September 27, 2012
So. Today was okay. A bit boring since I have yet to make those blueberry muffins and our breakfast choices are severely lacking, but we made it.
On the spending freeze front, I drove right by a huge sign stating a “Multiple Family Garage Sale” was just down the street. That was hard. However, I made up for it a few miles later by stopping at a garage sale in our neighborhood. We are looking for a twin bed and I rationalized it was okay to look since it was a planned expense, something we’ve been needing for a long time. So I looked, but no bed. Boo.
Dinner was good. We started with fresh vegetables - a leftover cucumber in our fridge, sliced, the cutest cherry tomatoes you’ve ever seen, and Annie’s Cowgirl Ranch. Many thanks to my neighbor K for the cherry tomatoes. I believe this is the third ingredient she’s contributed to our challenge. It is clear we wouldn’t make it without her.
Our main course was Magic Chili. Magic because I threw stuff in a saucepan and hoped for the best. I was determined to get some protein (black beans) into my kids. Ingredients included crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes with green chiles, black beans, a red onion (borrowed from said neighbor), and spices. Our extremely fancy side dish was tortilla chips with melted cheese on top. (Can you really ever go wrong serving chips and cheese to kids?)
Mystery Chili. It was better than it looks.
I deem the day a success because we all ate well and didn’t spend a cent.
My last challenge lies in what to pack for my son’s snack tomorrow. Hmmm.
Day 5, I’m ready. Are you?
September 26, 2012
I must say, Day 3 is going pretty good. We made our scheduled run to the farmer’s market and picked up our meat and egg order, as well as a few perishables, as planned. Along the way, our pantry challenge morphed into a spending freeze as I decided to pass right by Marge’s Donut Den without buying a donut, going into Macy’s to return something without shopping for something else, and driving right by Target without stopping for “just a few things.”
For dinner tonight I made a salad and stuffed peppers. The salad was leftover spinach and some tomatoes I picked up at the market.
The stuffed peppers were a bit more of a challenge. We were short about 1,000 items, but I made it work. And they were good. Edible.
Recipe? Well, I meant to use the recipe from the classic red plaid cookbook, i.e. the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, but since I was short pretty much everything, I guess you could say I used it for inspiration.
- Peppers. I used green peppers. Pick ones with flat bottoms so they’ll sit in a pan nicely.
- Ground beef. (You can skip this if you want.)
- Quinoa or some other grain.
- 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, whatever.
- Shredded cheese.
- Salt & pepper.
- And because I was short of so many ingredients, I picked some basil from our garden, chopped it, and added it for good measure. Why not?
- Cook the quinoa (or grain) as directed, set aside. I used a cup of dry grain.
- In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Wash the peppers, cut off the top, clean the insides, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove, drain upside down.
- Brown your meat, and when cooked, add tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Let it simmer for a while. Add cheese, maybe 1/2 cup. Mix it up until it melts.
- Add cooked quinoa (or grain) to meat and tomato mixture.
- Stuff peppers. Top with shredded cheese.
- Bake in oven 10 minutes or so until cheese is melted.
How is that? Clear as mud? A cook I am not.
Tomorrow is going to be rough. It might be leftover day and everyone has to eat something different for dinner. But we’ll all be at the same table, so that counts for something.
If I really get it together (ha!) I will wake up early (double ha!) and make blueberry muffins. I always have baking stuff on hand (healthy, I know) and we have tons of blueberries frozen from this summer.
Day 4, see you tomorrow.
September 25, 2012
Yesterday I issued our family a pantry challenge. I rearrange the same cans of beans, tomatoes, chiles, boxes of cornmeal, rice, jars of sauces every week, and every few days I still run to the store, insisting we have nothing to eat.
It seems ridiculous, so this week I relegated us to an entire week of eating only what we have on hand, with a few exceptions.
- Perishables. We need milk, eggs, and a few pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables. I insist on my kids eating something fresh at each meal, so buying a few things like this is part of my planned exceptions. (My garden is officially gone, mostly due to a giant tree limb that fell on it, partly due to to us eating everything left.)
- Our weekly farmers market run. We have a planned, scheduled meat and egg pickup at the farmers market every Wednesday.
We did pretty good yesterday (Day 1). I planned a dinner that used some of the spinach we had on hand, so we’d use it before it went bad. My plan also included a cucumber in our garden, which I watched a squirrel snatch off the vine and run away with. Grrr. Dinner was still a success, with the help of a neighbor who let us borrow a half cup of honey.
Today (Day 2) was a bit of a different story. It was a rough day right from the start. I promised the kids a trip to ArtPrize after school, and since I was determined to enjoy the nice weather and get the kids out of the house, we went. In a done is better than perfect way, I grabbed my wallet, camera, wipes and my phone and called my preparations good enough. They were not. I had a twenty dollar bill with me, part of my bi-weekly “spending money,” and I broke down to buy two slices of pizza and a bottle of water. I can’t decide if I cheated or not. The money was mine to spend, any way I wanted, but I was also trying to eat only what we had on hand. Hmm. I’m going to say it was okay.
I am pretty sure my next choice was not okay. After a day that continued to be rough, and swim lessons at 6:30, right during dinner, my husband and I caved at ate at Chipotle. Both of us were too whipped to think about dinner, especially knowing we would need to be extra-creative figuring something out at home. I used my leftover spending money and some cash from a few items I returned today. This I consider cheating, because we probably could have gone home and figured something out. On the other hand, as we were leaving Chipotle, we marveled at how easy it was to just buy dinner. We don’t do that a lot, at least on a whim.
We are back home now, and I have gotten myself together again, planning on the rest of the week being successful. I already know a few things I can make out of the “nothingness” in my pantry, freezer and fridge.
- Blueberry muffins. Great for breakfast and snacks.
- Oatmeal breakfast bake. I think I’ll use up a ripe banana and some cherries I have in the freezer. And although this is for breakfast, I’m game to eat it whenever.
- Bulgur wheat salad. This will be a stretch, but I think I’ll chop up a pepper and cucumber I have in the fridge and add some rice vinegar. I may regret this.
Wish me luck on Day 3. May I not malnourish my kids in this process.