Daily Archives: May 1, 2015

Eat from the Larder Challenge 2015 – Week Five (Month-End) Wrap-Up

Happy Beltane! (My Solstice decorations are still up… ye gods, I can’t even…)
So I made a bank deposit the other day (like a motherfucking adult, no less) and was astonished to see how much money was in there. I mean, it’s not a lot. It’s pretty-much never a lot. But it was more than I expected and (slightly) more than I need to have in there two days before the rent is due, and it was quite a pleasant surprise.
Part of the reason for this, no doubt, is that I got an extra two-and-a-half days of temp work this month, which I hadn’t originally been expecting. The other reason, though, is that we didn’t buy any[1] groceries this month. What normally would have eaten (literally! Ha!) about $200+ of our monthly budget has, instead, consumed only about a tenth of that amount. And even that had more to do with vacation snacks than anything else. It makes a pretty massive difference, and the potential (potential, don’t jinx it) cash-saving influence of having a vegetable garden is starting to dance pretty emphatically in my head, even as I’m watering my recently-seeded garden beds and hoping for the peas, chard, and kale to germinate and thrive.
My “Celebrate Beltane With Groceries” list, this year, is muuuuuuuuuch shorter than it was last year: Just yoghurt, yeast, tea, and eggs[2]. And maybe (oh, the slippery slope) some whole wheat flour & apple juice if I’m feeling particularly extravagant. [EDIT: What I actually bought, go figure, was half a dozen Fancy Things from the Seed To Sausage shop on the corner, yoghurt, eggs, two bottles of juice, and a box of crackers. Because… Guests? Delicious food? Because I can? Probably that last one. But anyway. Yeast and tea and whole wheat flour (if needed) will happen next week, and that’ll be fine. /EDIT]
That list might have been (much) longer if we hadn’t been away for a few days (and, because of (mostly, but not entirely) that, bought a bunch of stuff[3]), but it might have worked out that way anyway. I’ve got enough frozen veggies (a few greens, a bag of snap beans, some edamame, and lots of eggplant), dry beans (mostly black and red lentils), dried mushrooms, quinoa (and other grains, but seriously: quinoa), and bone stock to manage another week of meals (I think) without too much difficulty. I’m glad I don’t have to, because I do miss meat (and eggs – ye gods), in spite of still having a little bit[4] in the freezer. But I could manage it.
This year, this exercise has me trying to sort out what I typically spend our grocery money on (meat and cheese are pretty high up there, I suspect, if only because they’re in the $5+/lb category anyway) so that I can find ways to streamline that without (ahaha…) compromising on ethics or hedonism in the bargain.
I went into this year’s challenge hoping to (a) not go “stir crazy” on the variety-in-my-diet front, and (b) get rid of the brown rice.
I’m getting there. We’ve got about ¾ of a litre (uncooked) left, plus some already-cooked stuff in the fridge that will probably go into this evening’s dinner.
We’ve still got a few half-cups of jam/jelly/marmalade left, along with a couple of (mostly gifted) one-cup jars of various jams (and a pumpkin butter that I’m straight-up hoarding right now). I’ve got one cup of diced tomatoes and half a dozen or so half-cups of tomato sauce[5], but the main savoury, jarred preserve that I have tonnes of is garlic-dill cucumber pickles.
I’m not worried about this, exactly. We (and one of my wife’s other partners) are investing in a gas grill, so we’ll have plenty of opportunity to set out the pickle jar(s) along with the ketchup and mustard and diced onions (and, gotta hope, the eventual garden-fresh sliced tomatoes) when we do up burgers or sausages-onna-bun for all and sundry. 🙂
But it’s something to be aware of. Usually, I give away 3-5 jars of those pickles as xmas/solstice/hostess gifts, and this year I had to be mindful about things like airport restrictions on liquids in carry-on luggage (both siblings are flying “home for the holidays” now), which meant pint jars (and even 125mL half-cup jars) were right out.
I love pickles, but I don’t necessarily think of them as a snack food every day, and I haven’t yet figured out how to incorporate specifically cucumber pickles into cooked meals the way I’ve already started using, say, chunky asparagus relish in a stir-fry or mildly pickled carrots in a casserole or a braise that needs some brightening up.
Suggestions Welcome, is what I’m saying. 😉
Anyway. That’s how Eat From The Larder Month has gone this year.
1) Variety remains the spice of life (and meals), but curry powder, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, and mustard are a big help, too.
2) Frozen veggies are a godsend. Also jars of diced tomatoes. Endeavor to put up even more of these this Summer & Autumn.
3) We eat a LOT of cheap cooking cheddar. Like almost a pound per week. Zowie. O.O
4) I do not want to give up cooking with eggs, but learning how to do so better will probably serve me well in the long run.
5) When made correctly (I still don’t know how I did this) bone stock really is basically “meat jello”. I’m still working out how to turn “meat jello” back into a liquid I can cook rice (etc) in, but I’m getting the hang of it. It’s absolutely wonderful for adding umami (among other things) to a dish consisting of mostly lentils and rice, and it, too, is a godsend.
Stay tuned for what will be, most likely, an entire summer of ZOMG GARDEN posts. 🙂 I’ll try to work some witchcraft in there, too. 🙂
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] For a given value of “any” that is probably closer to about “$20, tops”, but still.
[2] Which doesn’t mean that I’m going to be immune to the siren-song of any deeply-discounted cuts of moderately-ethical pork, fancy cheese, flavoured tinned tuna, or ice cream that I happen to come across while picking this stuff up. But I’m not straining at the traces, hoping to restock my larder with lentils, flour, and fresh veggies. I’ve actually still got a tonne of frozen veggies in the freezer(s), and I think it would behoove me to keep this going a little bit longer if I can.
[3] Including train snacks and, like, close to a dozen meals out, the latter of which has definitely eaten through a bunch of cash, even if we spread the expense of it across three people. I remember noticing, last year, that we ate out quite frequently – or at least more frequently than I was expecting – during the month of April, and not knowing whether that was because we were eating out A Lot to compensate for a distinct lack of variety on the home front, or if I was just noticing it more because I wasn’t routinely buying food at the grocery store as well. I still don’t have an answer for that, though this year, at least, I know damn well that most of our restaurant meals were because we were living in a hotel, in another city. None the less, there’s been a lot of eating out and at least some of it has been due to a failure to plan (the bread or the bacon, or whatever, isn’t thawed out; I didn’t make nearly enough dinner on Tuesday to provide to Leftovers Lunches on Wednesday as well; that kind of thing) on my part leading me to decide that buying a sugary muffin from the temp-job cafeteria and/or a hot sandwich from the down-the-street deli was (slightly) better than subsisting for eight hours on the temp-job’s fancy free coffee.
[4] One 3lb roast, one roasting rabbit, a package of sausages, a beef heart + 2 pork kidneys, a sliver of fish, and a package each of lox and bacon. Plus two tins of thai-chili tuna and a tin of salmon, on top of that. Which is actually quite a lot, come to think of it. O.O
[5] Our new sweetie has been a regular dinner guest for months, and the tomato sauce includes an ingredient that will send her to the hospital, which is why that particular set of goodies is lingering.