Category Archives: self-interest

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.

 

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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 the month 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

Food Waste Tracking & Food Plan

I dropped the ball on the food tracking because I was just too busy: compiling tax data, cleaning house for new to us freezer, and yesterday dealing with something we really needed: another cord of wood. (We heat with wood.)

In between there we voted, had meals, counted ballots, did laundry, etc. But there has been one major thing having to be dealt with after another all week. It’s done. Hurrah!

Today we get to go to the dump. DH is working on the pot rack he’s building. I started cleaning the kitchen cabinets. Laundry has been done. Dishes have been put away. Life is slowly returning to normal. And I have no idea what we ate which day. I tossed 4 packages of old left overs Wednesday, thinking I was going to the dump, but we didn’t make it. Definitely have to go today, the trash is stinky and full!

DH finished the pot rack he was making! Well, he used up all the materials he had. This meant that we cleaned another part of the kitchen, removed the old apple ladder and grid wall we’d used to hold our pots, pans and colanders/strainers. All of that is on the new rack. Very spiffy!

Why didn’t we buy a rack? DH is 1’+ taller than I. To get pots where I can reach them, he’d be whacked in the face by them. Put them where he can get them? I can’t. So he built one, a spiffy new version of our old ladder.

I tossed one package of food during the freezer move. We unpacked the old freezer, thawed and cleaned it, packed the food in coolers. Moved the old freezer outside. Repacked it, turned it on. And kept it cold for a week. Then we unpacked it the morning the new freezer was delivered and packed all the food into coolers again. Cleaned old freezer. It was put on the driveway to be picked up when the new one was delivered. That happened. The new freezer got packed with the food from the coolers. The coolers got cleaned and put away.

We’ve discussed what happens to the coolers now? The old freezer wasn’t frost free. The new one is. At one point I thought we could store the small cooler inside the bigger one, but that won’t work, alas. They take up a fair amount of real estate on top of the fridge. (We’re going to wait and see how it goes.)

My job re the freezer now? To empty it as much as possible before 6/1, when we start getting farm produce and here we go again!


What I’d intended to talk about was historical food planning. I have a brochure from WWII era by the local electric company and another, I think it’s older, from Knox Gelatine.

From the electric company (edited) and with my comments in italic;

  • Don’t pare carrots; scrub with a stiff brush. Seems my root veggies are always really sandy. I’ll have to try this and see if it works!
  • Cook potatoes in jackets; eat skins and all. See above.
  • Cook young beet tops as other greens. If we ate beets, I would. DH hates them.
  • Don’t peel tomatoes or pare cucumbers or apples. My plans for this year include making tomato powder from tomato skins and there are various ideas for apples. Never thought about cukes. We hardly eat them. Hmmm?
  • Use green onion tops as seasoning. I do this already.
  • Save celery tops for soups, salads, etc. I just use them, always have.
  • Save coarse part of celery; puree for soup. If I’m not planting the bases this year, I’ll try it.
  • Use dandelion and other wild greens. We’ve done this.
  • Use every scrap of baked goods. (bread, cake, cookies) We do this and then also do something I’ve never seen elsewhere. There’s usually a small container in the freezer of “flour dregs” which is the left overs from kneading bread. I use these to thicken soups & stews or make gravy.
  • Use carrot & radish tops as garnish. Or food. I have a recipe I call “beans & greens” which I save carrot greens for every year.
  • Check refrigerator and bread box daily. I usually do this before I make a meal.
  • Plan to use all left overs daily. Nice idea, I rarely manage it.
  • Keep a list of left overs and check them off as used. Never considered this. The tracking I was doing effectively does this.

The Knox book includes recipes for leftovers: meats, rice, etc. The main idea I got from this isn’t actually in the book: making gelatin from LO jelly.

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Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

We always have various jellies going. It seems that they all run out at once: lime marmalade, current jelly, orange marmalade — there’s just a little bit left in the bottle. I have not had an idea what to do with that tiny bit? Maybe make a drink? That seemed like it might be easy to make something which tastes bad: too thinned, so it’s all but tasteless, or if I combined the jellies to make a drink base, it might just be awful.

So I haven’t.

I think I’ll try making small gelatins instead. The flavor/no flavor thing could be a problem? We’ll see!


Honestly? I don’t even know if I have any plain gelatin in the house!

 

Different

I have been reading a book I’ve had for some time, and only used before as a reference: Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. She has this to say, which I found really mind-boggling:


“The sense of being at home is important to everyone’s well-being. If you do not get enough of it, your happiness, resilience, energy, humor, and courage will decrease. It is a complex thing, an amalgam. In part, it is a sense of having special rights, dignities, and entitlements — and these are legal realities, not just emotional states. It includes familiarity, warmth, affection, and a conviction of security. Being at home feels safe: you have a sense of relief whenever you come in and close the door behind you, reduced fear of social and emotional dangers as well as physical ones.” (page 7)


 

As an abused and neglected child, I had none of those things. Home was, as I have said elsewhere, the place where they knew how to put the (emotional) knife so it hurt the most. And, if a person wasn’t actively hurting me, they were wondering wtf my problem was? So, I have no expectation of safety at home.

I also have no experience of someone as she talks about caretaking a home as a way of showing love.

DH’s circumstances were different from mine, but his childhood home wasn’t happy and protective entirely either.

I have been for years trying to figure out what makes a place “home” and the most I could come up with was cozy and safe, so that’s what I’ve been heading towards decorating wise. But it has been an ongoing problem for me, because I want something I have never had, and decorating magazines and books just do NOT talk about how to create a home-like atmosphere.

And then there’s this:


“…what a traditional woman did that made her home warm and alive was not dusting and laundry. Someone can be hired to do those things (to some extent anyway). Her real secret was that she identified herself with her home.” (page 9)


And that I’ve never done.

The panic attacks happen in at least one predictable way, or used to. That was if I set up something to please myself. I was sure others would see what I did as laughable, stupid, or just wrong.

That’s a product of years of conditioning as a kid. It’s part of the cyclic rant: “Someone will break it. Someone will steal it. Someone will deride it or make fun of me,” that is the verbal side of my panic attacks.

Standing in front of a bookshelf with palms sweating and near tears, because I displayed some of my favorite things isn’t an experience I remember fondly, but it used to be common.

I identified myself not with the space I occupied, but internally. Inside was my only safe harbor.

I feel rather at sea in some ways. Years ago, my therapist told me to nurture the wounded kid inside me. I asked, “How?”

She looked at me and said, “If you’d had a kid, you would have learned, because your instincts and the child’s needs would have taught you. But you never had a kid. And you weren’t nurtured. I’ll have to think about that.”

And we came up with some answers, but not a lot. Although I don’t see myself as an uncaring person, frankly, I suck at relationships.

I ruin friendships, put off people, and always have. Some of it was being wounded, because I said inappropriate things, but much of it was just that I never learned how to build community, closeness, not really. I try hard. I try to have integrity. I try to be of use to the people I know, but I’ve never been sure I do it right, and think I screw it up, all the time.

The house is much the same sort of thing. It used to be that every time I did some new decorating thing or worked on cleaning the house, what I said to my husband was, “Are you mad at me?”

And although that’s pretty pathetic, it’s still the truth. These days, by contrast, what happens is that I’m grumpy. I was this morning, when I cleaned the kitchen.

You know? I’d really, really love to outgrow my childhood. Maybe by the time I’m 70?

 

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.

My Heirs Are Happier!

I spent part of today going though a box of papers. [Papers and books make up much of the boxed “stuff” here.]

 

paper piles

(from images.google.com, image is NOT mine!)

I found our original mortgage paperwork, from 1982? Why we still had this I don’t know. The only thing I can think of is that until a while back, I just moved boxes back and forth mostly and didn’t go through them often, so this got moved, from California to Georgia to Florida to New England and then within New England, until I found these papers again, today.

Out they go into the shredding pile!


One more foray into the stack of boxes found something long missing: the photo album. Now I can file the pics in one or two manila envelopes here which have been waiting for this event.

fireworks

Wimp

I wimped out. I was supposed to have a colonoscopy and endoscopy this week. I cancelled it.

Why? Because my PTSD brain had decided that I would die under the anesthesia. Crazy, right? But it wouldn’t go away. Every time I did anything about the procedure, it would show up, again and again.

Don’t tell me it’s irrational. Thanks I know that already.

I got tired of crying about it.

Also, different than in years past? I didn’t grit my teeth and just do whatever, so that others wouldn’t know I was scared or think less of me. I was scared and yeah, you can think less of me if you want; I have no control over that anyway.

For one of the few times in my life about something pretty big, I let myself wimp out.

Different? Yes. I kept telling myself it was no big. I kept telling myself it was my crazy PTSD, anxiety-ridden brain going off the deep end.

It wouldn’t go away.

Finally? I was supposed to watch this 40 minute thing for the hospital this morning, and that put me over the edge.

So I wimped out.

On the one hand, it’s nice because I’m actually being honest. (Unlike all the times from dissecting a frog in high school, to almost anything else, up to and including submitting the memoir to a publisher, because I thought others would think less of me if I didn’t.)

And, the pay off? I’m pretty sure if I wasn’t dead, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But if I was? Well, it’s hard to write and live this life then ‘eh?

And I want a chance to do that living. I owe DH a clean house. I owe myself the chance to see what, if any, impact the memoir can have. I want that. I want to see what kind of other life I can have!

panic

But there’s a large part of me that’s saying “I’m done.” The work which started when I was born 3 months premature, fighting for my life, is complete. And, if I’m really, truly going to be honest here? That’s what really scared me. I wasn’t sure if they put me under I’d  want to come back. So, I blamed the medical profession, but it was just me.

You know? I have no idea who I am if I’m not fighting. And I’m not, not really any more.

Maybe I’ll get a chance to grow up/grow past the stupid childhood before I’m 70? You think?