Tag Archives: learning

Using Expensive Meat: Conclusions

So far we’ve had 15 portions using the expensive pork roast I bought. (See this post.) That brings the price down to $1.86 per portion. Surprise!

What I still have in the freezer: 1 slab which could be turned into stir fry, soup, or two pork chops, and a small container of carnitas. At a minimum, there’s probably still 4 portions remaining. If I figure 19 portions from this pork roast, it’s $1.47 each.

Just wow.

I had no idea I could do that. I’ve been watching it go, but I’ve used the meat as I cut it: about 1/2-1/3 for the roast (which became the carnitas), 3 slabs, and one small piece off the end. The small piece was turned into soup. That left the 3 slabs. We’ve eaten 2.

I admit it probably wouldn’t work this way in a bigger family, or perhaps with other cuts of meat. I started with a boneless hunk of pork loin. Very little waste, especially since I’ve used the small amount of fat that came with it to cook something every time we’ve eaten the pork. But I haven’t skimped or deliberately stretched it, I’ve just used it as convenient.

I also admit we’ve been eating it pretty steadily, because I knew I had this chunk of beautiful stuff in the freezer. . . My plan is to use meat for dinner 2x a week, which would have been 6 meals or 12 portions.

We also ate it for lunch: 5 6 portions worth. We tend to eat smaller lunches than dinners, so it went further that it might have otherwise.

My conclusion? It’s possible to get to my target price with expensive meat, if you have minimal waste in the original, large piece of meat AND if you use any leftovers for lunches. Otherwise? I’d have made 10 meals, at $2.79 per portion, over the $2 per portion price I wanted.

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Searching for More Ideas to Waste Less

well, I did … and didn’t!

I have a favorite resource: Waste Less, Save Money! 2018, it’s a Meredith Special publication. Because of the times and the title’s date, I was hoping they’d done a 2019 issue. If they did, I can’t find it. I did find some other publications which are new to me, but since I only have titles, I can’t say whether they’ll be good resources, or not.

I use my original publication (pictured below) a lot. Our fave roasted veggie recipe, Garlicy Roasted Vegetables, is there. As are recipes for herb vinegarette , veggie stock, chicken stock, etc. I had many recipes for those things before but they were scattered through a range of books, notes, and printouts. It’s handy having them in one place.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

      • Food Waste Strategies
      • Swap This for That
      • Crop Wrangler (in-season veggies)
      • Rethink your Beans!
      • What to do with Cheese
      • Saving Scraps & Seconds
      • What to do with Herbs
      • See & Toss Salads
      • Use it Up!
      • One-Pan Dinners
      • What to do with Crackers
      • You Choose! Skillet Suppers
      • Meat Smarts
      • Max out your Freezer!
      • Tasty Freezer Stashes
      • What to do with Bananas
      • Baker’s Pantry
      • Everyday Bakes
      • Scrappy Dog Treats
      • Use-It-Up Ingredients Index
      • Recipe Index
      • Superstar Vinegar

One thing I love about this publication is the changeable/zipper recipes, for example, skillet suppers. It’s a stir fry, you pick 1) A denser vegetable, 2) A less-dense vegetable, 3) A sauce, 4) A topper, and 5) A splash-on.

I almost always have a combination of the listed veggies. Right now: sweet potatoes and celery from #1, asparagus and bell pepper from #2, I’d have to make their citrus sauce:  OJ, marmalade, soy sauce, and grated ginger. Also chopped almonds (I’d have to toast them) from #4, and soy sauce or sriracha from #5 (I’d put them on the table).

Given the oriental feel of this, I’d probably cook rice to go with. Add leafy green salad and jarred salad? There’s dinner!

So I just constructed our dinner menu, took what 5 minutes? Oriental veggies skillet, rice, green salad, jarred salad.

To do: prep veggies, cook pot of rice, make citrus sauce, and toast almonds. Since it’s about 7:40 a.m. as I type this, that should be easy.


You can see why this is one of my favorite cookbooks! I don’t need to buy anything, make substitutions or replacements, I can look at a recipe and use what I already have. I wish they’d do another volume! Yes, it was a $9.99 “magazine,” but in the 2 years I’ve had it, it has saved us how much? Likely more than its original cost.


Many years ago, when Marie Callender’s was only a SoCal restaurant, and fairly new, they had a steamed veggie plate we both loved. It was a highlight of getting to the big city and not cheap for college students like us. DH loved it. He thinks the roasted veggie recipe from this publication is better. Whether that’s genuine, flattery or a faulty memory, as it was long ago?

I’ll take it! 

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The roasted veggie recipe is denser veggies (potatoes, carrots, or parsnips*) onion, oil, acid (lemon juice or vinegar), garlic, salt, pepper, and softer veg (zucchini, summer squash, peppers, grape tomatoes, etc.) . There’s a note about adding fresh herbs, either woodier ones (thyme, rosemary, sage, etc.) or tender ones (parsley, basil, cilantro, etc.)  I have enough of any of that to make up a pan of this most of the time. Right now: potatoes, carrots, lemon, onion, garlic, peppers, sage or dill and parsley. (I’d probably make it with dill and parsley, as those are fresh AND fragile — the sage is struggling along in the garden, and will keep.)

*I usually add celery.

If you can find a copy of this, I absolutely recommend it!

J

Frugality: Why Food? Money-Saving Food Ideas

The three strategies I use to save money are:

  1. Finding a cheaper substitute.
  2. Paying less for the same product.
  3. Doing without.

Any or all of these will save you $. Frequently, when faced with economic stress, people do what I’ve been doing: concentrate on their food expense.

It’s one of the few areas left where the consumer controls everything they spend. You can’t suddenly decide to pay less for your mortgage, you can decide to give the bank less, but the amount you owe hasn’t changed. Also fuel for heat/cooking, insurance and most other regular expenses have costs set by others. But you CAN decide you’ll have mac & cheese for dinner, or soup, instead of going out or eating steak.

The only real problem is that food is 10% of an average American’s paycheck. If you cut it in 1/2, no mean feat, you’re still only saving 5%. The trick is to use that small saving to pay down debt or other set expenses, so the available cash/savings grows. That isn’t easy to do when it feels like you’re saving pennies instead of dollars!

The easiest way to reduce that 10%? Stop wasting food. Americans, on average, waste 40% of their food dollar. If you spend $10 a week and want to spend $5 instead? Stop throwing out food and you’ll save $4!

To this end, for some time, I’ve had a “flow” when I cook. Most of it is dealing with left over food in a way that resembles but is not exactly the same as the original. Also, much of it adds other foods for the second meal.

  • Cut bigger pieces down: cut meat from a cooked roast/bird and use it in another meal. Same with rough cut veggies: carrots, parsnips, onion, celery, etc.
  • Put previously cooked food in a thick sauce. This is what stew is, right? Also anything served with gravy over it. Make this a fairly bland dish. Make crepes and use this as a filling.
  • Dilute a thick sauce/gravy with water or stock — make soup or ? Transform whatever with gravy into something with a thin sauce  or soup. Make this more pungent.
  • The old trick of serving whatever with a starch: potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, grains or bread. Things with gravy can be served atop a starch or with the starch in them (like stew with potatoes).
  • Use the bits & pieces to make soup or stock: this reduces waste and the cost, while it increases nutritional value.

Using these ideas, I turn 1 lb of chicken thighs into 4 meals. The protein costs $2.49/lb. That’s about .62 per meal! I have a great source for chicken. I buy it in bulk and freeze it in 1 lb containers. Depending on what I’m cooking I may or may not serve 2 thighs as dinner, then salvage the scraps/bones and make stock with the 3rd thigh for the next meal.

The last time I did this, I made oven-roasted chicken: we ate 2 thighs, the next day I made stir fry, heavy on the garlic. One portion is left over, it’s in the freezer; someone will eat it for lunch, or it will get added to soup. That’s 5 meals from $2.49 worth of meat, or .50 each meal for the protein.

If you do the math, the extreme frugality menus I linked to last time are about .25 per meal, protein and all. I thought what I was doing was pretty extreme, obviously, I still need to work on it!

So, how much should you spend? Figure 6% of your take home pay, if you aren’t wasting food or 10% when you do. If you’re spending more than that? You’re probably stuck in a rut of making the same things over and over and at least when I do that, I throw out a lot!

I’ll have to see what I can do to cut my costs!

What comes to mind —

  • Making schmaltz and using it instead of bottled cooking oils, (Using less, #2 above).
  • Making yogurt. (Finding a cheaper substitute, #1 above).
  • Baking bread. (Also #1.) We’d found a cheap, acceptable bread, $2.99 a loaf, so we’ve been buying bread rather than baking. The market has hiked this brand up to $3.99 a loaf again. DH still makes biscuits and pancakes when needed. I make crepes.
  • Stop having dessert. (Doing without, #3.) We will have a piece of fruit or maybe ice cream, but we haven’t had dessert as a planned part of a meal for some time.
  • Get rid of more junk food. We don’t eat these all the time, but yes, we do eat some: crackers and chips mostly. (Do without #3.)
  • Find high-priced items we still use and use any of the three strategies to reduce costs!

The best other discussion I’ve found about how to save money on groceries is this one.

Books & Reading: Legacy & Healing

My parents met because of books. Mom was a bookseller, Dad a book collector.

Books saved my life. For decades, I read compulsively first thing in the morning and last thing at night. They were my only constant: no matter how bad or good the day was, the words on the page remained the same.

The abused, wounded little girl I was to the young woman I became, desperately needed a constant. God had been blocked from me, as had any belief system or group of people — as part of that abuse.

Then I met this quiet 6’1 man who decided he was going to take the person he said was, “the most cynical person I’ve ever known,” and be the rock she needed. It worked, but it took years.

During those years, I still read compulsively. I opened the shop, in part to thank the literary world for saving my sanity/life. Then, at 45, I was diagnosed with PTSD, and the therapist, DH and I slowly but steadily unpicked the knot of my abuse and traumas.

My therapist said that when people get PTSD, the first thing which eases the pain becomes the addiction. In my case, I was 3 and it was books and reading.

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(Not sure where I got the image, I’ve used it before, sorry!)

More years, more books, more healing. The store closed in 2005. Sometime afterwards, about the time I started knitting (2015), I stopped reading compulsively first and last thing every day.

I’d gotten to where I almost resented books. I had too many, they cluttered up my life and were a continual reminder of how wounded I’d been.

I count people who write, illustrate, publish and edit as some of my dearest friends. There are 6 books with my name on the cover, and two more scheduled to come out late this year or early next.

One of the future books is the memoir and that’s the period, for me, on the end of the abuse/PTSD sentence. If one person, just one, doesn’t commit suicide or tries to find another way — just once — the ten years it took me to write will be worthwhile.

Behind that 10 years are hundreds of hours of therapy, both effective and not. Also behind it are thousands of hours of reading: recharging my batteries, giving me hope, giving me respite, and telling me to try again and again.

Recently, I plucked a copy of Helene Hanff’s Q’s Legacy from a box. I was completely prepared to get rid of it, and will, but I hadn’t read it. I’ve read everything else she wrote, except her text books, and I skimmed those! So I picked it up and started.

In the course of reading about how she became the person associated with the Marks & Co. bookshop and all that happened to her because of that association, I found a new way to adjust for my past. Having books and reading is fine. It’s no longer my refuge, safety and salvation, it’s a pleasant way to spend some time.

I still have way too many books — but somehow, it’s hard to resent it.

 

 

This Week & the Neat Muscle

This week is going to be centered around the upcoming flea market. (If you’re local and want info, let me know!)

Afterwards, I hope to have a hole here AND a hole in the storage. As with April’s flea market, I’ll set aside a wadge of the unsold items to donate, hopefully to the thrift shop down the street. If we can’t donate it there, I’ll put it in storage to donate it elsewhere or take it to the dump’s swap shop.

A major purge: a box of books and 10 bins worth of leaves, that’s 260 gallons were taken to the dump! There remains 2 small leaf piles I missed on the lawn and a larger pile next to the compost heap, I just had to get them off the grass!

Today’s work:

  • The bean trellis needs to be anchored further and the beans planted. That’s the next step in the veggie garden. Of course, more leaf raking.
  • The dryer is acting up, so clearing the porch under where the clothes line is getting put up for the summer is another. Moving the dryer away from the wall and see if the drain is plugged? DH did this. The dryer is back in place, hopefully usuable — I had a large load of rags, kitchen towels, etc. to wash and did so!
  • The living room also needs to be cleaned, amongst other things, our chimney will be swept Weds.

Other projects:

Dining Room & Rug:  The rug effort made great progress yesterday. I got the 3 rugs stitched together and started on the first border. I need to do 2 sets of border stitches. Then I need to clean up the stitching, knot and tie off the ends. THEN I’m done! Still several hours away, but definite progress!

The rug effort required the dining area be cleared out a bit, which it was. Still more to do there as well, quite a bit, with the furniture move I have in mind, but it will happen, eventually! We are loaning our old table to a gallery, that will help, but the table top detaches from the legs, so that’s only 2 pieces in what is an overcrowded room. Still, every bit helps!

Electronic Purge: Re the electronic purge? I have about 2800 emails in my email’s trash folder. They are purged automagically when they’re there for 30 days. That leaves approx. 25,300 in my in box.

We went to the dump THREE times yesterday, so aside from the 10 bins of leaves, there are definitely fewer items here!


Much of this process, which now has gone on for years, has seemed futile. I keep relearning what I’ve happened on every once in a while. That is, that the people with neat houses make it a priority. To them, the mess is simply unacceptable. For me, for years it was inevitable and another sign of how “flawed” I was.

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Photo by Kristian Seedorff on Unsplash

I’m not flawed, I just need to learn to think in new ways. The bins being used in the leaf effort is an example.

The bins were bought to hold twigs and other kindling. Fine. Most of them were empty on the porch this spring, making a bit of a mess, but not much, they stack. However, I’d run out of trashcans, used most of my reusable leaf bags, and still had many piles of leaves in the yard. A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that a summer use for the kindling bins could be holding leaves before hauling them to the dump’s leaf pile! And the yard became instantly more attractive as the full bins were stacked in front of where the cars park and the leaf piles disappeared.

I just don’t have the “neat muscle” yet.  But I’m working on it!

 

 

Found Time

It occurred to me that one thing I’m doing to be more efficient is using all those “little blocks” of time, while waiting for something:

  • Waiting for the toaster to pop.
  • Warming myself in front of the wood stove.
  • Waiting for the microwave.
  • In the bathroom.

I have started washing the few hand-wash items on the kitchen window sill, while I wait for the micro. What gets put on the window sill are items which will be ruined if washed with the other dishes: the wine glasses would break, the wood dough scraper would get soaked and ruined, the thermometer would get soaked and its electronics ruined. After use, they’re put on the window sill. And frequently, although I don’t mean to, I forget about them. These things are getting washed and put away, regularly now. Yay! One less set of FLOATING CLUTTER!

I don’t have a set thing to do while waiting for the toaster, yet. I tend to do whatever I see that I can do quickly. But it occurs to me that maybe I should use it as a time to wipe out the micro! The micro gets cleaned now on an as-needed basis. I’d like to be more regular and proactive than that. Cleaning it while the toaster works seems like a good plan.

Warming myself at the wood stove and in the bathroom I use the time for the same thing these days, that is, I grab a handful of papers which need sorting and go through them. This is slowly but surely, getting us through the boxes and boxes of papers we’ve had stored.

Do you use these little blocks of “found time” to clean or cull? What do you do?

 

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.