Category Archives: Food

Squeaking Through the End of the Month Again

Yet I feel profoundly grateful. Only one utility is past due and I’ll be able to pay it in just a few days. Sure, I’d love to be behind on nothing, but being not terribly behind on one thing isn’t too bad.

The new job saved me by the skin of my teeth. I am barely able to pay my health insurance on time and buy just enough food to cross over into November. If not for that one utility bill, I would be doing a happy dance.

I had a moment of complete panic earlier this week. I ran out of flour. Costco stopped carrying my safe brand and the price is significantly higher everywhere else. Not to mention the sizes just don’t work. Walk out of Costco with 40lbs of flour and nobody bats an eye. Walk out of Target with 40lbs of flour and you’ve cleared a shelf.

Money was so tight that I didn’t buy any. I thought it would be alright because I had already purchased extra meat for a dinner with my father. I roasted it at his house and portioned it off into a few days’ worth of planned leftovers. Afterward, I went home. Flourless and meatless! I forgot much of this week’s food at his house. That’s when panic set it. No flour and a lot of missing meat. We were gonna have sandwiches and fried rice and stew and…well, you get the picture.

Did I mention he lives a little drive away and I work two jobs? I couldn’t have run back for it even if gas money wasn’t an issue. <sigh>

Fortunately, he was happy to freeze everything up for when I can come back. This week’s fright will turn into another week’s boon. Meanwhile, I hit up pretty much the last of everything I had at home. Boy was I happy to discover pork chops I thought I’d already used and a nicely sized turkey breast that fit almost perfectly into the slow cooker. The freezer is pretty bare, but there is food in it. At least enough to get by for a few days, albeit very creatively.

So, I made it and I’m grateful to have done so. Off to figure out November.

August Grocery Check-In

July sucked financially. The car repair, the medical expenses, the other stuff. It was too much. I had to borrow to cover most of those “extras” and now I have to pay that back, which isn’t making this month any easier. And car insurance is due.

With all that happy news in mind, why not look at the month?

  1. Maintain the grocery costs at the July goal level.
  2. Continue making bread once per week plus more as needed.
  3. Add small smoothies to meals at least once per week. They’ll basically be treated as drinkable sides that make use of produce sales.
  4. Get the fall garden planned and planted before it’s too late.
  5. Rough out an early spring garden bed so I can be ready to go with those first, early veggie plants.

Where I stand:

  1. Not sure. I’m hungry enough to feel like I’m on par or below. Should probably check it out.
  2. Right on target with this one.
  3. Yep, yep, yep. At least every couple of days. I’ve been focusing on fruit smoothies, but am hoping to incorporate some veggies without too much trauma.
  4. I roughed out a 2’X2′ patch that is pretty much ready for seeding. I’m hoping to get that done this week. I’d like to get another patch or two going if possible.
  5. Not yet. Focusing on getting set to grow now before getting set to grow later.

Well, that’s it for now. I’m babysitting for a friend tomorrow which means getting up before dawn. Gonna try to sleep.

August Grocery Goals

During July, I managed to trim 16% off of my food bill. Obviously, it is not enough. I still have to get down to a maximum of 50% of what I have been spending. Or find another job, but my employment search has had such pathetic returns that I’m focusing on the thing I can change.

Regular bread baking has been a great benefit. Sandwiches are economical and, frankly, nice to have during the summer. Toast with honey and peanut butter is a delightfully easy breakfast.

I was able to pull potatoes yesterday. That was awesome. They’ll be scrubbed, chopped and roasted with dinner tomorrow. I was such a complete failure at gardening this year that I barely got anything planted and most of what was planted died. I did manage to get some strong looking potato plants for which I am grateful. Poking around yesterday generated enough decent sized tubers for tomorrow’s dinner. With luck, I’ll be able to dig enough to help with grocery costs this month.

For August, I’m not going to try to make a cut. 16% was significant and tight. My goal right now is to maintain that. Figure out what I did right in July and try to recreate that for this month. In September, I’ll shoot for a lower number.

So, for August, the goals are:

  1. Maintain the grocery costs at the July goal level.
  2. Continue making bread once per week plus more as needed.
  3. Add small smoothies to meals at least once per week. They’ll basically be treated as drinkable sides that make use of produce sales.
  4. Get the fall garden planned and planted before it’s too late.
  5. Rough out an early spring garden bed so I can be ready to go with those first, early veggie plants.

Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

July Grocery Update

Goals are just wishes if you’re not working toward them and measuring your progress. Eh, forget the inspirational crap, I promised to hold myself accountable here, so here goes. Goals:

  1. Cut 16% from what we’ve been spending on groceries.
  2. Make the breakfast muffin recipe twice each week, once as muffins and once as coffee cakes.
  3. Make bread twice each week.
  4. Add more soups to meals.
  5. Get a fall garden planned and planted.
  6. Take two recreation days.

Accountability;

  1. Success! I came in about $40 under my goal. I don’t know if I would have succeeded had there not been the whole car repair/medical bill situation to suck every penny dry and make me borrow money, but it happened so there.
  2. Gave up. It didn’t take long for the kids to get sick of me doing this so I’m cutting back on it.
  3. Success but not. I don’t necessarily make bread twice each week. Some weeks, it’s only once. Others, it’s twice. But I’m doing a good job of determining when I need to make it and working with my schedule. I’ve also started doing a cinnamon bread (loaf or bubble loaf) at the same time which is getting gobbled up.
  4. Tried. Kids got bored quickly. Gonna aim for 1-2 times per week, but not stress if it doesn’t happen.
  5. Nope and nope. Fuck.
  6. Nope.

So, I made it money-wise, but didn’t get the whole plan down. I did evaluate my goals to see what works, what doesn’t, etc. It’ll be a boon for the August goals.

Daily Bread

I signed on this morning with the intention of forcing all the muddled stresses crushing my soul into a single, coherent post. The universe clearly understood that there’s really no way I can accomplish that and threw me a bone with a daily prompt from WP.

What do I prefer to have handmade?

I prefer my bread handmade. Really, truly handmade. I don’t have a mixer so we’re talking hand mixed, hand kneaded bread. I love it, though I suck at slicing.

I used to own a bread machine, but it rapidly became a dust collector. It was nice to set it and forget it, but cleaning it was a pain and the family could not abide the after taste. Time passed. One of us developed a severe condition that imposed unforgiving dietary restrictions and the bread machine continued to collect dust, eventually finding its way to a donation box. I was able to trust one brand of commercially available bread and relied on it for a little too long. Fresh baked bread from the store had contamination issues enough times that I’ll never buy it again. Meanwhile the commercially produced bread for people avoiding the things we were avoiding was expensive, dense and rejected. $4-5 for a loaf of safe bread that went to feed the birds visiting my compost heap. We relied on that single brand of bread until after we found it contaminated. That loaf went to the heap and was replaced with a new one.

Sick again. Compost. Wait over a week. Buy new loaf. Sick again. Flip over the package. There was no contamination issue – the ingredients changed. Our safe bread was no longer safe. We checked the bread aisles at three large grocers only to discover that we could not find a single safe loaf.

No bueno.

There were times when I wished I hadn’t given away the bread machine. They were fleeting. Throwing away homemade bread was no more appealing than throwing away store bought. I experimented on and off with making bread. We usually ended up with something similar to the specialty brands. Not terrible, but not what we wanted. My family wants bread that feels and tastes like the bread they have spent their lives eating. Because we have given up so much “normal” food, some homemade versions have to look, smell, taste and feel like their commercial counterparts. Sometimes, a runner up just won’t do. Time passed and we basically gave up bread.

Enter the holy shit! moment.

Similar failures with purchased hamburger buns had me on the lookout for bun recipes. I found one and went through the motions without high expectations. I did notice that the dough was very light and wondered if I could use it for bread. After baking, I fried some bacon and hamburgers. The buns were normal. Very normal. They were excellently fucking normal. And perfectly safe.

I watched on in excitement as my family at burgers on buns. No forks, no knives. Buns. Whole burgers lifted up to the mouth to be bitten into.

A few days later, I made the recipe again. This time, half the dough went into a bread pan. It was exactly what I was looking for! Moreover, it is a hit with the family.

I make it at least once per week, though I am striving to average twice. There are only six ingredients (flour, liquid, sugar, oil, salt, yeast) and they are mixed by hand with a spoon. The dough is kneaded by hand. It’s a process and I choose a day when I have a couple of hours to be home where I can babysit it. It forces me to be still and focused even when my stressors are out of control. Kneading dough also happens to be a great way to work out the bitter unfairness of life from time to time.

So, I prefer my bread handmade. For obvious reasons, everyone’s health and well being, ingredient control, freshness, etc. But I also prefer it for a very simple reason…making bread from scratch, a fairly abnormal thing in the modern US, has returned some normalcy to my family. White bread, toast. Sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly. My kids can eat peanut butter and jelly! Just like everyone else. (With empathy to those who cannot.)

One Moment of Appreciation

I’m pretty sure I’ll beat the grocery goal. Mostly because I have no choice. One of the kids has to have a procedure ASAP and a hefty chunk is due upfront. And the car is getting pretty damned sick of me limping it along with promises of a trip to the mechanic sometime “soon.” At least two utilities are getting skipped in July and I’m trying to keep enough in the bank to cover a tow just in case.

I was careful with my last grocery trip and definitely have enough food to get through the coming week. Unfortunately, I may only be able to squeeze pennies out of my next check to put toward groceries and child support has been taking longer and longer lately. I’m mentally gearing up to make what I’ve got last 2 weeks instead of one. I’m also trying not to grind my teeth into dust while I sleep.

Tonight, I roasted a chicken for dinner and served it up alongside reheated mashed potatoes, grapes and strawberries. I was beating myself up for not making breadsticks or a salad and wishing I had some corn. (Only two mini ears in the freezer and no kernel corn to be found.) I could have roasted carrots with the chicken, but I didn’t. So, I’m wandering back and forth from the stove, mentally browbeating my many shortcomings as a mother, when my oldest child made a comment about having a “simple” meal. Not simple as in lazy or too easy (it was easy, LOL), but simple as in everything was identifiable and being consumed in a recognizable form.

The chicken was seasoned and roasted. The potatoes are cooked in water, drained, and mashed – with nothing added. And they are fantastic. The strawberries are pitted and “shaved” (we don’t like the seeds). The grapes are whole. The loaf of bread and biscuits on the table were handmade using ingredients I can recite from memory without getting winded. For as broke as we are and as much as I felt I had failed the family, my child pointed out that there was plenty of quality food for us to eat tonight.

I decided to take a break from feeling inadequate and let myself enjoy dinner, and my child’s appreciation tonight.

July Food Budget: Half Month Check-In

Here are the goals:

  1. Cut 16% from what we’ve been spending on groceries.
  2. Make the breakfast muffin recipe twice each week, once as muffins and once as coffee cakes.
  3. Make bread twice each week.
  4. Add more soups to meals.
  5. Get a fall garden planned and planted.
  6. Take two recreation days.

Here are the outcomes:

  1. I seem to be doing okay here, but I really won’t know until the end of the month. This is yet another tight month with massive (to me) medical/dental bills and a car repair looming. Keep your fingers crossed that the car works out to be a cheap fix because I honestly don’t know what I will do if it isn’t.
  2. I’ve backed off on this. Its popularity has waned and been replaced by whining about how we always eat it.
  3. I seem to be hitting once per week, but not twice. It is truly a time thing.
  4. I am trying. Sadly, they are not being well received.
  5. Nope. Although I am working on the yard. I also have a tree that’s about to come down and I expect to use some of the sawdust/debris from that as part of a lasagna layer for the fall garden. I also discovered that two little pea plants I thought died weeks ago have begun to flower. They are tiny and adorable.
  6. Sort of. We went to a graduation party and saw a lot of family that we haven’t seen in ages. I’ll come up with something else somehow.

I’ve also worked through significant portions of the crafting/sewing projects that need to be completed this month. At times, I feel chained to needle and thread, but the end results are definitely worth it. The materials cost is high, unfortunately, but I am couponing like crazy to bring that way down.

Gonna manage somehow.