Friday, January 29, 2010

Back to (Pantry) Duty

I am back from business trip. Interesting, exhausting...and, thanks to the Colts, everything in Indy is now expensive; I even had to pay for internet if I wanted it at the hotel (um, no...)

Sr also returns home tomorrow from his, so hopefully, before I leave on the 20th, we continue eating down this pantry. I have a whole turkey out thawing to cook and can (and this gave me more room in the freezer). I also have the last of our boilers in the crockpot. I will shred the meat and freeze it for quick meals like pizza, white chili or chicken noodle soup. I let these guys get big, so the removal showed quite an open space in the deep freeze.

Tonight we are having pizza made with the last box of gluten-free crust mix I bought on clearance at least a year ago. The boys are excited. I will open some fruit for a side dish/dessert.

I doubt I am going to make enough progress to clean out this stuff before I leave, but if I can at least get the little deep freeze cleaned out, I'll clean it and make some "freezer meals" to help Sr feed the boys while I am gone. I cannot believe I will be leaving in 22 days.

So, I will continue this challenge until the end of the month.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Slow Eating

SO, I am not eating up this hoard fast enough. I thought I had more room in the big chest freezer (in garage), but tonight I was putting some things into it (leftovers, breadcrumbs from old bread, sale meat because the inside freezer is jam packed with crap still) and discovered it is still to full to add new things. This dismays me because we are taking Ryan in soon and I need a place to put the meat. It had been hard making progress when my husband is gone, I have been sick and appetite-less, and my two boys are becoming such picky eaters.

This is completely pathetic!

I am not going to set foot in a grocery store until this sh*t is gone. I mean it. Of course, my plans never seem to stick and the reality is I will be gone for 5 weeks starting next month. I guess we better start cooking!

Sr comes home Saturday and I plan to cook a large turkey his employer gave him in November. It is taking up a lot of room. We actually have 5 more giant turkeys, but they are still running around outside and are not taking up room in the freezer. We'll eat what we can and I will can the rest. At least canned meat takes up less room and is shelf stable for a couple of years (we are still eating beef canned late in '06-I am now down to only 6 jars of that meat). I guess I could can the hamburger too.

Truth be told, I have seriously been contemplating a return to a vegetarian diet. I was a vegetarian for over 13 years (starting as a teenager and ending in my early thirties). I have been cooking a lot of meatless meals lately and the whole family seems okay with the changes (even meat and potato lovin' hubby). However, even if I decide to make the switch back to that sort of diet, I cannot let the meat go to waste. I respect the lives of the animals we or someone else raised too much to do that (in theory), yet, this is exactly what is happening in the chambers of my three freezers!

I am trying. I made a great Crockpot oatmeal for this morning. I put steet cut oats in the slow cooker with the proper water amount and cooked it on low all night. In the morning I added bananas and a little brown sugar to the pot and let it continue simmering. Oh, it is good! I may try it with dried fruit next time and add the fruit when I add the oats. I could also add frozen fruit (and need too) in the later cycle as we have cherries, black- and raspberries, peaches, blueberries, and applesauce taking up room in the freezers too. I highly recommend this concoction.

For dinner tonight I used the Crockpot again. This time I browned garlic and onions and chicken thighs (bought on sale a while back) in the cast iron skillet. I then added it to the Crockpot along with a commercial simmering sauce (coconut curry) bought at the grocery liquidator. After the chicken was well done, I added some of my home-canned green beans (the '08 stock I am wanting to use up). I rank it as 'OK' (the sauce smelled great right out of the bottle, but did not do well in the Crockpot. If I had made my own sauce it probably would have been better for the long term cooking). I served it over long grain brown rice (I am finally making a dent in the rice, but I did donate several bags to the Food Bank as well). I have a lot of leftovers and no one will be around to eat them next week (as I am traveling for work, Sr is gone, and the boys will be at the grandparents house). I will freeze them and see how they are later this week. As I already said, we will have turkey this weekend.

So, even though the official hosts of The Eating from the Pantry are ending their challenge at the end of the month, I plan to go forward with this challenge 9the best I can with the long time away from home). I still have mounds of hoarded stockpiled foods to use up.

One more interesting tidbit (at least to me;), I get my tendency to "stock up" honestly. My mother has always kept a well-stocked pantry and I remember never having to wonder if we had anything to eat (we probably had a dozen boxes of cereal at any one time). Even as a retired widow, she had maintained a packed pantry that included outdated foods. Well, today I found out she cleaned it up and purged all the older foods or the ones she figured she would never eat. She said she was no longer shopping for lots of food and was trying to use up what she has stored and then plans to buy in smaller quantities in the future. You have no idea how weird this is to me!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Pantry Meal

I am seeing a bit of light on the other side of my pantry!

Tonight, using meat from a pork shoulder (picnic ham) (from the freezer) that I cook all day in a slow cooker, I made soft tacos of sorts. I basically used the meat (shredded) and stir fried it with garlic, onion, tomatillos, and spices in a cast iron pan. I mixed this with the rest of the leftover red beans and rice. I then heated a few flour torillas from the freezer and slightly rolled the meat mixture up in them. The boys loved them! L2 even ate two of them and asked for a third (although he forgot about wanting the 3rd one a few minutes later).

Using the picnic ham in this way worked out great. I have four three of these from the hogs we raised a year ago. I had no idea how to cook them and kept ignoring them whenever I dug around in the garage deep freezers. Yesterday, I was searching for a chicken or a pork roast and kept moving the picnic hams around out of the way. After searching for a while I grabbed what I thought was a pork roast. After going back into the house, I saw I had accidently grabbed on of the PHs. I almost took it back outside, but decided I was meant to use one of them up. It is actually similar to a pork roast and provided the perfect meat ingredient I needed to use up the tomatillos I bought at the ethnic market on Jan 2.

All in all, a good meal made strictly from the pantry!

(Of course, a while later I was taking the rest of the meat out of the Crockpot and it slipped out of my hand. I spent the rest of the evening cleaning up grease off of the floor and cabinets...thankfully I have a couple of dogs and cats to employ for the clean-up duty! They thought it was a good too!! ;)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week

So, with Sr gone until the 30th and my two bird-picking little boys, using up the storage is proving to be difficult. My appetite, thanks to a illness I can't seem to shake, is not what is could be as well. I froze half of the red beans and rice and served the other remaining half tonight along with the rest of the sloppy joe mix from Saturday. Oldest boy (7) ate it all, but littlest (2.5) kept saying, "I don't like, I don't like..." I finally got him to taste a little and he ate a couple of spoonfuls. Sigh. One day they will eat me out of house and home, right?

My chalkboard is working out so well! I wish I had hung it up sooner. I still need to add a photo of it here (I have no idea why I am lazy about photo posting!)

I basically just list ideas of meals for the week then constantly move the ideas around to accommodate leftovers or busy schedules. I started using it on a weekend and I haven't updated all the way to next weekend yet, but here are my plans for the week (subject to change):

Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: B: (me) Take grapefruit to work, boys will eat oatmeal or cereal
L: Leftover rice & beans (kids eat at school & in-laws)
D: quesadillas and fruit
Wednesday B: Grapefruit/cereal
L: Out for work retirement party/Kids eat school/in-laws
D: Chicken (crockpot), green beans (HC), and bread
Thursday: B: Maybe eggs (I might try these muffins)
L: The muffins if I make them
D: White chicken chili
Friday: B: grapefruit/cereal & yogurt
L: Leftovers
D: Leftovers
Saturday: B: pancakes or waffles, yogurt
L: leftovers or PB sandwiches
D: Pizza with HM WW crust (I am trying to implement a tradition of sorts)
Sunday: Not sure yet...

Planning out meals seems to be easier than I thought (I resisted for so long!) I can anticipate what I need to thaw out or use up. It really doesn't even take very long! I have never been one to stick to a strict "to do" list, so I keep it flexible and move things around quite a bit, but I think having the meal ideas in front of us is making us more likely to use our stockpiled food.

(Although, truth be told, I have been also taking a bag of items to church every Sunday for the Catholic Food Banks to help use up this mass of food I have hoarded the past two years before it goes bad.)

Next month, I plan to continue this adventure until I leave for schooling on the
20th. If I am able to drive (as opposed to fly depending on cost analyse and which my employer will grant approval), I will pack some items from the pantry to use up there in a crockpot. I would really like to make a goal of not using any of our grocery budget as I have still been spending (well under $80 budget so far not counting the discount day at the Amish bulk store on the 2nd, but it is getting close). I have been tracking every item bought this month in a spreadsheet and recording sales and coupon use to study where our money is going. What are we buying?
Sadly, with Sr gone again and living remotely he is spending a lot. He went through fifty dollars in three days (because the man does not know how to budget or shop wisely in any shape or form). I had to transfer another fifty to him, but I told him that was it until the weekend. I do not spend like this and I too spend time away from the home (in travel status for work).

He claims to be keeping all his receipts so we can look at them together and figure out his habits (the really bad, expensive ones he doesn't seem to realize he has). I've read blogs where people get by on $1-2 a day (he obviously needs lots of work to ever even get close to this starting with finding a successful way to get him to stop smoking-an unbelievable amount of money is spent on this disgusting, selfish habit).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tonight I made the best Red Beans & Rice. I used up half of the red beans I have stored (I will definitely be replacing these in a few months), three cups of long grain rice, a smoked sausage from the freezer. I also threw in some frozen, chopped green peppers from my garden (I can't remember if they are 2008 or 09) and a couple of dried hot peppers (also from my garden, but definitely from this past summer). I seasoned it with fresh garlic, cumin, pepper, dried chipotle, and other spices from the seasonings cabinet. The dish was fabulous!

I ended up freezing a portion and I have enough for leftovers this week.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pre-Packaged at It's Best

Well, like anything I get obsessed with (um, homesteading, poultry, preparedness, vintage campers, books, TEOTWAWKI, blogs, thrifting...) I have to tell you about one thing I did notice between the hardcore shoppers and my own experience. It has to do with these bars called Soyjoy.

See, everyone is buying a box of 6 SoyJoy Bars from CVS because you get back $6 in ECB (I can't remember offhand what that stands for; I call them virtual bucks). My own SoyJoy experience came at Krogers. They have these same bars on sale for 10/$7 (or $0.70/each). I had a coupon for -$2 when you buy 10 single bars. So, if you are following this brings my total to 10/$5. I also had a coupon buy 3 get one free (or -$0.70. My total is now 10 bars for $4.30 (.43 each). I tried one when I got home and they are really good. Now I wish I had gone to CVS for a box! I normally don't buy things like this (and never would have bought them at full price), but I can take them to work for a healthier snack.

OK, I will be over this soon and on to my next great thing (ha!)

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Game

Well, I was better at the coupon game today. The local Big Chain supermarket is having triple coupon week so I gathered up all the $0.50< coupons I have and went shopping after dropping Sr off at the airport. They actually had some bargains and I found a few "free" items. The cashier and the man behind me was impressed by my savings.

Here's the catch: Most of the coupons I find are for products I would never buy (and hardly pay full price for) and we really don't eat. How is that a savings?

I think my experimental phase is coming to an end in this game. I prefer to shop the Amish bulk store and grow my own (although the 10 organic yogurts I bought for less than 0.30/each was nice as I haven't had time to make my own in ages). I tend to stock up on sale products (ones we eat) anyway. And, another confession, I am way to disorganized for this game. I wasn't paying attention when my items were tallied and I didn't get an "in-store" sale price and paid 3 more for the product. I plan to go back tomorrow to have them fix it.

We ate leftovers tonight (pork roast, potatoes and carrots from last night). The Pantry will hardly be dented now that Sr is gone for the rest of the month. My kids eat like birds. I also have some smaller (homemade) prepared meals in the freezer that I will probably use.

The best part of this challenge has been the organization of my stockpile and the inventory. I have a good idea of what sort of commercial products I have on hand. I also know what is in the most handy storage areas (inside freezer and two kitchen pantry cabinets). I am still working on garage freezers and the home canned area of the basement. I have also enjoyed making menus or coming up with things to eat on the fly using my own storage.

I am going to update my inventory on the sidebar tonight after the kids are off to bed.

Another useful thing (I hope) I have gained from reading these new blogs is this link: Swagbucks. I already have several "bucks" and hope I can get enough to get an Amazon giftcard. If you like seeking information on the 'net, this may be useful to you too.