Monday, December 9, 2013
When you see those food stamp challenges, it's easy to think that you could be thrifty enough to pull meals together on that tight of a budget. While I am a thrifty and frugal cook, I don't think I could honestly do it. And by that, I mean I would be a liar if I said I could do it. My dinner started with marked down sausage that was $4.13. The pasta was .99 cents. The sauce was on sale, four jars for five bucks ($1.25).
Here's where it gets sketchy. The dough was left-over. I made a big batch a few nights ago and this is my third pizza with it. The cheese was left from a big bag I bought last week to make parm and pizza. I had the mushrooms and onion on hand from other meals and I diluted the sauce with home-made turkey stock and sauteed the sausage, mushroom and onion in oil I had on hand. Yes, this is all thrifty and it's why I added another buck and a half on to pasta, sauce and sausage estimate of the meal.
But I had other advantages because of my fortunate economic situation. I already had spices on hand. My kitchen is stocked with everything I need to cook with. I have a sauce pan and lid, a dutch oven, a pizza dish, and a kitchen aid mixer to make my dough (OK, I could do that by hand). I also had corn meal to dust the pizza dish with and EVOO to drizzle over the top. We also have no trouble paying our utilities so I didn't think twice about starting the topping on the stove and then finishing it in the oven. And lucky me, I had a block of Parmesan to shave some off and top it with. We had plenty of soap and water to wash up with and a dishwasher to stack our plates and utensils in.
I was thinking about this because I was behind a lady paying for her food with a SNAP EBT card. The woman was really crazy. She was rude to me and the clerk and it was obvious she had mental issues. I can see why she might have a problem holding a job and need some assistance to get by. There are people who are disabled or at least not able to work yet society's critics refuse to be compassionate enough to recognize they need help. Maybe it's because I've lived in an urban area where this is the harsh reality of life. It's also why although I am proud of my frugality and I live a "simple" life because we aren't high earners... I also realize I am damned lucky and we have it pretty good. I grew up in a low-income, single parent household and we survived in part due to what most would call "entitlements." Perhaps that is why I try to live responsibly today and recognize the battles that some folks face to get by.
It's really cold out tonight and there are people who don't have a snug house or warm bed to sleep in and who won't be able to have enough on their plate where they can leave some behind and stop eating just because they are full. Yes, you might see people whom you think are squandering their public benefits but keep in mind they might be buying frozen food or junk food because they don't know how to cook, or they don't have a kitchen, or they don't have the tools or extra ingredients to make a "real home made meal." Many of these people aren't even able to go to a food pantry for help. Maybe they can't get there or maybe there is nowhere near them that offers that kind of handout. Or maybe those that do are overwhelmed with current demand that there is not enough to help everyone who needs it.
I'm not posting today because I want to push people to donate. I'm posting today hoping I can at least encourage one person who is intolerant of social assistance to feel a bit more compassionate. I'm really good at making a big meal out of low cost ingredients -- but that doesn't mean that those who can't are lazy or selfish. In so many cases, it means they don't have the resources to do the things that so many of us are capable of accomplishing every day. Let's not look down on people just because they need help. It's the season of giving. And that doesn't always have to mean money or tangible goods. It also means giving and sharing compassion and good will. And why not? It's free.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Today I had to deal with the pumpkin situation. Its obvious by looking at the stems that there was no more storage time for these boys. While I thought I'd have a bunch of over-ripe apples, there weren't as many as I'd thought. I just found four that had to be used. OK, after I'd gotten down with everything I found one more.
This pumpkin thing is a whole lot of work but you get a lot of stuff out of them and it makes a good base for soup and I also feed quite a bit to the dog.
Northern Spies are not attractive apples to begin with so it's not always easy at first glance to tell if they're beyond useable. These had squishy spots -- which makes them perfect for the dog. Teddy has an iron stomach and overripe fruit does not make her sick. In fact, it probably makes it more digestible.
The guts and apples were whizzed up for the dog -- and without a Vitamix, I don't think it would be possible. Getting the seeds chopped so finely that they're just little flecks in the puree takes a lot of engine power. The machine got a work-out. Here's what we ended up with.
There was too much pumpkin to keep it all for the dog. Of course I'll have to figure out where to store what I did set aside for us. If you bake the flesh in a high temp oven for about 45 minutes, the flesh slides right off the skin.
One of the pumpkins didn't get to cook as long and it was more work to pull the flesh off -- and what I've got will probably need to roast some more before I use it. That's the stuff in the big foil pan. The stuff that baked longer is in the small containers and it really did slide right off.
I think I paid maybe eight bucks for both pumpkins and they were fine Halloween decor for about a month. Now I'll get a few meals out of them. While these kinds of pumpkins aren't recognized as cooking gourds, I think they're just fine -- besides that's what frugal cooks do. Make something from something else!
Saturday, December 7, 2013
I can't slack off tomorrow as I have over-ripe pumpkin and apples plus Sunday is a swim morning for me. We are taking friends out to dinner tomorrow night. They were awesome when TBG had his heart attack -- they drove out to our camp, picked up our dog and took care of her for a week. I don't know what we'd have done without them. Now that I have a paycheck, we can afford to give them a thank you dinner. It's been hard to wait and not be able to do these things when we wanted to. It was also nice to pick up Christmas presents for TBG and just pay the full price. Not having a job at the holiday was a big worry for me. I still worry for those whose benefits will cut out at the end of the year. Being jobless this time of year can't be fun and I am thankful to have a job that leaves me tired enough to want to do nothing on Saturday. I was also happy to help the Japanese Garden folks because having that work listed on my resume helped me get the job I have now.
So, I didn't do nothing -- and that's OK!
Friday, December 6, 2013
If I had not gone to a pizza buffet for lunch, I'd have been willing too take out Chinese. I also wasn't to disappointed not to have pizza since it was dinner last night and lunch today (if you want to call what I ate pizza, but I digress). Well I sucked it up and realized that we had food in the house that as going to waste if we didn't eat it. So we are dining on the dregs of the refrigerator for dinner. We will wash it down with an alcoholic beverage and that should help.
On the menu: Turkey pot pie, salad, stuffing, sweet potato/pumpkin (yes, from Thanksgiving but that is what high heat is for), burritos (and cheese to top) and spaghetti parm with added cheese for palatability (is that a real word?).
I went out for lunch with a group of men I work with and I didn't need my initial lunch pal to get myself involved. She was busy and couldn't make it so all the guys wanted to make sure I knew to come along too. While I know this gives away my age, but whenever I went to lunch with a whole department of guys when I first started working (the mid 80's), people figured they had their secretary along. That's no longer the misconception. These are a nice group of people and it's been an adjustment to getting back to working with large numbers of people and lots of group activities. Even if the pizza buffet was mediocre, the company was swell.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
There is a Weggies five minutes from the office I am working out of and I went there at lunch. I'll probably do that once a week. I can get stuff there at a good price that isn't necessarily a bargain anywhere else. If I get tempted to shop off my list or buy on impulse, well I'm working so it's OK.
Our seed stock needed to be refilled. We were nearly out of sesame and chia seeds and they can be pricey. Weggie's bulk prices are very good. Since I was low on rolled oats, I got some in bulk too. Pup was down to her last banana and Wegman's sells them at the right price -- .49 cents per pound. We are out of wheat bread so I got their store brand. It's not my favorite but it will do in a pinch. And I did splurge by buying a cheese slicer. Hey, we eat a lot of cheese. The other reason is that I'll need it for slicing off refrigerated cookie dough.
Our office cookie exchange has a higher sign up rate than I'd imagined it would and I need to make 72 cookies. Good thing I mixed the dough ahead. I'll be slicing off a lot of cookies. But it should be fun.
Wegmans really is one of my favorite grocery stores. There are things they sell at a good price that you can't do as well with at other stores. I'm happy to have one nearby work so I can more easily pick up things like seeds, bulk nuts, club-pack chicken breasts etc.
Wegmans, it's good to be back!
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
After our walk, I wondered if I should cook or clean. I have dinner on deck and that was something I new I'd have to do -- we're having burritos (with left-over meat loaf) and spaghetti casserole. I couldn't decide if I should make pizza dough for tomorrow or do a load of laundry. There was only one answer, do both. The cover on the big bed that protects the bedspread from dog hair was a mess and TBG was hoping it could be washed -- and there were enough dirty clothes to make a load. I couldn't choose -- both things needed to be done.
I am tempted by so many things that would make life more pleasant. On our walk, Teddy and I pass three restaurants that offer take out I can't resist: Chines, Asian BBQ and an Asian Bistro (sushi). The smell is amazing and it is so hard to walk by and not resort to take-out for dinner. Then I was bringing stuff out to the recycling (part of cleaning is throwing out trash and putting away dishes). I passed an open bottle of wine. I wanted a drink badly. The question is, am I an alcoholic? No, I'm just tired!
My life is like a multiple choice test where I have to choose all the answers!
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Downsizing was the best thing we ever did. No, we don't have enough room for everything we want -- but now we don't want as much as we used to. When something goes wrong, it takes less effort and money to fix it. I can clean it up a lot faster too.
One of these days we'll have to buy another refrigerator but we can live with the older stove and washer/dryer set in the basement. We've replace a hot water heater and garage door opener, painted the house and constructed a back yard patio, put in an additional kitchen counter and set of cabinets and painted our living room. It seems like a lot of work, but we had someone do it for us so it wasn't as much effort. We still need to have return heating vents put in upstairs but that's the last major thing we'll do.
We haven't felt the need to "customize" things as we are able to adapt easier than most people I think. The stuff that makes your house a home has more, I think, to do with emotion and mind set and not with the stuff you manipulate and stuff in it. I have not gone crazy with holiday decor because I'm honestly just happy with my home the way it is that I don't need to deck the halls to make it seem any more special. I'll let the snow do that for me!