Tag Archives: food

More Food Planning/Use

Today is the day I usually go to the farm for our week’s food. If I’d been home yesterday, I would put aside whatever remaining foodstuffs from last week I didn’t think we’d use.

I’ve started that effort today instead, but it IS being done.

I’ve also planned what I’ll get at the farm, that makes food use a bit less random!

Finally, I go right by our favorite markets on the way home, so I’ll do the weekly shopping. There’s a package of chicken thawing in the fridge for tomorrow and Sunday.

Tonight’s dinner is probably a cheese omelette and salad, or that’s the plan. This is subject to DH’s input, how much and types of cheese we have, etc. We had HM hummus, freshly baked bread, and green salad. It was too hot to cook and I’d been gone all day, no interest in cooking at all!

I culled 2 jars from the pantry as their contents will be replaced, starting today.

This is working! We’ll see if I can keep it up. DH and I have had a few discussions about the “menu plan,” and he thinks it’s a good idea and agrees with my long-term goals: getting us used to smaller, cheaper meals like we’ll have when he’s retired, spending less on restaurants/prefab food, less meat, more veggies, better use of the veggies we’ve paid for (from the farm), and less food waste.

Photo by petra cigale on Unsplash

And for me, the kicker is that this isn’t so rigid that I resent it and it takes away the creativity I normally use when cooking. The I don’t know what to make with what I’ve got randomness is the only piece of cooking I really like: taking a bunch of random ingredients and using up what needs it in a meal.

I know people who sit down and plan a year’s worth of menus at once. I couldn’t do that, any more than I could do something similar to Once a Month Cooking or Mega Cooking. I tend to put pieces aside, not meals. (For example, cooked rice and stems from greens for soup.)

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The Menu Plan, Working?

I had come up with a general menu plan. Last week I managed what’s in column 3. (I skipped week 2 as I was sick again and the menu was abandoned!)

Day Plan Actual wk 1 Actual wk 3
Monday Double Veg Lentils & Yams green rice & salad
Tuesday Soup/Stew/Salad Garlic Soup avocado toast, roasted red pepper soup, braised greens**
Wednesday 2nd Veg Lentils & Yams green rice, sauteed mushrooms, salad, fruit
Thursday Egg Asparagus & herb omelette HM hummus, fresh bread, salad
Friday Double Meat BBQ Beef blackberry cobbler (a.m.) and restaurant food (dinner)
Saturday Sandwich BBQ Beef Sandwich None, did flea market, followed by ice cream, then home
Sunday 2nd Meat Lentils & Yams*, salad lemon chicken, salad, corn

*The 3rd portion of lentils & yams was frozen Weds. We finished the beef Saturday, so we ate the last portion of lentils & yams from the freezer.

** The roasted red peppers were a container from the freezer, frozen last September!


I can say that menu planning this much it hit a few of my goals:

  • less waste
  • less meat
  • cheaper meals
  • set aside excess for “instant meals” so we don’t buy frozen food

But this is Memorial Day weekend, which means my big freezer needs to be EMPTY next week. Ack!

pointing fingerThe fridge’s freezer needed to be cleaned first. That’s now been done. 5/27/19 noon.


There is one empty shelf in the fridge’s freezer and one empty shelf in the big freezer. More work required! 6/4/19

Extreme Food Planning: Part 1

Most Americans spend < 10% of their income on food. However, unlike mortgage interest, credit card minimum payments, utility costs, etc. it is one expense we all control.

Some of this is certainly dictated by location and available income. You can’t afford to buy $50 worth of bulk soap if you need to feed 3 people for $60 a week and you have a hard time doing that.

That said? I’m fortunate enough to be in the pool of people that can afford to use food planning to reduce our expenditures, at least for now.

So, along that line, I decided to do a category food plan. I’m not doing menu planning. When I did detailed menu planning, I hated cooking, it became a chore I had to get through, like scrubbing a toilet, just another chore. My idea here is to make a loose framework, not a menu plan.

There are two or three things going into this:
  1. I have to empty the freezer by the end of this month to be ready for the summer flood of veggies.
  2. I want to save every nickel I can.
  3. I want to use the above two items as a goad to both finally organize my cooking information and eliminate excess stuff.

What to do?

Convertible meals. One meal that becomes 2 or 3. Right now I have 2 lbs of cooked chicken and consommé in the fridge. That is easily 2 meals. I also have some cooked rice. Okay. Chicken and rice soup is one meal.

The others? The meat pulled off the bone can be made into chicken salad for lunch or dinner or lemon chicken. I have lemons and we’ve both been fighting colds for more than a month. I could add the chicken to the end of the salsa and we could have tacos, which would use up some of the tortillas, or….

Getting 3 meals from 2 lbs of chicken isn’t hard. I think I have 1 more lb of chicken, divided, in the freezer.

I also have a small pork roast, and some bacon. (I wanted pork while I still trusted it.)

I guess that’s another thing I can add to my learn-to-do-this list: learn to make a sausage substitute from chicken and grains…. it’s my observation that self-regulation never works. There are historical reasons why food regulations are so cumbersome. Go back and look at an old cookbook which talks about testing for chalk in flour, etc. before you buy it. I have those books, I have no desire to go back to arsenic in eye drops, chalk in flour, etc.

In my opinion? People are going to die and/or get very sick and then things will start the other way again. That’s a few years in the future yet… in the meantime, I can stop buying so much processed food and do more diy. I also sent a question to my local organic food organization asking about organic pork processing and how it differs from conventional?

Categories.
  • Egg. One egg meal per week. Quiche or omelette or just breakfast. Eggs, unless they get too warm are hard to adulterate and usually cheap protein.
  • Soup/Salad/Veg. Salad or soup or just a veggie plate night, maybe with hummus or other dip. Use up those bits & pieces!
  • Double Meals. One or more double meal nights or converted food nights. Any large piece of meat, large veg, casserole, etc.
  • Sandwich. Self-explanatory.
M -Veg enough for 2 meals
Tu -Soup or salad, using the uneaten and no plan for it bits and pieces
W – LO veg
Th – Egg
F – Meat meal enough for 2 meals
Sa – Sandwich
Su – LO meat

That should work. It’s broad enough that I probably won’t get bored. It also doesn’t give us meat 7 days a week, has a built-in left over day, and uses eggs to drastically lower food costs, as eggs are, after dried beans, almost the cheapest high protein source available. I’m not cooking complicated meals on the weekends, when DH and I tend to do home improvements.

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.

 

 

More Food Musings

Because of the frugal food analysis, I also got down the seed box.

I got discouraged with our veggie garden a couple of years ago, I planted 4 tomato plants (at a cost of $8 each for mid-size, organic, yellow tomato plants) and something ate two of the plants down to the ground. We got 4  fully ripe tomatoes from the other 2 plants and about 4 smaller green ones before the season ended. Tomatoes for $4 each just didn’t seem worth the effort, right?

So last year I just let the garden go. We had a wonderful crop of weeds.

I remembered what I wanted from my garden tonight, even with the farm food, and that is grow things I can’t really get enough variety or quantity from the farm: greens, beans and not red tomatoes.

So I started looking at seeds at my favorite supplier and got down the seed box. Which, because I haven’t planted a garden in two years of any size was chock-a-block full of seeds, some as far back as 2010! I put 52 seed packets in the trash can with seeds in them and 2 empty packets, which I’d kept for some reason.

garden bed

(Image isn’t mine but from images.google.com .)

No seeds in the box are from last year, most are from 2016. This means I’ll spend weeks testing seeds and more will get trashed. But that’s good because it will make me do another cull BEFORE I order seed! (I thought I’d culled the box last year when I moved it. Apparently not, I just put the lid on the box and put it away untouched.)

So, today I took 2 bags of books to the dump’s swap shop and tossed 52 seed packets.

We have been working hard on figuring out what’s next for the house: what we want and how to do it. One thing we decided we wanted is prohibitively expensive, unless DH builds it and even then it’s not cheap. That got tabled and we decided he should work more on the other projects. The big DIY project uses jigging and the company which sells that has a sale or two each year. We decided to try and buy the jigs on sale and maybe that’s it this year and tackle the project itself, materials and hardware, next year.

Things are selling at the antique store, which is really nice, since I only have 3 more weeks in that booth! On the other hand, I don’t think anything has sold in the new book booth, but I need to redo things a bit before that will happen I guess?

 

“Almost Instant” Chili from Fresh Ingredients

I dream about “bowls of red,” that is, slow simmered, meaty chili made with abundant quantities of traditional tomatoes. I grew up in So. Cal., so chili has always been part of what I eat by preference.

Except. I cannot eat red tomatoes in quantity any more. It isn’t worth the 3 in the morning gut ache, even when I make it myself. The result of this is that I make many “chilis” using salsa verde as the base, which I like. But it’s not the same.

Today was farm day and I was fairly conservative about the different items I got, in most cases I got more than 1 item. (You’re allowed so many items a week, this season, it has been 8 all year.) They had quantities of non-red, greenhouse tomatoes, so I got 4 lbs of tomatoes, or 2 items worth.

This was also the first PYO for peppers — jalpenos, so I got some of those too.

I put this together from what I had acquired today or already had on hand.

Take 4 large non-red greenhouse tomatoes, wash them and cut off any hard core or other not so great spots. Put the tomatoes into a sauce pan with a little oil and smash them down with a potato smasher. Simmer.

Stem, seed and then slice a med-lg jalapeno, add that to the tomatoes and keep cooking. In a small frypan, put in a little oil again, and cut up a fresh bulb onion in largish pieces. Saute the onion, add chili powder. Cook til almost cooked through but not quite. Add the onions to the still simmering tomatoes. Put 1/2 lb ground beef in the fry pan, add about 1T cumin and cook to crumbles (cooked not crusty). Add the leaves of about 1/2 bunch cilantro. Cook until well wilted. Add the meat/cilantro to the tomato mixture.

Pull some of the liquid from the pan, put it in another bowl and add about 1T flour, stir til smooth, return it to the tomatoes. Taste. Add beef demiglace to add richness, about 2t.

Serve with generous amounts of grated cheddar cheese.

This is acceptable  chili, but not an outstanding one. It would have been better for adding the meat and letting the entire thing simmer for an hour or so, but that didn’t happen. It’s closer to a “bowl of red” than I’ve had in more than a year, so I’ll take it! (The left overs, the next day, were better because the flavors had blended.)

NOTE: This is seasoned as it is because: I love cumin and my husband loves cilantro. I also like more salt than he does. He likes a lot more pepper than I do, so we add salt and pepper ourselves and I don’t cook with it.

Self-Cleaning Cooking — Put It To Use (or Try)

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

  1. Use up ingredients! This generates less clean up: you don’t have to deal with storing what’s left. (It generates less waste and happily is frugal too.)
  2. Use the smallest quantity of cooking utensils & tools as practical (and safe)! Each tool or utensil generates two clean up tasks — it has to be washed and put away.
  3. Limit cooking areas! Each cooking area generates one clean up task: cleaning the area after it’s used.
  4. Make your own prefab or partial ingredients! Partially prepared foods may be the best way to cook from scratch, with fresh foods, and limit clean up tasks.
  5. Try using commercial prefab ingredients! These can also save many clean up tasks, but you sacrifice knowing exactly what’s in the food and how it was prepared.

So! Given those, what can I do?


  • Use up ingredients!

For us, that means that I will try and do more bulk cooking. I do this with meats already, that is, when I open a package of 1 lb of chicken thighs, these days I always cook all of it. However, I don’t do this with vegetables say. Items which will store well, I do: cooked rice as an example. But what to do with fresh veggies to handle/store them as little as possible is the challenge here, and I don’t have an answer.

  • Use the smallest quantity of cooking utensils & tools as practical (and safe)!

I think with measuring tools, I already do this. I’ll measure dry ingredients before wet. I’ll use the smallest spoon measure and use a graduated cup measure for items.

Cooking tools? Hm, not so much.

Pans: if items need to be dry roasted (like dry roasted cumin, in a soup recipe I use a lot) and then another ingredient needs to be sauted, wiping the pan out with a paper towel (or not, depending on the ingredient) between makes sense. Using the pan you roasted meat in to make gravy might make sense, but it would usually generate another dish to hold the food taken from the roasting pan.

I have two sets of divided pans: small, almost triangular pans made to fit inside a bigger one and be cooked that way. I wonder if using those more often could help? It might not lessen the quantity of items to be cleaned, but it certainly would lessen the square inches of surfaces needing to be cleaned. There’s only two of us and often I’m only using the bottom inch of a pan . Hmm…..

Cooking utensils: I automatically just reach for tool x or y or z as I’m cooking. I think I need to become more aware of what I’m doing and see if I can just not use the wooden spatula I’ve used for years to saute items, and then need a spoon instead. Why couldn’t I saute foods with the spoon? No reason; I’m just used to doing things a certain way. As I said, this one will require some work on my part!

  • Limit cooking areas! 

This is the same as cooking cools/utensils: I automatically use this cutting board, that knife, the peeler, etc. I will have to *think* before I cook to find ways to lessen cooking areas. (The horror!)

  • Make your own prefab or partial ingredients! 

As I said, I often make a quart jar of sauted onions.

At the end of the summer last year, I made up something which also worked: I made up bags of tomatoes, onion, green pepper, all chopped and ready to go, for marinara for me (no red tomatoes) or my husband (with red tomatoes). I also made up bags of salsa verde for me (no red tomatoes again) or regular salsa for my husband.

I’ve discussed this earlier, I think to limit the number of recipes: I’ll make a red tomato stewed tomato recipe and a nonred tomato stewed tomato recipe. I’ll probably also make salsa verde. Tomatillos, which I love and can eat, are readily available at the farm late summer. A jar of salsa verde is about $3 (or more)! I love Mexican food and use a lot of salsa.

stack of dirty pots &amp; pans

  • Try using commercial prefab ingredients!

Of course, I have done this and do. But I have limited storage and money. In the summer I toss a huge amount of the farm food unnecessarily. Especially since I’m losing my big freezer this summer, finding new ways to use the farm food, rather than buying more prefab food is my mandate.