Eating From the Larder – Wrap-Up Discussion (OR: Happy Beltane, Let’s Celebrate with Groceries!)

Hey there.
So, as-you-know-bob, I’ve been (half-assedly) doing the NW Edible “Eat Down the Larder” Challenge during the month of April.
There are lots of ways that I didn’t go as hardcore as Erica did – I bought milk at my usual rate of about a gallon per week. I replaced the coffee and (for the sake of my wife, of course) the Earl Grey tea when they ran out[1]. I bought a loaf of bread last Friday (and we enjoyed it greatly) and a dozen eggs, also last Friday (which we haven’t actually opened, so I’m not sure they count just yet). We ate meals out (I can’t tell if we were eating out more frequently than usual or if I was just noticing it more because I wasn’t also routinely dropping $60/week on food). I also bought us corner-store snacks just shy of once per week.
Things I’ve learned:
(A) The edamame I usually buy comes from China. Dammit[2]!
(B) Frozen veggies are a massive freaking godsend, as are tinned tomatoes. This will be reflected in later home-canning/home-freezing work as well as in future larder/freezer-stocking grocery trips
(C) When you are sick to death of eating the same three or four foods over and over again you – or at least I – start upping the fat content Like Woah. There was a point in Week Three where I was seriously drinking full-cream coconut milk from the tin. I have no idea if this is because I wasn’t getting enough Something, or if the “Something” in question was just plain “Variety In My Diet”.
(D) Curried cauliflower is awesome. I will be making that again.
(E) Dito Fish Tacos, even if I do have to find an alterative source of beans for my edamole (apparently you can get Ontario Edamame at the Cedars & Co grocery store, in Old Ottawa South – 1255 Bank St, fyi), and even though it’s always going to be a bit of a production to make it happen. (Making enough salsa in August/September, and maybe making and freezing enough edamole… whenever I happen to get around to making it, will SIGNIFICANTLY mitigate this situation, mind you).
(F) We go through a kilogram of coffee + 3-4 gallons of milk + 3-4lbs Cheap “cooking chedar” cheese + 125g Earl Grey (one large box) + 2kg granulated sugar… per month. Which is worth knowing.
Today I am celebrating Beltane – which, around here, means “Return of Fresh Dandelion Greens” – by re-stocking on (grocery store) food.
Maybe that’s weird-ass way to do it, but as someone who’s been trying to stretch two onions, one rudabag, one Korean cabbage, and a daikon radish (plus a LOT of frozen broccoli and tinned tomatoes) over a four week period… my gods, is it ever good to have PRODUCE again.
Which brings me to something else I’ve learned: 20Kg of food is just a little bit too much for me to carry home easily (meaning: without taking a 20 minute rest in the middle – for real, folks) from the grocer store. Seriously. Just shy of $160 – which is what I dropped at the grocery store to get most of my go-to items back to “par” – got me about 20Kg of food (about 200g shy there-of).
This was my grocery list:
1360g (8x 170g, tinned tuna, large plain)
340g (4x 85g, tinned tuna, flavoured)
1050g (3x 350g, whole-bean coffee, rainforest alliance certified)
125g (Earl Grey tea)
40g (cloves, 20g each whole and ground)
375g (3x 125g various herbs)
2000g (granulated sugar)
375g (3x 125g marmite)
907g (cheddar cheese)
907g (2x 1lb, salted butter)
750g (yoghurt)
454g (2x 227g mushrooms)
1800g (apples)
~1360g (3lbs, onions)
907g (bag of beets)
~465g (1 whole celriac)
512g (500ml, whipping cream)
818g (2x 400ml, coconut milk)
1200g (3x 370ml, tinned diced tomatoes)
229g (227ml, mayonnaise)
~2000g (3 turkey legs + 2 turkey thighs ($3/lb = 5-6lb)
907g (about 2x 1lb) haddock
454g (frozen snap beans)
454g (honey-garlic sausages)
Which comes out to 19,789g AKA about ~19.8Kg of food.
Things that you might notice:
You’ll notice that the turkey was on fairly deep discount. We just had Easter Weekend up here (or, y’know, where-ever), and so the local grocery store is trying to sell off their (now dismembered) Large roasting Turkeys on the quick. I am so glad I went to the grocery store today, because my gods have I missed eating birds. The last chicken/duck/turkey/etc I ate was a duck that I bought on March 31st to celebrate the end of my temp contract). Having a lot (for a given value of “a lot” that will, just barely, fit in my freezer) of turkey on hand also means that I have a really well-matched protein to go with my apple-cranberry chutney – the preserve most likely (beyond rhubarb syrup or – woops – grape jelly) to Sit Around For Years in my larder.
Yeah. I’m still in “eat down the larder” mode – other than one bag of fusili, now tucked in behind the remaining (largely single-servings of) pasta and rice – there weren’t any Bean or Grain products purchased today, since I still have tonnes of those on-hand. Today was, rather, all about re-stocking on meat and produce. I would have really liked to get a red cabbage in there, but they were all Product of the US today, so no luck there.
You’ll also notice some of the measurements are approximate. That’s because I was guessing at the original weight of the item, or because I was using a density-based weight/volume conversion calculator and had to substitute something in for what I’d really bought (half-and-half dairy cream for both whipping cream and coconut milk; garlic for onions, that kind of thing). But this is good enough to give me an idea of what my personal hauling power is.
Based on this, I would say that my “not actively damaging my back to do this” hauling-maximum for a 20-minute walk is about 14Kg (or about 30lbs). Like I said, that’s good to know.
See, while Erica bases her larder-stocking “prep” list on dollars/week, she has a car. when I think about adding-an-item-or-two every week to keep (on top of) a year’s supply of larder/pantry items I seriously think in terms of how much I can carry in a single trip.
I figure, I keep my “pantry items” (which, frequently, are the majority of what goes into my cart – I know…) to a maximum of 10kg per week, then I’ll still have enough carrying capacity to add a pound or two of Traditionally Raised Pork sausages or MSC-certified fish plus a 4lb bag of Grown in Ontario/Quebec apples or pears[3], and still be (just) within the limits of what I can reasonable carry on a given day.
NOTE: The weight of what I can reasonably carry on a given day isn’t necessarily going to correspond to the volume of what I can carry. I managed to pack most of today’s 20Kg into two large-size (4 gallon?) re-usable grocery bags… but not all of it. I’d have had a (slightly) easier time of things if I’d brought along an extra two (small / 2-gallon) re-usable bags – it would have let me distribute things a little more evenly and I wouldn’t have had to worry about whether the stuff going into the small bag(s) had sharp edges or heavy weight-to-size ratios (my one plastic bag was where the frozen beans, the tea, the herbs, and the spices got put… all stuff that takes up more in space than it takes up in weight). It would have been nice to put a 3lb of onions and a few tins of tomatos into one smaller bag and 4lb apples plus a few tins of coconut milk into the other, for example, along with the tea and seasonings.
What else can I add to this post about pantry-stocking and eating through one’s larder in a first-in-first-out fashion?
I did, in fact, try to come up with my own “Real Foods ‘Prep’ List” based on what we eat at home, although I’m not entirley sure that it’s accurate and I’m also not entirely sure that I can sensibly buy 10 bags of frozen broccoli all at once, for example, when it would be waaaaaay more intelligent, from a variety perspective, to by three-each of broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. Or something. And alternate that with three-each of edamame, aasparagus, and snap beans… or what-have-you. But anyway. It’s a Work In Progress and, most likely, will involve a LOT more fine-tuning to sort out things like “If, between June and October, one of my two grocery trips per week is to the CSA pick-up point, rather than the local IGS, does that mean that my weekly “prep” stock-up should be careful to limit large volume purchases (like tea, coffee, spices, frozen non-CSA veggies, oil, vinegar, and pasta) to the November-to-May part of the year where I will be – or can be – stopping by the IGS twice per week? How does that stack up against things like having sugar and vinegar readily to hand for canning in July-August-September or (again) for All The Baking in December? How much of my dry-goods (coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate chips, chocolate bars, and granulated sugar… for example) can I get by through getting a bulk-order home-delivered from Cocoa Camino once a year?
Lots of stuff to think about.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] I got these from the Bridgehead, in the interest of (a) staying out of the grocery stores, but also (b) as kind of a weird way of reminding myself that this was a Special Case. Or something…
[2] Having decided to sign up for a CSA half-share this year, I’m hoping that they provide butter beans (limas, romanos) that I can blanch and Individually Quick Freeze in order to have my own alternative source of edamame-like shelling beans… Here’s hoping!)
[3] See above re: CSA. The (theoretical) majority of my veggies will be coming from (probably) Herbivor Farm, as their pick-up location is easy for me to get to.

5 responses to “Eating From the Larder – Wrap-Up Discussion (OR: Happy Beltane, Let’s Celebrate with Groceries!)

  1. Pingback: Eat From the Larder 2016 – Week Four (+ Month-End) Wrap-Up | Urban Meliad

  2. Pingback: Eat from the Larder Challenge 2015 – Week Five (Month-End) Wrap-Up | Urban Meliad

  3. Pingback: Eat Down the Larder 2015 – Pre-Game Post | Urban Meliad

  4. Pingback: Some Thoughts on Year Gates, Preserves, and the Rhythm of My Home | Urban Meliad

  5. Pingback: I is for Irises and Informality: Beltane 2014 – Pagan Blog Project 2014 | Urban Meliad

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