One woman's adventures in cooking for her Dutch-American family.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Menu Monday: Week of February 28

As I mentioned last week, I'm trying an experiment this week: shopping out of our pantry and freezer. For several months now, I've been building up my pantry and chest freezer. My goal was to get to point where I always have pretty much what I need, and can shop the sales to replenish from week to week. Also, my experience with losing my job after my brain injury challenged me to see how we'd do if we suddenly lost the hubs' salary. (He's perfectly healthy, thank God, it's just an exercise!).

So the photo above shows our total groceries for the week. We spent $18. $12 of it was on dog food. Our almost-ten-year-old Shih Tzu has been having a rough time and has stopped eating. We bought this bag of sensitive stomach food (the smallest bag we saw) and she's not having it. Truth be told, we spend another $10 yesterday on 7 cans of wet dog food, which she is also not eating. So, $22 of our $28 this week is for the dog, who isn't eating it. Many people don't include pet food and supplies in the grocery budget, so I'm going to say we spent $6.

So, what will we eat? Here's a clue:

Actually, my plan is to make some meals as well, but we'll definitely work to make a dent in the leftovers. I should clarify that leftovers are a regular, planned part of our menu. About a year ago, we decided that we could cut the hubs' lunch budget by having him take leftovers to work. Most recipes I make are for 6-8 servings, so as part of our clean up, we just dole everything out into lunch size containers. Each morning, the hubs has a full variety of options.

Also in the freezer, I have several container of frozen vegetables. After watching Food Inc. and a few other food-related documentaries, I started to think about how much food we waste. It's actually not much since we've started meal planning, but there was still more than there needed to be. One really easy fix, is that if I needed a few stalks of celery, for example, I'd buy a whole celery (what's a whole celery called?) and chop up what I need. Then, instead of sticking the rest back in the freezer to die a slow and smelly death, I'd wash and chop up the rest, measure it and put it in a labeled container. The next time I needed celery, I'd check the freezer first before buying any new. As a side note, I only reuse celery in something like soup or stew because it doesn't freeze as well as other veggies like carrot, cabbage, onion and pepper, which I also have in the freezer at the moment.

I'm playing a little loosey-goosey with the menu this week, because I'm really not feeling well. My headache is acting up and I'm having some issues with fatigue and my vision. So, we'll see how it goes. Probably won't be dinner party fare, but we won't starve.

Leftover Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup and Ham & Cheese Grands Sandwiches.
The chicken noodle soup was in a larger container from a time when all the smaller ones were being used, so it keep on getting passed over. I still have a selection of Pillsbury croissant rolls, breads, pizza dough and Grands biscuits from a coupon sale a while back. Since I've been making my own breads, they haven't been touched. This is the week.

For the Grands sandwiches, make the Grands per directions. When they are cool enough to handle, split the in half and add cheese and ham. And butter, pesto, mayo or whatever else you'd like. Super simple. Small portion sizes. (All three of us ate these). Not so great on the no-processed food side, but it's the exemption so I'll okay.

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels. First, an aside. Yesterday the hubs made a comment something like this, "Why did you pick THIS week to do this experiment. We're almost out of butter!" I've pretty much switched completely to butter, since I rarely use it for anything other than cooking. He likes Country Crock spread for his sandwiches. I did too, until I started cutting out processed foods. We've had this bucket o' butter-ish substance for several months--it's the big ol' Sam's Club tub. I responded, "Cool. That's the challenge. How creative will we be when we don't have what we normally have or like to have. And we have butter. Put one on plate and there you go." To which he said, "Oh." Actually, it led to a cool discussion about sacrifice and ingenuity.

All that to say, my turn came when I realized we were out of regular flour. Oops! So this recipe calls for 4 cups of white flour and I had two. But I had plenty of whole wheat, whole wheat pastry flour and oat flour. Whole wheat is tough to work with in large quantities for bread, so I opted for the oat flour. The taste was awesome. If you close your eyes, these babies taste just like the ones you buy at the store. They just look a little sad.

I blame it on the oat flour. But, they're edible and were made of things I already had in my pantry, so it's a win. So much so that the hubs took the whole batch to work with him today. Hmm.

Once I have regular flour, I'll try them again. They are quite time consuming, and without a Kitchen Aid, I actually broke a sweat kneading the dough. But I would like to make blueberry and everything bagels.

Blueberry Smoothie. I'm more of a eat-my-calories v. drink-my-calories kinda gal, but I was craving something sweet and we were out of ice cream, so I made my first smoothie. It was a good way to use up some of the yogurt that will be spoiling soon. I added some flax seed, chia seeds and wheat germ to make it a little healthier. It wasn't as creamy as ice cream, but did hit the sweet spot quite well.

Leftover Homemade Pizza. I have two homemade pizza recipes. The first is a Mediterranean pizza, which I LOVE. This one is a spinach provolone one which was a little bland. Yep, that's what we're finishing up tonight.

Also, this morning I made Honey Roasted Chickpeas as a snack for Captain vanCrankypants and I. A bedrest-ridden friend suggested them to me via IM, and as soon as I said the word, CvC went into a tizzy demanding them. There are worse things to fuss for, so I obliged. Not as healthy as the spiced version, but sweet and crunchy.

Spaghetti di Pesto alla Genovese. I found Trent's "Simple Dollar" money blog this past week and like it on Facebook. When this tasty little recipe showed up in my feed, I quickly checked my pantry and just as quickly added it to my menu. Also, I spent way too much time this weekend reading his old posts. This one on the average monthly grocery bill for a family of four was quite interesting and has led to a fun ongoing email conversation between a friend and I.

If I'm feeling better than I am today, I'll be making granola and whole wheat bread too.

Breakfast for Dinner. Not only is this an easy dinner, but since our regular cereals (Cheerios and Raisin Bran Crunch) are gone, we're forced to use up some of the more neglected choices, like this:
This picture was taken seconds before that little hand got a finger full of applesauce!
Brinta is like Dutch malt-o-meal, which, incidentally, I learned, comes from Minnesota. Who knew? The hubs doesn't care for it, but I wanted to try it, and now we have a whole box. I made some this weekend. It's pretty bland so I tried to spice it up with some applesauce and cinnamon. This time I'll use blueberries.

We also have a box of whole wheat pancake mix (MIX!), frozen Eggos from when kiddo was teething and eggs. We'll have a feast!

Leftovers from the freezer. We have a meeting at night so we'll eat a quick dinner.

Mediterranean Quinoa. This is one of a handful of recipes for which I always keep the ingredients on hand.

Crockpot Caribbean Jerk Chicken. Now I'm just making stuff up. My plan is to improvise off of this recipe by throwing some chicken in with the Jerk Chicken marinade I found in the frig. I'll serve it on quinoa or couscous or rice, and some veggies from the freezer. OOH! I just found some homemade buns I made a while back, maybe I'll thaw those out, too.

***update: this was a FABULOUS idea! I will continue to experiment with other marinades and salad dressings. They are next on the purge-processed-food campaign, so feel free to pass on your favorite homemade recipes to me.***

Wow...that was painless. I didn't even have to work that hard and we'll hardly make a dent in the freezer. I may make this a monthly event. Talk to me next week!

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