clip board. God only knows if that means I won’t keep it up to date, like all the other kitchen tracking I’ve tried in the past! But so far? So good.

Trying To Figure It Out

I want a way to track ingredients I’ve used up (a shopping list) and left over items going into the fridge or freezer. I’ve been fiddling with this for some time and haven’t quite gotten where I want it.

But while working on it, I came up with today’s menu. (Sunday is the only day we eat a formal breakfast.)

Breakfast: blueberry pancakes, which were supposed to use up the remaining container of blueberries (bought 2 yesterday).  We usually have pancakes, but nothing so high as blueberry pancakes, but we had the berries and they needed to be used. . . .  It used most of them, but not quite all. They’re out on the counter being eaten as hand food, and that should take care of the remainder.

Lunch: LO fried chicken in a chicken salad for lunch sandwiches, and the 3 pieces of lemon pepper chicken will be added to the freezer. I cooked 2 lbs of chicken during the week, 3 pieces as fried chicken and 3 more as lemon pepper chicken. The plain fried chicken I set aside the biggest of the 3 pieces so that I could use the meat for both of us.

Dinner: LO shepherd’s pie for dinner, with the remaining baby greens, sauteed. The pie was bought yesterday and we had 1/2 of it for dinner.

This will completely empty my LO shelf, which is the idea. My goal is to do that once weekly! But how do I make a system which will give me what I’m looking for? I don’t exactly know. Both of us think a spread sheet might help. It might, but it might not. And it won’t help at all if I don’t have some clarity about exactly WHAT I want to track. If I know that, then the rest is easy. But I’m still not exactly clear about how much info, for what period of time, or how I want it represented! That makes it difficult.

Of the forms I found online, this looks to be the most comprehesive and attractive, to me. Link