Sunday, October 15, 2017

Five Minute healthy soup!

My eyes were bigger than my stomach last week at the grocery store. I'd bought three, count-em, three, veggie kits. One was a veggie stir fry ("Cooks in five minutes!") and the other two were cold salad veggie kits.

I have gravitated to these kits because they contain a variety of veggies, kinds of veggies I do not usually buy.  They also have neat tasting sauces or dressings, again, kinds I don't usually buy or make. Admittedly, they're convenient too. They are very expensive though. I restrict myself to buying the marked down ones, usually half price, which means usually around $1.89 or $1.99 per package. I get several salads out of each. That solves the frugal problem.

However, they are marked down because their expiration date is upcoming, usually within a week or so. I have to eat a lot of salads to go through three packs of salad or stir fry kits! I was looking at the stir fry kit this morning and the date had passed two days ago. It'd probably be good for another day or two, but what to do? I know! I will stir fry them up and then pour broth over it and it will be soup!

No chopping veggies, no cooking in stages (hard veggies like carrots and potatoes first, then softer like zucchini, and then softest like mushrooms. It's a lot of standing around. I really liked the idea for cooking a bunch of veggies in 5-minutes, with no chopping. I dumped the whole pack into a pot, added oil and spices, and voila!

Meanwhile, bouillon cubes were softening into broth. Soon I combined the two, after the stir fry had softened and absorbed the spice flavors. I added some tomato sauce I had in the fridge for good measure. One and done! Soup! (I can always add tofu or another protein like quinoa later if I want).

I did not use the stir fry dressing included in the packet when sauteing the veggies for soup so the bonus is, I now have an extra packet of dressing I'll use on my salad this week.

A great price for a lot of healthy veggies. This can be stretched to several meals.

I just dumped them in.
I added oil and salt and some spices to taste.

That's it! Done.

Gluten free

I'm trying gluten free lifestyle for a while to see if my tummy troubles and other symptoms go away. So far, they have. Therefore, I am keen to continue on this path.

Sunday is Pancake Day. I always have pancakes on Sunday, sort of to celebrate the brunch atmosphere and relaxing day ahead that Sundays always are.

Hmmm, gluten-free means no pancakes. I tried scrambled eggs last week, but again, with no toast, it just felt incomplete.

At Kroger they have this weird section that has sprung up, where they put marked down organic items. It has a sign above the shelves that says "Sink Accessories" which I find hilarious, and the section is across from the toilet paper, more hilarious. Total incongruity.

So anyway I noticed that some gluten free flour from Red Mill was there last week. Red Mill is a good brand and the priced they'd marked it down to was great. I bought it and made muffins last week, and they came out good. This week I found a gluten free pancake recipe using Red Mill flour.

Pancake perfection!
Now, just because Sunday is Pancake Day does not mean I am skillful at making them. I never, ever, ever seem to be able to make them thick. Or I burn them. Or they come out rubbery. Or whatever. I still enjoy them.

The photo on the gluten free pancake recipe looked great, round, thick, crispy edged pancakes. I made the recipe, making the same substitution I'd made last week with the muffins. I do not have buttermilk on hand but I soured some milk with vinegar last time with no ill effect. This week I did not have white vinegar for the souring, so I used lemon juice, something the recipe actually suggested.

The pancakes came out crepe thin. Like, paper thin. It turned out to be a happy mistake, though, because the recipe made lots, and lots, and I decided to use the remaining pancakes as sandwich bread for this week's lunches. I don't think I will ever make pancakes as good as the ones like in the photo above, but I enjoy the specialness of the ritual and the festive-like atmosphere I create for myself on Sunday mornings. My church service begins at 3:00 so I really have the whole morning for coffee, reading, prayer, and pancake brunch. Here are mine. You'll see the thinness, but how equally applicable these are for use as a sandwich wrap.

Plate is Vernonware, mid-century modern, produced in 1952-53, Raffia pattern

Pretty thin. But tasty!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Fall Break Ahead!

I work 190 days per year, not 350. My salary reflects the fewer days worked, but what I love about my schedule are the frequent breaks. At this point in my life, I appreciate the time off very much.

The school year's first break is happening this week. On Monday and Tuesday we have two half-days with the kids. In the afternoon and early evening after the kids have left, teachers will meet in conference with parents and hand out report cards. As a parapro, I won't be meeting with parents. So I'll catch up on work my teacher wants me to do, such as cleaning, correcting, preparing, copying, etc. The different schedule makes the kids wild, but on the other hand, we will only be with them until noon.

On Wednesday we have a full day of teacher workday. Kids will not come to school at all. More work, cleaning, catching up, getting ready for the next quarter of school, which is 9-weeks long. We also have a Blue Cross meeting to prepare us for Open Enrollment, and other meetings as they come up.

Thursday and Friday I will be at home. No school for anybody. Fall Break begins! I normally use Fall Break as an opportunity for the gas heat guy to come and turn on the gas and clean the pilot light. Since one needs to be at home to let him in, Fall Break is good timing for me to get the heat on without having to take a day off work. It's been hot this fall, though. The temps are still in the 80s. Friday it was 90 degrees. I can't wait for the heat to break. I've scheduled the heating guy for Thursday but for sure I won't need to use the heat for at least another week, according to the weather predictions.

Hurricane Nate is going to make some impacts to North Georgia. We are going to receive 2-4 inches of rain, probably today. I hope driving to church later this afternoon is safe enough. We'll get winds, too, with some gusts that may down power lines or trees. The tropical air will make things sticky, humid, and warm. Sigh. Fall, please come!

I went to my favorite store Friday after school. Lamps, art, mirrors, and dish sets were 75% off. Can't resist. I need a new lamp and I am down to one bowl.

I found a great lamp for my living room. I LOVE my art glass lamp, but I've had it as the prominent living room lamp for 13 years. The lampshade was looking brown and the lamp itself was tottering, as the top where the bulb holder comes out was separated from the lamp itself. I bought a white lamp with a delicate pattern, for only $10.

My art glass lamp was brown and I liked how it picked up the glow of the wood from the bureau beneath it. However this white one brightens up the space with its eggshell appearance and actually it illuminates brightly. I think it is because the lampshade is whiter. The other one had turned pretty brown now that I look at it. Isn't it funny how you don't notice things in your home after a while. When you look at old items with new eyes you go, 'Whoa! I didn't realize how dingy this had become!'

I also bought a new shade for the reading lamp I have next to my reading chair. It's embroidered, and it also glows nicely when the light is on. The old shade had browned also.

Books were only $1 and I found a John Grisham novel I had somehow missed. I picked it up, started it on Friday and now I'm almost done. It's called The Broker, about a power player lobbyist-lawyer in Washington who was sent to jail, got pardoned 6 years later, and is now in Italy with a new identity and protection from the CIA. What the Broker doesn't know is that the CIA is going to leak his whereabouts to the many hordes that want The Broker dead, including the CIA, because he knows too much. Will The Broker clue in before it's too late? I don't know!. When Grisham is on his game you can't figure it out ahead.

I'll finish the book before church later, I hope. If I stop noodling around on the internet, that is. I also bought a thick paperback called The Terror. No it is not a spooky Halloween book, it's about a ship called The Terror and a failed Arctic expedition. The blurb says,
The Terror is a 2007 novel by American author Dan Simmons. It is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin's lost expedition of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to the Arctic, in 1845–1848, to force the Northwest Passage. Most of the characters featured in The Terror are actual members of Franklin's crew, whose unexplained disappearance has warranted a great deal of speculation.
Those explorer guys always seemed to get stuck in the ice pack! Amazingly brave, they did heroic feats and returned as heroes. However not all of them always returned. Some whole expeditions  did not return at all, and unlike the successive terrors that happened to Job where always one person "has escaped to tell you", this book proposes a story of what happened on a failed expedition where no one returned to tell the story of what occurred.

If I'm smart, I'll get the laundry ready and going before the rain hits. I'm blessed to have a washing machine and dryer, so I don't have to go to the laundromat anymore, but the units are in the detached garage. I should get moving with this chore before the rain and wind hit. So with that, arrivederci until next time!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

October already? Also, the County Fair

It's cool and fresh this morning, though the daytimes are still inexplicably in the 80s and even the 90s. My car thermometer read 100 one day this week. It had been sitting in a hot parking lot all day though. Still hot. The steering wheel was too hot to touch!

Anyway it feels good to feel the fresh breeze. I got up and baked this morning.

As is my routine, on Sunday mornings I cook and bake stuff for the week so that when I arrive home from work, I don't have to spend a lot of time preparing meals, but sit sit down and write and study. I love that our church begins at 3:00! I have the entire morning to awaken slowly, sip coffee, and cook and do these things that make my week go better.

 This morning I made 3-ingredient oatmeal 'cookies'-

Also, roasted chick peas, baked potatoes,  three pieces of fish, and gluten free strawberry muffins.

I have to go gluten free now. I knew it was coming, and I didn't want it to, but it came anyway. My mother has celiac disease and she's extremely, highly sensitive to gluten. Those who are in the inner circle of relationship of those with celiac, have a 1 in 22 chance of being gluten sensitive also. I had been feeling pretty terrible for months, but the symptoms were so disparate that I could not put my finger on what was the matter. Having avoided the obvious, a couple of weeks ago I had a low point of high pain, limited mobility, constant headaches. I decided the pain was not worth the bread. I sat down and dug in and found that all my symptoms, varied as they are, coincided with celiac.

I cut out all gluten for two weeks and I immediately felt better. Sigh.

So now I am re-orienting myself to a new mindset of cooking, shopping and living. Gluten free items are expensive, and I do miss making sandwiches. I'll figure it out eventually.

The gluten free flour was on sale so I picked it up and made the muffins. LOL, I didn't have blueberries so I substituted canned strawberries I had in the back of the cupboard, and I didn't have buttermilk so I substituted regular milk soured with vinegar. The substitutions didn't seem to harm the baking any. Next time I'll cut down on the amount of sugar. I don't like sweet muffins and there's always to much sugar in recipes for my taste. I'd already made enough swaps to interfere with the recipe so I didn't dare cut back on sugar this first time, but next time I will.

The county fair was in town and I haven't been since 2009. It's only two miles down the road so Saturday evening I went. They close at 4pm and re-open at 6, and I was there at the re-opening. The light was low and golden, the famed "Golden Hour" photographers love each morning and evening. Since I was there right at the beginning, there were not too many people and I got a lot of clear shots of the fairway. I can't seem to add a slideshow to Blogger posts so sorry for the many individual pics.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Luxe living on a budget

I have champagne tastes on a beer budget, as they say. I like the finer things, but can hardly afford expensive furniture, art, or food. So I improvise!

I have all that I need and more than I could want. But I still like the prettiness, craftsmanship, and feeling of fine materials. So what to do?

I seed my living space with luxe things. Instead of worrying about an entire living space filled with fine furnishings, art, or style items like throws & pillows, I seed it with a few good pieces here and there.

For example: I found this table at a yard sale for $2. It is hand-made and of a good wood. But there is a gaping hole in the top! It was obviously used to hold a bowl of some kind so a person could wash up. Unless the owner of the yard sale didn't have plumbing recently (unlikely) I surmised that the table was also old. But how to use with a hole in the top?

Elsewhere in the yard sale they were selling a thick and heavy polished marble slab as a cutting board for $2. Hmmm. I put it on top of the table, and voila!

Now it makes a nice end table in the living room-

Some years ago a friend made and gave me a Raku vase. Raku is a complicated and unique pottery method which results in the item having a patina that's rich and glossy, and changes over time. If I were to search for a similar kind of vase to buy they would cost between $75 to $150. Because it is a hand made and a unique item, I display it in the living room. There, I can enjoy it and also add to the seeds of luxury and fineness I'm building.

Below, one side of the Raku vase is glossy copper.

The other side is a muted gray.

I was shopping at a vintage estate sale store recently. Often you can find good items for a decent price there. When you shop at flea markets or tag sales or anywhere, if an item is on sale look at it and think about how to use it. Here is a hand painted tray for $2. Don't need a tray? How about using it for a frame, glue a mirror on it or a picture and hang it up? Here is a coat rack. Don't need a coat rack? How about using it for a towel hanger in the bathroom? Find some milk glass but don't need glassware? How about using them on your mantel with a votive candle inside?

I found this essential oil dispenser for $1. I don't use essential oils. Hmmm. I liked the item though. It was unique, priced well, heavy, and hand carved out of some kind of material that's probably soapstone. A similar one is selling for $20 or more online.

When you're shopping, look for things that are hand made, of an expensive or unique material, and/or priced well below what the market is bearing (or is what you can afford). I decided to use this as a pencil cup! I took the tape off, and if the hole on one side gets to be a problem with pencils or pens sliding out I'll just tape a small piece of cardboard inside and make sure that side faces the back.

If you can't buy a $1,000 leather couch, then put a couple of expensive leather pillows on it. Or a hand made quilt, or vintage throw of excellent quality. Luxe it up!

  • At tag sales, flea markets, consignment stores...look carefully at everything, Take your time. Half of finding good stuff is going slowly and carefully, the other half is thinking, as in the next tip-
  • Don't disregard an item just because you can't use it for its original purpose. You can re-purpose it with a little imagination. Think of what else it could become.
  • Look for things that are unique, hand made, and beautiful.
  • Place them around your living space so when your eye rests on various areas, you will see or handle fine things strews around artfully.
Here is a tour of my luxuriously thrifty, or frugally luxe, living room:

Below, an art glass lamp I found at the dump. (Back in the day, you could dump pick. Townspeople would place their "good things" in what came to be known as "The Good Pile"). I found the lampshade the next week. Cost: $0.

Below, a dead space into which I put a plant stand I'd found at the dump and used it to display a vintage camera I found at the second hand store. Cost $7.

Below, a vignette of my reading spot. When I'm not using my vintage lace curtain tie-back I put it around the lamp. An old coaster, and an old book complete the spot. Cost, $2.

Below, a coffee table tablescape. This could be prettier or more imaginative, but I like books, so that is what is on the table. Also, Murray uses the coffee table as part of his "Manic Moment" running around the apartment, so I won't place a tray with glass items or flowers on it. Here, a vintage antique magazine and a hardback book with an interesting cover are currently on display. Cost, 50 cents for the magazine, and $10 for the book.

Below, the couch with the aforementioned small end table with marble top. The table, buffet the lamp is on, lamps, chair, couch, and rugs are all second hand. End table cost, $4. Along the back of the couch is a vintage hand-crocheted throw my great-aunt made me 35 years ago. PS- Why is there tape on the couch and pillows all across? Cats.

Below, wall art and the Raku vase atop the heater. I found the photo of the Colosseum at a yard sale for $4, it is from the early 1900s. The piece of art on top I found at a consignment store for $10. It is a piece of wood with a photo reproduction of a classic piece of art. When looking at art, turn it over and find a signature or ID somewhere. In this case, a sticker affixed to the back said "Fratelli Alinari, Via Condotti, Roma." I knew fratelli meant brothers, and Via Condotti is Rome's most fashionable street. It's like saying Rodeo Drive, or Madison Avenue. The sticker looked old.

The advantage of thrift shopping for luxe items in this day and age is that you can google. If you have a phone you can google right then. I didn't but I knew the quality of the piece was good and the vintage sticker on the back was significant. I bought it and when I got home I got online and I discovered according to Wikipedia:
Fratelli Alinari is the world's oldest photographic firm, founded in Florence, Italy in 1852. Its archives contains 5.5 million photographs, ranging from daguerreotypes to modern digital photos from around the world.
Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert commissioned the Alinari brothers to reproduce Raphael's designs, according to the Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Cool. I have two Alinari pieces. Fratelli Alinari pieces are are not hugely expensive because they are not exceedingly rare, but are part of a photography history that I am pleased to be part of and display. And the pieces of art that are reproduced on the Alinari prints are beautiful.

A great throw, nice material like art glass and marble, unique art, and hand made pieces complete the seeds. So that's it! Lifestyles of the not so rich and totally obscure!

Monday, September 11, 2017


On 9/11/2001 I was a weekly newspaper publisher/editor. Passionate about America and free speech, right to assemble, etc.

Tuesdays were the big day putting the paper together. At 8:30 my graphic designer hollered to come to the TV in the front room. She never hollers.

The 1st plane had just hit the 1st tower. We looked at each other with wide eyes. What did it mean?

The second plane hit. We knew.

We watched it unfold in horrible living color, our guts hollow, our minds jumbled.

After a while, we went across the street to the hardware store and bought the biggest flag they had. Then went to the bank & withdrew $$.

While we were at the bank, the plane hit the ground in PA. Our world turned upside down. Was anywhere safe? Would it be, ever again?

No terrorist was going to stop me from putting out the paper. We plowed on. In tears.

The worst moment, when we realized that all the lined up hospital gurneys would never be filled. You either survived…or you didn’t.

Then the towers fell. Life changed forever.

I was unsaved. Was there a God? Why does this happen? Why such hate? 3 years later, I knew. Man’s depravity, our sin. God’s grace.

God's grace to save a worm such as I, and Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jews, Gentiles...all he appointed to life despite our depravity. GRACE.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Kinfolk Aesthetic: Hipster overkill? Bland Monotony? Pure Genius?

I finally clued in to the Kinfolk movement. This is a design aesthetic that has saturated and influenced interior design and photography for the last 7 years. It's spare, it's minimalist. It's full of lattes with creamy swirls, dreamy young women wearing calico, knit berets and bearded hipsters. If you see one photo of a Kinfolk aesthetic, you'll know immediately what I'm talking about. More on that in a minute.

But first, its history. Wikipedia:
Kinfolk was created by Nathan Williams, his wife Katie Searle-Williams and their friends Doug and Paige Bischoff in July 2011. Primarily a lifestyle magazine aimed at young professionals, it focuses on home, work, play, food and community through photo essays, recipes, interviews, profiles, personal stories and practical tips. The writers, photographers, designers and chefs who contribute to Kinfolk are drawn from a largely international pool of creative people, often featuring more than 50 individual contributors an issue.
They started the magazine in Portland, OR because it was easy and cheap to do so there. Now spanning several countries, annexes located in Copenhagen Denmark and translated into four languages, Kinfolk would seem to have a large circulation commensurate with their breadth and influence. But no. It currently has a circulation of about 86,000, which seems like a lot but then not so much when comparing to Architectural Digest, of 818,000.

Kinfolk aesthetic seems to inspire heated opinions on both sides. Some love it, some hate it, hence my title. Summer Allen writes in her article Wood, Citrus, Lattes, Feet, Twine, Repeat: The Kinfolk Kinspiracy Code:
Every account cultivating that Kinfolk look seemed to follow a specific formula. Every account had a photo (or several) of the following: A latte with a foam leaf design, a fresh piece or two of citrus, a glimpse of a pair of small feet—often in a well-worn pair of boots—an ice cream cone, weather permitting, some glasses here and there, twine, the occasional fixed-gear bike. 

Latte, usually on reclaimed wood but this one on blue tiles:

I like minimalist, vaguely Scandinavian design. In the 1960s when I grew up Scandinavian style and Danish were popular. Despite the neon colored psychedelic fonts and wild flowers you remember from concert posters, there was also a movement toward minimalism.

Kinfolk's trademark wildflowers artfully arranged to look casual on a spare table here is preceded by House Beautiful's 1962 kitchen.

A spare table setting in 1961 House Beautiful featuring interesting cutlery (Danish-inspired wood handles) with citrus is decades older than Kinfolk's arrangements.

From The Art Story
Minimalism emerged in New York in the early 1960s among artists who were self-consciously renouncing recent art they thought had become stale and academic. A wave of new influences and rediscovered styles led younger artists to question conventional boundaries between various media. The new art favored the cool over the "dramatic": their sculptures were frequently fabricated from industrial materials and emphasized anonymity over the expressive excess of Abstract Expressionism. Painters and sculptors avoided overt symbolism and emotional content, but instead called attention to the materiality of the works. By the end of the 1970s, Minimalism had triumphed in America and Europe through a combination of forces including museum curators, art dealers, and publications, plus new systems of private and government patronage. And members of a new movement, Post-Minimalism, were already challenging its authority and were thus a testament to how important Minimalism itself became.
Where art went, design and photography followed.

Minimalism was preceded by Mid-century modern which was preceded by Bauhaus ...Here is a cool guideand description of various design trends of the last century. There is nothing new under the sun.

So what makes Kinfolk so identifiable, so immediately arresting, so opinion-splitting? Why has Kinfolk and its imitators spurred a visual conformity rampant among photographers and bloggers? The IF:Gathering blog ladies' photos are obviously inspired by Kinfolk. Any blogger older that 20 and younger than 40 tends to the style. Perhaps the negative criticism is a backlash on the conformity and ubiquitousness of the design. Overdone, minimalism can tend to be bland. But with a good eye for composition, isn't it also beautiful? Kinfolk's photos are beautiful. And beauty is never overdone, it's never out of style. Rough wood is beautiful. Flowers are beautiful. Flannel and calico and other fabrics are beautiful. Serenity captured in photography is beautiful.

Perhaps they are a victim of their own success. The Magazine was launched just months after Instagram, and the two are blended into one seamless, long-lasting design trend. Still, the question remains,

Kinfolk: A Magazine for the Ages or a Passing Hipster Fad?

Kinfolk is perhaps one of the most divisive magazines on the market right now: while it obviously has a devoted fanbase who love it for its beautiful imagery and dedication to promoting a wholesome, aesthetically pleasing lifestyle, there are others who find it pretentious and smug, outraged that for all its emphasis on living a simple life, the magazine has no problem shilling pricy artisanal goods.
Architectural Digest was founded in 1920, almost 100 years ago. Kinfolk is a mere 6 years old. A bit too soon, methinks, to be mentioning a magazine for the ages. Not to mention Vogue, founded in 1892. Kinfolk has a ways to go. Meanwhile, all those farm food shots and reclaimed wood tablescapes are continuing to charm and delight, and outrage and offend others.

The real question is, have I been influenced by the particular minimalism Kinfolk presents? Or was I already ahead of the curve loving what is obviously beautiful anyway?

Dinghy, bike, logs, car...

Also these-

Oh, well, pretty is pretty!

What do you think of the Kinfolk phenomenon movement?

Saturday, September 02, 2017

A Bug Reaction

Yesterday after school I laid down for 20 minutes for a quick nap. The air was so fresh and the bed so inviting. I woke refreshed after some minutes and headed to the kitchen. On the way over I was scratching, I sat down with some spring water and scratched some more.

Now, my skin both inside and immune system inside is extremely sensitive. The skin at the wrist and elbow were raising up in huge red welts. It felt like a thousand fire ants were marching under my skin. Literal. Fire. In. My. Skin. Welts getting higher. And redder. SOMETHING BIT ME! This was the arm that laid on the bedspread. Oh no! Something bit me IN BED! This calls for immediate war.

I am so terrified of bed bugs (and any other bugs in my bed, like spiders) that after washing the wrist and elbow with sugar scrub I went to the bed and closely examined the bedspread, which is white. I saw nothing. I tore off the spread and examined the top sheet. Nothing there. I yanked off the top sheet and examined the bottom sheet. Nothing. I ripped off the bottom sheet and examined the mattress pad. Nothing. I pulled the mattress pad off and examined the mattress. Nothing. I lifted the mattress and looked at the box spring. Nothing. I got the flashlight and examined the seams. Nothing.
I gathered the bedding I’d torn off, went to the garage and put it immediately in the dryer to kill any bugs that had escaped my minute attention. Then I remade the bed. After a hot, frenzied hour. I sat down to my now warm spring water. I saw the bug.

It was a mosquito.

Well at least the sheets are changed.

#vividimagination #overreactionperhaps

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Books, books, books

I hid in books. I dived into the pages and swam the great slip-stream of adventure and fiction and space and anywhere-but-here. When the cover attracted and the spine cracked and the pages turned, I wasn't here but there. I was lost for hours, becoming The Poky Little Puppy or Harriet the Spy or The Hobbit. I journeyed to the Magical Forest or descended 20,000 Leagues under the Sea or rocketed to the Stars. I learned To Build a Fire and To Kill a Mockingbird in The Crucible for The Once and Future King. I drifted into a Secret Garden and hopped on Watership Down and took The Stand.

Books transported. Books fired the imagination. Books sparked emotions. When they ended, left me bereft. Until the next one. My library card was wrinkled and the Librarians knew me. The card catalog was my friend. The marble entry was cool and the quietness was soothing and the orderliness of an entire world of worlds was cataloged and organized.

Sad that adulthood brings the gorging to a slow trickle. Sad that aging eyes can't focus for as long as they used to. But the books are there. Riding history with Miss Jane Pittman or enjoying a Nantucket Sleigh Ride with Moby Dick or learning The Body Dynamic and seeing Hearts on Fire...books are still good, they are still there. And when they are there, I am not here.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Frugal Cooking: Inexpensive proteins

If you're like me, you struggle to stay within budget and maintain healthy fridge levels of fresh veggies, fruit, and proteins. Proteins especially are just so expensive. I'm talking about pork, steak, chicken, etc. We need a certain amount of protein each day in order to fuel our bodies appropriately, but buying enough to stay within financial limits is increasingly difficult as prices rise.

I live alone and this essay is aimed mostly at those who live alone or perhaps in a pair. I shop at Kroger. At Kroger, in almost every section, they have a small set-aside part where they put the marked down items. This is true for produce, cheese/cold deli, bakery, hot deli, flowers, gourmet/organic, and fish. One clerk told me that buyers like the marked down items and Kroger likes them because they hardly ever have to throw anything away. If you shop at a different store, I'd encourage you to search out if they also have a marked down/nearly expired section. If they don't, you could always ask them to start.

A while ago I discovered the fish section's marked down area. I do not eat meat, but I do enjoy fish. If anything, fish is even more expensive than meat! In the regular section of the fish cooler, Kroger has a pre-made ready for the grill skewer of medium to large shrimp. Five shrimp for $1. Five medium to large shrimp is a portion. I learned years ago that one protein portion should be about the size of your palm. Even more enjoyable, they are already de-veined. Ick, I hate deveining shrimp.

Here are my dinner proteins for the week:

The above represents 6 dinners this week with a fresh protein, for $5.50 total. Not bad, eh?! I try to stay under $40 for the week, and aim for $35, so $5.50 represents a good balance of the total budget.

Any time you can get a protein serving for a dollar or less it's frugal.

I'll likely cut the plain tilapia into nuggets and lightly fry them, the other half I'll cook as a filet and serve with a salad. The seasoned tilapia will halved and sauted. Inside the brown paper package are the two skewers of shrimp. I ate one last night in Pad Thai, which consists of rice noodles, pea pods, tofu, lemon juice and shrimp covered in a Pad Thai tamarind sauce. The other skewer I'll saute and serve with rice and veggies.

For the protein during the rest of my day, I'll have quinoa-oatmeal in the morning, and there's tofu, eggs, chia seeds, peanut butter, nuts, and other kinds of proteins I can combine, like beans and rice, cottage cheese with fruit, etc.

You might wonder how I'll keep the fish fresh for 6 days when the common advice is to use it up within three. Well, the first 3 days I'll cook it as the evening comes. On day 3 I'll cook the rest and then eat the cooked versions as the other 3 days go by.

Now you know why this works for a single person. You can't do the same frugal shopping with a family, buying one filet at a time! When shopping for a family there are different skills and tricks to employ so as to stay within budget.

Now, I can't be this lucky every week. Sometimes the sale sections are picked over by the time I get there. Other times, things are on sale that are still too expensive for me, like lobster. Sometimes there are good reductions in price on items I just don't like to eat. Frugality can be tiring because it demands a constant vigilance and planning ahead. But the results are worth it.

Bon appetit!