Life Lessons
July 20, 2009, 1:37 pm
Filed under: Life, Tips

(subtitle: or, How I Might Have Hepatitis)

Hello class. I have three lessons to share with you today:

1)   When is it ever appropriate to ask a complete stranger for some of their food?? Unless you are homeless, or someone is holding a sign that says FREE FOOD FOR STRANGERS, the answer is NEVER.

2)   Walking across town with a pizza box is like wearing a sign that says PLEASE START A CONVERSATION WITH ME.

3)   Based on my lifelong research, I conclude that going out alone only turns out good approximately 20% of the time. The other 80%=having to talk to creepers.

For the first few weeks of living alone, I didn’t go out much but I’m finally started to try and venture out more. But yesterday I was reminded of why I don’t go out alone. Many times this summer, I’ve thought about sitting at a bar to have a drink, but then always chicken out at the last minute.  Yesterday I had some time to kill in between errands, so I went to this restaurant/bar where people also hang out with laptops. I sit at the bar and order a mojito. A man 4 seats away from me tells me that it looks good, and I politely smile and say yes it is. Then a few minutes later, three sips into my drink, he sneakily ambles over to me and starts talking to me, then picks up my drink and says “Can I try it? Can I try your drink” and then drinks it through the stirry straws as I fumble incredulously.

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January 13, 2009, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Tips

I always have problem with using up veggies that only come in big quantities – carrots & celery for example. Only once in a blue moon can I find single stalks, and I can never use up a whole bag. I tried freezing extra vegetables before, both raw or cooking first then freezing but it never worked out.

It never occured to me to blanch the vegetables first, then freeze. I even found these guides with instructions for all different types of vegetables. This will also make farmer’s market shopping easier if I can preserve the veggies for just a bit longer.

After holidays, over two weeks of vacation at the in-laws, and an amazing culinary visit to Seattle I’m now ready for “food detox.” Mom cooked meat every day, and we indulged way too much in deliciously rich restaurant meals. It will be lots of low fat and veggie eating for the next couple of weeks.

Plus I have a week before classes start so I’m thinking of doing a round of food & freezer prep. I’m not sure what to call it, but it’s things I never get around to doing but are so convenient once I have done them. Make chicken broth with the bones and veggie scraps I’ve been saving in the freezer, make pasta sauce, make a batch of homemade veggie burgers to freeze, prepare & freeze dried beans, etc. Last semester I was really terrible about buying lunches & bad snacks during the school day, and I am going to change that. I am going to get a leg up by preparing lunch foods at the beginning of the week, and making small portions that I can throw in the freezer and pull out when I need them. I think I’ll start by making mini-burgers and mini-quiches.

Return of Shopping Day
November 15, 2008, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Shopping Day, Tips

Two weeks ago, I ran out of food and said to myself, “I need to go grocery shopping.” The week went by, and I didn’t have time to do the shopping, even on the weekend. The next week I thought “Damn, I have no food. Must shop ASAP!” And the week almost went by again with no new groceries. Finally I said I’d try out Peapod grocery delivery service since I’ve been busy with school, we only have one car, and our schedules haven’t been matching up.

This is the first time in a long time I shopped at Stop ‘n Shop, the big regular grocery store and not Whole Foods or the Marketplace. I was shocked at how much food I was able to buy. I have enough food for *almost* 2 weeks if I just grab a few more fresh vegetables.

The shopping: $63.25
baking soda
Puffins cereal
1 dozen cage-free organic eggs
cream cheese
mozzarella cheese
deli chicken breast
frozen corn
frozen mixed vegetables

lasagna noodles
3 pears
Ground beef
1lb bag of carrots
1 bunch celery
1 bunch kale
1 lemon
2lb bag of onions
5lb bag of potatoes
1 butternut squash
tortilla chips, 2 bags
Mint Milano cookies
Stacy’s Pita Chips
Gingersnaps cookies
garbanzo beans
beef broth
chicken broth

(blue means it advertises itself as “natural”, green means organic)

The Menu
Beef stew, meat I have in the freezer – 2 days
Butternut squash lasagna and kale – 2 or 3 days; I loooove this recipe, and I get to use the new immersion blender that I got for my birthday!
Tofu curry, tofu from the freezer – 3 days
Shepherd’s pie – 3 days
Spaghetti, sauce from the freezer
Sesame beef & celery stir fry (lunch)

Delivery service costs $10 if you order $60 – $99 worth of groceries, or $6.95 if you order over $100. But I found a coupon code so for $10 off your first order, so I got the delivery for free this time.

$10 is definitely worth it if I’m in one of those periods where I’m just too busy. If our schedules don’t match up and I have to take the bus to the grocery store, it takes like two hours, I can only get to the very expensive market, and I can only buy as much as I can carry. I’d gladly pay $10 not to have to do that. I wouldn’t do it every single week though. $10/wk x 50 wks a year = $500. That’s more than one month of worth of spending allowance, or more than two months worth of groceries! Maybe I’ll get deliveries once a month to stock up on staples that I don’t need to go to Whole Foods for, and for heavy things. For example, I was happy to get cheap baking soda & vinegar (which I use a lot of for cleaning), pasta, onions, and potatoes – I don’t usually buy those organic and this way I’m not overpaying for them at Whole Foods.

500,000 People in MA on Food Stamps
July 24, 2008, 3:10 pm
Filed under: Life, Tips

Food Stamps use is soaring in Massachusetts. According to this article, rising food prices and the fact that it’s now easier to apply for food stamps has led to tons more people on food stamps. Is that a bad thing? I mean, the rising prices is obviously bad. But if people are applying for food stamps and they are eligible, it’s better that more eligible families are able to apply for and receive assistance. Of course, the problem is still that “the maximum food stamp assistance for a family of four in May was $40 short of what the government estimates a family of four needs for a basic diet.”

Also, I found this awesome article on the 20 Healthiest Foods for “Under $1” (quotes added by me).

Using Ingredients Wisely
May 20, 2008, 1:46 pm
Filed under: Tips

When cooking for 1 or 2 people, it’s easy to let food go to waste, especially if you buy ingredients for a recipe and end up with extra of the individual ingredients and you don’t have plans for them, or they go bad before you can use them up. I don’t like wasting food because that’s wasting money.

I made a fabulous pasta dish this week, and the only ingredients were basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella. The recipe called for “8 leaves” of basil. I always get frustrated that herbs and seasonings always come in big bunches even though recipes call for very little, so I always try to use them strategically. That’s why I put pesto pizza on the menu for later in the week. I’ll use the rest of the basil to make pesto, use a few tablespoons of it for pizza, and freeze the remaining pesto for another time. If I were making a cooked or baked dish, I might have used dried basil instead, but for a dish that’s supposed to be simple and fresh, real basil was required.

I generally do this for ingredients that I know won’t get used up in one recipe. I was in a similar situation with the fresh mozzarella cheese. It was only sold in 8 and 16 oz containers, so I split it up between the pasta and the pizza. Sour cream is another example of an ingredient I try to reuse.

Weighing and buying from bulk bins also helps eliminate waste. Some Whole Foods have a “Mediterranean bar” (like the salad bar) that has all sorts of olives and a few kinds of mozzarella cheese, so that if you needed 4 oz of mozzarella, you could just scoop up what you need. Ours doesn’t have such a bar, so I found other ways to use up the cheese.

I could have done the same for pine nuts, but I knew that I can get exactly the amount I needed from the bulk section. Pine nuts are really expensive if you buy them prepackaged in a container; I think the tubs of pine nuts start at like $5?  Also, nuts are full of oil so they can go rancid when left in your cupboard for too long. I definitely wouldn’t use them fast enough. My pesto recipe calls for 1/4 cup of nuts, so before I went shopping I took a long look at my 1/4 measuring cup and only scooped up that amount from the bulk bin. The total was 90 cents. Buying only the amounts I need in bulk is also nice because I have limited cabinet space and don’t have the room to stockpile too much food.

Shopping Day & Organic Produce
May 6, 2008, 10:31 am
Filed under: Shopping Day, Tips | Tags: , , ,

I went shopping on Monday. This week there were a lot of things on my list that either I know Whole Foods doesn’t offer organic versions of (e.g. brussel sprouts, bread crumbs) or I don’t see the value in paying more for (dry pasta, beans). So I did half of the shopping at the mega grocery. I spent $45.57.

$25.13 @ Whole Foods
– tofu
– crackers
– quart of milk
– eggs
– yogurt, 3 cups

– Fage yogurt
– apples (3)
– orange (1)
– deli cheddar cheese, 1/3 lb
– deli roast beef, 1/2 lb

$20.44 @ Stop and Shop
– ditalini pasta, 1 box
– rigatoni pasta, 1 box
– spaghetti sauce
– taco shells
– fat-free refried beans
– chicken broth
– Italian flavored bread crumbs
– salsa
– chickpeas, 2 cans
– brussel sprouts, 1 lb
– lime
– 1 loose carrot
– onions (2)

The Menu

Sunday – lettuce wraps, egg rolls

Monday & Tuesday – Pasta & Chickpeas soup, with baconized brussel sprouts

Wednesday & Thursday – Tofu Parmesan, salad

Friday – out

Saturday – Tacos

Keep reading for some of my thoughts on buying organic products on a budget…

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