Tag Archives: food storage

Trying to Be Organized

It’s remarkably difficult!

One thing I noticed early this spring was that much of the frozen food I’d pitched were the random combinations of veggies: bok choy and onions, or, or …? Because I composted about 20 of these “soup and stew” vegetable mixes, I decided that this year I need recipes for whatever I froze instead.

So I searched through my cookbooks and came up with some. Then I made a spread sheet of the recipe name/source/page as a column head and the ingredients as the rows. The quantity req’d for a recipe goes into the appropriate cel on the spread sheet. It’s two pages long at this point.

Why did I do it this way? Because all the ingredients aren’t available from the farm at the same time, so some will be frozen first and then I’ll add the others.

But then, how did I know how many I had? Were they complete? And, and . . . . and so I made a grid for that.

So, this morning (it’s farm day) I went through the “shopping list” I’d made for the farm, from the email about what’s available this week and a survey of the food in the kitchen and marked what was needed for the food to be put away.

So, now I have:

  1. Two shopping lists: one for the farm, the other for the supermarket
  2. A check list/grid of the completed/in process frozen foods
  3. A spreadsheet with recipe names, where I found them, and the farm ingredients
  4. Three cookbooks, with the recipe pages flagged.

I intend to make a large grid/checklist page that I can just tape to the fridge, combining #2, #3 with recipe cards,  (replacing #4) in a library pocket.

This is waaay too involved!


When I first conceived of this, I thought I’d do 2 recipes, maybe 3: summer veggie combo, winter veggie combo and something else. The 3 became 13, and the chaos began. When the list of recipes grew exponentially, my need for tracking and organization did the same.

Every week, I thought, “Okay, I’ll do this piece of organization/tracking and that will fix it.” and then discovered I’d forgotten some vital piece, again. (The last is the check list of how many containers are done. Are they complete? Not?)

For the past three weeks, I’ve added a new form of tracking and organization to this every week. Let’s hope that combining them on one page will get it to “use it at a glance”  that I want!


It’s done. I have room for the library pocket, but haven’t copied the recipes out yet. I added a 14th recipe.

So two more major steps: copying the recipes onto cards and proofing the data.

 

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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.)

Extreme Food Planning: Part 2

Other things I can do:
  • Look at the bulk price per lb for turkey parts at the co-op. I don’t like the taste of turkey as well as chicken, but turkey pound for pound, with bone in, is usually a better deal — there are fewer bones.
  • Get the coupon file up to date, haven’t done this since April.
  • Make food from recipes I have using foods I almost always have, first.
  • Figure out how many potatoes and onions I’m likely to need over the winter. (Garlic is < 1 full braid, so are chilis. Carrots approx. 6 dozen.) Onions and potatoes were all used or tossed a month or more ago. After I have a number, I can explore purchasing enough to make it through winter, my goal.
  • Develop a basic stew/soup veg recipe and conversion recipes, so I’m not putting food aside to toss the following spring. Found something to try, a veggie soup recipe that has 2 distinct parts, the first pretty generic!
  • Make more “stewed” tomatoes this year so I don’t run out in Feb. again.
  • Try the celery thing.
  • Make a sourdough starter and USE it.
  • See if you can find unpasturized wine so you can make your own vinegar?

lobostudio-hamburg-33674-unsplash

Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg on Unsplash

Note:

  • 17 heads of garlic still on braid, one in basket.
  • Cayenne ristra jarred. Old pepper flakes discarded. 5/16/19

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.

 

 

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