{this moment}

A blog I read, Soule Mama, has a running Friday post called {this moment}. She describes it: “A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.”  We all know the relevant adage; this is an excellent way to reflect and express something positive – I will be following her lead from now on.

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If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.
Happy Friday.

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Ack! Don’t forget to label bottles!

Our car is a mess. A complete mess. Whenever we drive to see either of our parents, I always make sure that I clean it out for fear of one of our moms saying “Wow, you really need to clean out your car!” It’s not disgusting/unsanitary – no moldy growths from food scraps or anything – just full of papers, junk mail, an empty seltzer can or 5, coffee mugs, etc. So before we pack up the car with 13 loads of laundry, I go outside with 2 bags – one for the recyclables and one for the trash. Which normally turns into 4 bags. Sometimes 7. And then 2-3 trips back to the house carrying in coffee mugs or water cups. But it’s “clean.” I never have time (or the desire) to vacuum, wash the windows, wipe the dash, hose off the rubber floor mats, etc. Getting the trash out is enough.

But it never fails – whichever house we go to, the respective mom almost ALWAYS make some direct or indirect statement about the cleanliness of the vehicle. If only they could see a before picture…

So the other day, L decided that while I was working with one eye on my computers and the other eye on WV she would REALLY clean out the car. She removed ALL of the crap that was inside, vacuumed, washed windows, the whole works. The only thing she didn’t do was wash and wax the exterior (lazy, right?). She even found a bottle of windshield washer fluid and refilled the reservoir because it was bone dry! What a keeper! I didn’t even think we had any washer fluid because I distinctly remembered finishing off a bottle last summer and didn’t recall going to the store to buy more.

Later that night, I took the dogs out for a walk and noticed a windshield washer fluid bottle on the floor of the entryway that had a tiny, tiny bit of a fluorescent yellowy liquid in the bottom of it. While we were on the walk, the wheels in my head began to turn. I’ve never seen fluorescent yellowy windshield washer fluid. And as mentioned before, I didn’t even think we had any. What could it be?

Not Washer Fluid Aha! Last summer, I flushed the radiator of L’s car before we sold it! And since I’m frugal, I don’t buy the 50/50 solution for $10.99, I buy the same volume of fully concentrated stuff for $12.99 and cut it with water. But to be able to make my own 50/50 mixture, I have to pour 50% of the fully concentrated fluid into another receptacle, then add water to both. The empty container that I had at the time was an empty washer fluid container. I figured that since I take care of all the routine maintenance things, I’ll take one look at the bottle and know instantly that it’s not washer fluid when I see it at a later date…

I got back from walking the dogs, then came upstairs to tell L my discovery. She was feeding WV, and I walked into the room and said “I made a mistake a while ago that you unknowingly perpetuated.” She was completely confused and had no idea what I was talking about. I explained to her the situation, and that it was entirely my fault, that I should have labeled the container. She felt so bad though. She had been extremely helpful in cleaning out the car, and then going above and beyond to refill the washer fluid reservoir! How was she supposed to know that the liquid inside the bottle that said windshield washer fluid was not, in fact, windshield washer fluid?

I did a quick search to see if anyone had done this before and what could be done to fix it. I was prepared to completely disassemble the entire washer fluid system. Most of the posts in the search results were of the opposite problem – washer fluid in the coolant overflow reservoir. But nestled in the second page of results was a little post from our friends at Car Talk explaining what to do. Click and Clack save the day, again!

$1.62 for some flexible tubing for siphoning (not using my beer siphoning equipment) and a few minutes of letting gravity do it’s work and the reservoir was empty. And I didn’t have to take anything apart! (Getting to all of the components was going to be doable, but difficult and time-consuming). Refilled with windshield washer fluid, and now I’m good to go! (And if you ever need to siphon anything that you don’t want to ingest, PLEASE pre-fill the siphoning tube with water and let the water flow start the siphon)

So the moral of the story is that communication is key. Whether it’s written or verbal. Or nonverbal, for that matter, if you’re competent enough to know exactly what your wife is thinking without her having to say it. It would have taken me mere seconds to cross out “Windshield Washer Fluid” and write “50/50 Antifreeze” on the bottle, and would have saved a lot of time (not to mention the antifreeze/water mixture that I took back to the auto parts store for proper disposal). Could I have used that fluid again, or was it more advisable that I take it back to the store for disposal?

And now, a little joke to tie it all together:

Q: What’s the last thing that goes through a bug’s mind as it crashes into your windshield?

A: It’s ass.

A Week In Recipes…Food & Otherwise

I made and cleaned a mess of a kitchen untold numbers of times this past week. I thought I’d share the week’s food and non-food recipes. Some were inspired by our attempts to more thoughtfully purchase, prep and eat (i.e. making things ahead of time and ensuring leftovers). I also learned that writing recipes takes thought and patience – new appreciation for those old biddies (how I imagine them) who write such old-fashioned-ly snarky things in The Joy of Cooking, and to all recipe makers out there!

Sunday: Super Bowl! Spent the evening with good friends, S & R (who happen to have a 7-month-old, J, who is WV’s girlfriend – I am hoping one day S and I are machatunia).

I made Fried Rice with Bok Choy – our homage to the San Francisco in San Francisco 49ers. We also brought Home Made Rolls and S made the most delish crab cakes to put on them. This recipe is also my favorite for making hot dog buns, from the book W has mentioned before – Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. I tease him by calling the author, Jennifer Reese, his mistress because he starts mucho kitchen sentences with “well, Jennifer Reese says…” She gives a definite “MAKE!” to hot dog buns, but says not to bother with, and “BUY!”, hamburger buns. This is confusing – why not just use the hot dog bun recipe to make hamburger buns and rolls? She says they wouldn’t hold up to a greasy overloaded hamburger, but they did hold up to a crab cake and I’m guessing will be much better than any store-bought hamburger bun (which, lets face, likely won’t hold up well either). I get the feeling from her book that she also wanted her hot dog and hamburger buns to be appreciably different in flavor. However, these buns are so tasty, I don’t mind them being the same for hot dogs and hamburgers and even rolls for dinner with pasta. Your alternative is always the grocery store disgusto-buns that have human hair and duck feathers and who knows what else (I’m serious) in them. So there’s that.

Monday: Babywearing WV in a double hammock, I was a dough-making fool! Eight pizza doughs and 18 more rolls rose during the day and then W and I cooked 4 of the pizzas – 1 for dinner and the others to freeze. Hallelujah for our stand mixer! We need to order more flour.

Pizza Dough and Pizza Recipes – It’s taken numerous iterations to get to what we think of as our “go-to” pizza recipe when it comes to both the dough and the process. We used to buy dough from Trader Joes, which sells a single dough (white or wheat) for 99 cents, which ain’t too shabby price-wise, but compared to home made dough, doesn’t hold a candle to the flavor. After several girl’s nights where my friends easily made tasty, tasty dough to make pizzas, I realized we should (and could) too! Our favorite recipe is from an Italian cook-book (makes sense) we got for our wedding. I often make 8 doughs at a time (we. eat. alot. of. pizza), quadrupling the recipe and using two bowls. I also usually make W help. Then we’ll assemble 2-4 pizzas that night, freezing the remainder of the doughs in individual portions as well as the left over pizza – it’s a great snack or dinner in a pinch. Brings new meaning to “frozen pizza.”

Tuesday: Day o’leftovers.  Lunch was Peanut Sauce and Glass Noodles, which although I made the Friday before I started this post, were so tasty and the recipe so simple, I thought it would be a good one to add.

Wednesday: Walter had a long day at work (usually he works from home, but he had to go to several meetings) so I was stuck at home thinking about chicken cutlets. I did something about that. Also, I made some baby food for WV.

Chicken Parmigiana – Oh man, this turned out soooo good!  I have never made this…probably mostly because my mom makes chicken cutlets to die for and I just didn’t want to try and fail – failing meaning, not tasting like my mom’s.  But this was a delish dish that made it onto sandwiches and as dinners over the next two days.  W and I figured it cost less than $2.00 a serving…and these were organic chicken breasts.  Recalling that our chicken parm sandwich from a restaurant a few weeks ago was nearly $10, well, I, uh, wow.

Apple SauceP1030810 Originally made for a certain baby, but as you can see here, after choosing the best organic apples, washing them, peeling them, juicing them, reconstituting them, heating them, and finally pureeing them…WV DID NOT WANT TO EAT THEM. He made several adorable “this sucks, mom” faces, pulled off his cute bib, and spit them out. Okay, so now it’s adult apple sauce.

Thursday: Juicing Fiends!!!  No need for a recipe here – I’d pulled out the juicer for the apple sauce, so kept it out for a round of home made orange, carrot and apple juices.  Mmm…liquid ambrosia.  The key to juicing is just prepping the ingredients all at once (makes you feel accomplished); then they’re ready whenever you want juice (makes you feel lucky). Carrot juice cut with a hint of apple is my favorite. The rest of the day was full of leftovers.

Friday: Breakfast – eggs and W’s Home Made Bread.  For dinner I made Pink Alfredo Sauce with onions and mushrooms and spinach pasta. This has got to go into our rotation as well – it came out scrumptious!!! I kept “re-saucing” my pasta, just to have some more!

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Saturday: Breakfast – Orange & Oat Scones. W’s mom gave me this beautiful stoneware scone pan that I don’t use often enough. These scones did’t show the thistle impression because they were too chunky with the oatmeal, but the pan keeps them in a nice shape. One note, if you are using a pan like mine and not a cookie sheet, you’ll need to adjust the baking time to ~25 minutes. Also, the recipe calls for 1 cup of buttermilk; I didn’t have any. Using one of my favorite handy cooking references, Substituting Ingredients, I added 1 cup of milk and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar instead. I made two batches – one with and one without chocolate chips. Sixteen scones didn’t last long…they’re great with afternoon tea, too (and we gave a few away)!

I also made a new batch of our Go-To Granola, which I always modify in some way according to the ingredients I have laying about (this time I had date pieces and craisins). Usually I double the recipe, but this time I didn’t and it went much faster – mostly because mixing ~10 cups of ingredients is much harder than mixing ~5 cups of ingredients. Tasty for upcoming breakfasts with milk or yogurt or as a snack by itself.

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Lavender Baby Powder – One of my mom’s friends sent me a small shaker of home made baby powder, and it turned out to be the best thing we’d ever put on WV’s butt! Especially for cloth diapering, which necessitates not using any sticky creams. Anyway, we ran out. Ack!!! I didn’t want his rashlessness to end!!!  I haven’t made this recipe exactly because I’m waiting on the kaolinite (white clay) to arrive (bought 5 pounds here), but(t) have posted the full recipe because it kinda sucks without the clay (very hard to shake out of the bottle, trust me). Can’t wait for the clay to arrive and amend my currently eking-by baby powder.

Butt Spray (yep, that’s really what we call it). I made a batch of wet wipe solution (I make our own cloth wipes, too – more on that forthcoming). This is super simple and avoids all the nastastic and harsh ingredients in regular wipes. One batch lasts about a month.

Sunday: Crock Pot London Broil with Veggies – To prep for a few extra meals this week, I whipped this up and let it simmer all day. The house smelled divine. On Saturday I had cooked up 2 cups of rice to have for the week, when needed. That came in real handy for this diner! I like prepping a big pot of rice (might do some quinoa tonight, too) for the rest of the week. It came out a little tough, but I think that is because of the meat cut itself; other crock pot meats I’ve made with the same recipe were quite tender.

What’s in store, recipe-wise for this week? Well, for V-Day, I’m going to try salted caramel brownies cut into hearts. No other major cooking plans…maybe I’ll defrost some pizza. And chuckle at these cooking fails again! Bon Appetit!!!

SNOW!!!!…Or as we call it in Virginia, rain.

Jan 2010 036I have blizzard envy. I’ve lived in Southeastern coastal Virginia for going on 8 years (!) now, and in that time it has snowed – truly snowed – once. Trust me, my best friend and I made snow angels, galumphed about like oversized children and went for dozens of triumphant bags-over-our-socks walks with the dogs, as the world of anything with wheels was paralyzed and receded far, far away. We’ve had “accumulation” a few other times (see pic at right, which cause school cancellations), but you tell me – does this really “count?” Oh, we do get “flurrying” (which always makes me hopeful; if there’s a flurry in the sky, I know about it) and super doppler weathermen, the notoriously bungling VDOT, and pansy school systems certainly have made a lot of hullabaloo over the years…but it’s only snowed ONCE I tell you! I find joy in extreme fantasies of being “snowed in” all winter, have the antifreeze-like veins of a tundra Ukrainian in my blood, was, actually, born in a snowstorm, and am really, really tired of the soggy, moulding mess that VA is half the time.

Last night I thought about all the slightly superstitious things you can do as a kid to conjure up the wondrous white stuff – wear your pajamas backwards, make sure all your homework is really done, pray. It began to rain, but W assured me he may have observed a little “wintry mix” when he took the girls out for their nightly walk. That gave me hope. As Supersnowstorm NEMO began making hyped headlines, threatening (or as I am imagining it, gracing) the northeast with untold lovely drifts (a word that coastal Virginians apply to boats without steerage or anchors), I went to sleep, remembering, remembering….

…blizzards. True, honest, historic blizzards, names ringing in infamy: “Blizzard of ’96.” The stuff of Little House on the Prairie (I thought Laura Ingalls was kick ass when I was a little girl, still do, actually). The kind of snow that is hard to walk in because it’s so high, that necessitates mom making hot cocoa from scratch as more and more falls, hushed, out the window, taking the night from a harsh black to a muted white, the street lamps glowing, encased ….or when you know it’s coming, you can feel it in your 12-year-old bones, a glorious understanding in the pit of your stomach as you and your sister snuggle up under an afghan endlessly tuning the radio, hoping, praying to hear “Pennington-Grimes” announced in the list of schools that have closed. And when it does, you whoop and dance, callooh, callay!!! Its almost as if you’ve willed it to happen!!! You are up earlier than you would have been for school, rushing to pull on extra layers, your moon boots and zip up that snow suit and you ARE OUT IN IT careening and cavorting!!! Off to the backyard to make forts, or to “The Hill” where everyone sleds!!!Xmas and New Year's 2010 132

But alas, the rain and coastal flooding has made our yard into Lake Guinea, caused our toilet to not flush (ooooold plumbing with no appreciable grade to the septic tank), and the dogs smell wet. Yes, you see, this is why I prefer snow. I could take WV out and show him flakes on your nose, flakes on your eye lashes. I could make snowballs and throw them to the girls, who dash madly about trying to crush them, we’d take a walk and it would feel like my own mushaboom – everything blanketed, cocooned in lovely, lovely snow.

Enjoy NEMO, my friends up north! Snuggle with your family, drink cocoa (or wine!) flakes whooshing through the air, to accumulate on every surface, play in it with your kids, with your dogs! Delight in your snow (and keep safe, of course)!!!

Homemade Bread and Grateful Dead

Back when I used to have to commute an hour to and from my office, I would pass the time by listening to the radio. Mainly just switching back and forth between the news and the local classic rock station. When I would get tired of hearing about people blowing each other up because they can’t just be decent and agree to disagree I’d switch over to music. When I would get tired of hearing the same Rush and Skynyrd songs (don’t get me wrong – great bands, but WAY overplayed… need more Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead) I’d switch back to the news. Here’s some Dead for your head while you’re reading about bread – make sure you have the bass on your system turned up (shameless plug for my band, Key’d Up):

One particular day, I heard an interview on All Things Considered with a woman who had written a book called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. The author, Jennifer Reese, had taken the time to try a bunch of different recipes (hot dog buns, pickles, bacon, vanilla extract, keeping bees, etc) and write about her experiences. She lets the readers know which items are worth making from scratch, including both time and money involved, and which ones you should just buy from the store. She and I don’t agree on everything (homemade sushi is less expensive AND worth the work, we use the hot dug bun recipe for hamburger buns and they’re just fine), but it does have a lot of good info.

So I was listening to this interview, and thought to myself, “This sounds like something right up our alley – when I get home I’ll order it and hopefully it will arrive in time for Christmas.” I got home, quickly got to my computer, and stealthily placed the order. L and I were eating dinner later that evening, talking about our days, and she mentioned this really neat interview she heard on the radio and how she thought the book sounded like a great idea and was thinking about buying it. Ugh… I had to spoil the surprise and let her know that I already ordered it for her.

The main reason I bought the book was to save money. I figured over the years I would be saving way more than the $15 plus shipping I would be spending on the book. But it also turns out that I’m saving myself and my family from ingesting whatever crazy stuff the food industry puts in their breads. One example is L-Cysteine. Sourced mainly from human hair (although I read that they have changed to mostly duck feathers in Europe), it violates certain religious dietary restrictions, and the thought of ingesting either human hair or duck feathers is kinda gross. I haven’t done all the research to know which breads contain it and which don’t, but since we’re no longer buying bread we don’t have to worry about it.

Now, you might say “I can’t make my own bread, that’s too time consuming, and I really don’t know how to cook.” Wrong, wrong, and it doesn’t matter. You CAN make your own bread, it really doesn’t take much time at all, and my baking experience before I met L was preheating the oven to 400 degrees and throwing a frozen pizza in there for 18-20 minutes.

Here’s how little time it takes: On Saturday mornings, when L is feeding WV or making something delicious for breakfast, I mix up the bread batter. Then I stick it in loaf pans. Then I go about my day doing whatever needs to be done (oil change, garden work, Fortran code translation, procrastinating, etc.). After the bread has risen for a few hours, I stick the loaf pans in the oven. Then after 28 minutes I remove the breads from the pans and stick them back in the oven. Then after 5 minutes I turn them. Then after 5 more minutes I take them out. It’s that easy, and really not time consuming.

Recipe below with prices, permanent recipe link here. Total cost per loaf*: 94 cents, 88 cents without the flax seeds.

Ingredients:
5 1/2 cups bread (or all purpose) flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp yeast
3 1/2 cups water
4 tsp kosher salt
Flax seeds/Sesame Seeds (optional)

Procedure:
Activate the yeast with warm water, then mix in the flours, salt, and water.
Oil the inside of two 9×5 loaf pans, put half the dough in each, then sprinkle flax seeds on the top. Or mix the flax seeds in with the dough. Your choice.
Cover the loaves with a clean, damp dish towel/cloth diaper and let rise until the dough is as high as or just above the tops of the pans.
Bake at 450 degrees in the pans for about 28 minutes, then remove from pans, put the breads back in the oven on their sides for 5 minutes, then flip them to their other sides for 5 minutes. You might want to put a shallow pan or some aluminum foil underneath so the flax seeds don’t fall the the bottom of the oven and burn (if they’re on top of the loaves).
Breads are done when they sound hollow when tapped (or when you ask your wife if that’s what hollow sounds like and she says yes).
Remove the loaves from the oven, see if you can wait until they cool to slice and eat.

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*Numbers rounded to nearest cent, tax not included. I remember a joke that my quantum physics professor once told us in class: “A mathematician will say that a series is convergent if its limit exists. A physicist will say that a series is convergent if the first term is finite.” Today, I’ll pretend to be a physicist and will be ignoring values that I don’t care about.

-King Arthur flour (each variety) is $4.19 for a 5 lb bag at our local Food Lion. Flour is (on average) 4.4 oz/cup, so a 5 lb bag will yield about 18 cups. ($4.19/18)x(5 1/2) = $1.28. 1 3/4 cups is $0.41. Other flours might be cheaper.
-My 1 lb bag of yeast was $6.99. There are about 160 tsp in 1 lb of yeast. $6.99/160 = $0.04.
-Our water comes from a well. I guess we do pay for the electricity to pump it. I ignored this.
-I bought the salt for $0.99. There are 131.5 tsp in the container. ($0.99/131.5)x4 = $0.03.
-A 15 oz bag of flax seeds at Trader Joe’s is $2.99. There are 56 tbsp in the bag. I use about 2 tbsp when I sprinkle them on the loaves. ($2.99/56)x2 = $0.11.
-I sprayed the inside of the loaf pans with cooking spray that was given to us by friends who moved. I ignored this price too.
-I don’t know how much it costs to run the oven either. So I ignored this as well.

I’m game for other bread recipes too, so if you have a favorite send it on over!

January: Spend $50 on groceries. ALL our groceries.

Lila’s Take:

Walter and I decided to come up with a monthly challenge. For January: spend no more than $50 on groceries. That’s $1.62 per day. Who thinks that’s crazy?! We didn’t at first. In fact, I thought that sounded totally reasonable. With the holidays just past, our refrigerator, freezer, and pantry seemed full of leftovers. We always have giant bags of rice, quinoa, and flour on hand. The $50 would be buoyed by the perennial cupboard cans and dried goods that rarely get considered in the process of making meals. In essence we were going to eat our pantry as part of the process of our self-imposed challenge.

We made a comprehensive list of these items and hung it on the fridge with our weekly meal planning list. And then we started! I felt a little breathless in the first few days – it was a slow burn of a wait to see what we would run out of first, what I might need or think I needed. Part of the challenge became just going to the grocery store less – our MO used to be to run to Food Kitty or Trader Joe’s at least twice a week; W and I have unknowingly made independent trips to the grocery store on the same day for the same thing – c’mon, we can be more intentional than that! We clearly saved time and money on gas and impulse purchases by more thoughtfully using what we already had.

By January 14th we’d spent only about $30 during ONE trip to the grocery store and a night out at Pub Quiz, where W had one beer and I wasn’t charged for my DD drink, cranberry juice and seltzer!

Buuut, the problem is we started making exceptions to our rules. These included/sounded like: Seeing a great sale and buying meat to freeze for later consumption (happened on that one grocery trip). “Toilet paper doesn’t count, right? Riiiiight???” What about all non-food, but still grocery store purchases, actually?- trash bags, soap, kitty litter? This grey zone hadn’t been discussed beforehand and was hard to voluntarily define, mid-challenge, mostly because while we knew it would be easier to make such exceptions, we also knew we were only kidding/cheating ourselves. “If I made extra money today then I can spend it on food without it counting, right?” And I know I started getting a little cranky that even one beer was being purchased on our self-imposed, now seeming ridiculous budget. I mean that beer was, like, 6% of our $50! Also, I started glaring at “expensive” things I craved like cheese and grapes. I googled WIC. We didn’t qualify.

Then W found out he needed to go to Florida for a business trip. Me and WV decided to go with him, engendering the next exception question – does his making per diem negate the money we spend on food? Our “exceptionating” was getting out of hand and causing too much needless anxiety. Also, I was starting to feel weird from eating too little protein, which was worrying me since I’m exclusively breast feeding WV. Wet cat food started to smell delicious again (an odd pregnancy craving that I thought I’d gotten rid of post-WV). I wanted to dive into fruit and vegetable displays ravenously chomping like a 400-pound-rabbit in a carrot dream land. I started to take a daily multi-vitamin + fish oil + vitamin D cocktail, which ended a few days later when I looked up a suspicious ingredient – titanium dioxide – which is, you guessed it, toxic. But that’s a subject of an ongoing research project and later post.

Back to our budget. At the laundromat frantically washing and drying clothes for the FL trip we realized we just didn’t have time to make lunch. We decided to split a chicken parmigiana sub from our favorite local restaurant, Tony and Milena’s. That darn sandwich cost $9.80!!! What the what!?! A full third of what we’d spent in 15 days blown on one lunch! I was flabbergasted. They say it only takes a few weeks to form or un-form a habit – well, this not spending money on food challenge had really gotten to me – I felt so wasteful.

Then we went to Florida. The $50 self-imposed limit flew out the window (unless you count per diem as an exception, which we decided not to do; buying food is buying food), although I did make the most out of squirreling away fruit, yogurt and tea from the hotel’s free breakfasts.

So, we failed, utterly failed. I had no idea how much we spent by the end of January (W’s the receipt tracker), but I knew for dang sure it was more than a few hundred dollars – and we iced the proverbial cake of failure by making a Costco run on the 31st. Grr, I’m mad at myself. However, there’s a silver lining to our botched budget breakdown: we learned some important things about what and how we eat. Firstly, in the past we haven’t been nearly as mindful of our grocery purchases. I now abhor spending a restaurant’s price on a meal I could make more healthfully at a fraction of the cost. However/secondly, it’s hard (very hard) to, day after day, come up with healthy, home made meals on the fly when you are sleep-deprived and running on back up brain cells. Inevitably, at the end of the day with a Mt. Everest of dishes to do (from last night), a crying child (no! WV never cries!), a variety of chores glaring at you with beady eyes, three papers to write and publish and a job search, and, oh yea, maybe a shower, it’s hard to start cooking – even though we meal-plan. We often eat diner at around 10pm, actually, because of this. With a little more planning, like instituting a cooking Sunday where we make a crockpot meal for leftovers, freeze some home made pizzas or soup servings for later, and prep others so they are halfway to done for the rest of the week, we could be less wasteful of time, more frugal with money and therefore more successful. Maybe the dishes will get done before WV takes a bath in the sink. We also need to be more mindful about protein – it’s not something we can readily just cut out entirely; however, it’s expensive and there are creative ways to get it. For instance, we made tuna fish nachos two different nights for dinners, which was great, easy and something we’d never tried. I’m grumpy that there are never coupons for produce (although there are coupons for hot pockets galore); produce is essential and probably makes up at least half of our grocery costs. I can’t wait for our garden this year. I will be canning more of our harvest – last year beans and squash went to waste. Also, for some odd reason we ate way fewer eggs overall this month (10) – I think I was subliminally rationing them in case I wanted to bake, later down the line.

So, February? I’m not so naive and disillusioned about grocery costs. Especially after reading W’s take, below. But we can do better! I just know it! Minus Valentine’s Day – we already have reservations at the restaurant where W proposed to me – and of course my birthday, lol! Uh-oh, that’s two exceptions and it’s only February 2nd!

DIRTY   P1030363

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Walter’s Take:

I tracked (almost) every penny we spent in 2012. Call me crazy, but I wanted to know how much we spent and on what. I had good intentions to file receipts daily at the beginning of the year, but that progressed into weekly, then monthly, then it turned into “there’s a huge pile of receipts on my desk, I don’t have the time/energy to do this right now.” As the new year started and I was trying to stay on top of current receipts, I was filing receipts from August. I even found a gas receipt from April!

Well, we’re one month into 2013 and I think I’ve got everything filed from 2012. Since we tried the whole $50 for food for the month of January, I decided to run a little report on our food expenditures. My jaw hit the floor when the following chart was displayed on my screen:

Spending Graph

We averaged $764.98 per month on food for both of us – including groceries and dining out. And yes, this also included buying beer and wine both in the grocery stores and in restaurants/bars (not including taxes or tips). That’s $278.19* per month going out to eat and $486.78* per month in groceries. Holy cow! But check the bars from June through September – those were the months our garden was in full bloom!

I started to do some research, and found some numbers that made me feel a little bit better. The 2011 per capita food expenditure for the United States was $352.42 per month (2012 data hasn’t been released). But that’s per capita. So multiply that number by 2 and you get $704.84. And that doesn’t include alcohol. Our average monthly food expense for the two of us not including alcohol comes out to $605.62. Whew, we’re below the national average! But that’s still a lot of money to spend on food – over $20 per day? We thought we could get away with spending less than 1/10 of that!

For January 2013, I can report that we have spent $560.32 on grocery store and restaurant food and drinks. This number includes the money we spent on seeds for our garden, the “let’s buy this and freeze it since it’s a good price” exception, and a Costco run we did on the 31st when we were staying with my parents – we’ll be EATING this food in February, but since we PURCHASED it in January, I felt obligated to include it in the report. An improvement over our monthly average last year, but we still think we can get it lower… If you remove the exceptions, it’s down closer to $350.

And we won’t be spending as much money on buying beer this year. Yesterday I opened my first bottle of a nut brown ale that I bottled on 1/1/13, I have a Pilsner ready to be bottled, honey ale ready to be transferred to the secondary, and since the brown ale turned out so delicious I think I’m gonna brew another batch soon to get the fermentation on it started. Why buy it when I can make it for about half the price?
beer

Here’s to being more thoughtful about food purchases in 2013 and less wasteful with money, fuel, and food!

*I know, these numbers add to $764.97. I rounded.