Saturday, 21 May 2016

Day 36

So yes.

I avoided blogging this past couple of weeks, because after my off-hand remarks last time about take-aways not be necessary... I succumbed and have eaten PLENTY of take-away food this past couple of weeks.

Honestly!  I have been hit with the stupidity brush.  I apologise.

Where am I at now with reduction plans.

Not great.  It's getting weird - and hard now - to find good options.  I think the living off starchy, flour-based foods hasn't been doing my health all that well, either.  In fact, just last week, I went to Coles for the first time in ages, and bought a good variety of veggies etc.  It cost me $78.44 AUD.  A ghastly and reprehensible amount for fresh food but seeing as others grow it and need a living, I shall have to wear it.  Eating properly isn't cheap.  No wonder people go for the processed stuff, really.

My pantry is still pretty full of stuff.  My fridge is also well-stocked, considering.

Freezer is slowly being whittled...only to have left-overs added back forthwith from a cook up.

I made some Italian Meatballs last week and two containers (with at least two serves in each), have gone into the freezer.

This game is like playing a pin-ball machine.  I keep wondering if there is ONE thing, that once used up, will make everything else null and void.  I reckon it's eggs, because I ran out and well...hence hitching a ride on the Takeaways van.  I couldn't think of things to cook that I had in my pantry/fridge  but which didn't involve using eggs.  It was pretty sad.

So here I am.  Wondering if I will ever get my pantry, fridge and freezer down to scant emptiness only to find myself in this collect, cook, containerize loop of never-ending foodstuffs.  Supplemented, no less, by my extravagant spend-thriffery on junk food.

I did make some lovely Vienna White loaf bread last week.  Turned out a treat and I only finished the loaf yesterday.  I might try that again this weekend!  I know I shouldn't because waistline... but Bread and I are homies from way back.  Better the friend you know...

I can't link to the above recipes btw, because they're from my cookbooks.  I should probably cite them... but it's time for lunch.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Day 16. May 1st 2016

This is the apple pie I made using the big giant bag of Red Delicious apples I scored from the work fridge a week ago.  I still have some apples left and must figure out another cooking option for them.

There was a punnet of blueberries in the fridge, and I threw this in at the last minute, too. [Translation for Northern Hemisphere English speakers - a 'punnet' is the small container in which berries and other small fruits are often sold].

The pie is delightful, if very rich and sweet.  I made a rich shortcrust pastry, which was very difficult to work with as it kept breaking.  In truth, I don't think the base of the pie has baked adequately enough, but there was so much liquid in the filling when I cut into it (just after snapping the photo above), that nothing can be done about that for now.  I will need to experiment on the shortcrust shells to improve the quality.  Plenty of time for that.

This pie is ginormous and even though I have had two servings for lunch, no less (dessert for lunch is highly recommended but for rare occasions only), it's going to last days!  I may take some to work this week as my colleagues are being most helpful with my cook n' eat pantry declutter program.  :)

I spent a huge amount of groceries this past week.  That sucked.  Admittedly, most of it was food for the cat, but I also bought wine and cheese.  WHY did I buy cheese?  I have no idea other than I get quite panicked when i start getting low on cheese in my fridge.  It's almost an instinctual response to make sure I have "enough" cheese in the house.  There's this job being advertised in the USA for a Cheese Librarian!  I probably should apply, eh?  My cooking world does tend to revolve around the use of cheese in many recipes I select.  I never knew this about myself before I started this journey.  Fascinating.

Since the family have gone, I've been buying just the small 500ml cartons of fresh milk, but have found I am not even going through this much and it's languishing for too long past the use by date.  I have since bought some tiny UHT long-life milks to store in the pantry for the occasions when I need milk.  Even then, I realised after I'd bought them, that I had a bag of skim milk powder left in the pantry.  I've been using this for muffins but didn't even consider that milk powder, when mixed with water, makes....milk!  D'oh!  Stupidity runs supreme with my stock control skills.

My friend gave me leftovers from one of her meals last week, too.  We were commenting about how important it is for single people to get together and share their meals!  It's a practice that should be encouraged.  I know lots of singles like to go "out" to eat together, but the practice of sharing a basic homemade meal with other single friends (and couples too, where possible), really does develop community, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of "family."   Important, yes? I think so.  Aside from the fact that so many recipes are built to cater for 4 or more generous servings, food waste is a significant consideration in all of this too.  If one can't face more than 2 or 3 servings over the period of a few days, then sharing the burden, brings variety without waste into the diet.  Good stuff.  If you're single, invite your friends over for dinner when you're cooking - if convenient.

So where am I up to.  I have some mini frittatas I made yesterday still left over in the fridge.  I stupidly used cupcake papers in the muffin tins for these and now the paper has sort of melded into the frittata and takes some peeling off.  Won't be sharing these.  I can still eat them, but they're a bit of a pain at present as the paper peeling takes some care to do properly.

My freezer is still stuffed.  Oh! And I bought ice cream.  Le sigh.  It IS Magnum ice tubs...and it's chocolate... and it's ice cream.... can I justify this anymore than necessary?  It's ICE CREAM PEOPLE!  A life staple.

I have really only used up a small container of cooked curry this week from the freezer.  I have some copha in there that I'm thinking I might get out and make chocolate crackles with.  I have this huge box of rice bubbles in the pantry that I just won't eat otherwise.  Besides, chocolate crackles are always a crowd pleaser - especially if the crowd are aged 10 and under.  These might be a nice gesture for the neighbour's kids.  :)

So apart from the shameful spend at the NQR this week (for which I really want to blame my gluttonous cat); one in which I went outside of my weekly spend goal by way, way too much (I bought a LOT of butter!), and in which I bought wine and cheese in bulk... I'm tracking slower than anticipated.  And, as I'm eager to confess my grocery-purchasing sins today, I also had a bit of a buy up at Darriwill Farm in Hamilton.  They had some ridgy-didge Italian quality pizza flour (a strong bread-making flour) on sale and they sell Bagdad Dressing.  Yes! I'm blushing with the hypocrisy.  A pox on my grand intentions and all that.

I'm wondering if I need a different strategy?  I thought I'd be tackling freezer next after fridge, but the fridge is a mutable object,  it empties, fills, empties, fills and even though I have things in there I do need to use - and soon (I'm looking at you bottle of Fish Sauce and bottle of Sambal Oeleck!), I think I need to use pantry items simultaneously with both fridge and freezer in combination.

So perhaps I might have a bit of a look at Asian cuisine this next few weeks, because this will help with the above ingredient use and help use up the bags of rice I've accumulated...somehow!

I can't even think about junk food these days.  Interestingly, my passionate cause to control my personal food waste habits has totally nixed my love of KFC and Subway.  The thought of eating take away feels....wasteful at present.  I'm sure it won't always be like this, but for now, the thought of paying extra for food I've not made myself, is, well, kind of appalling.  That is an unexpected twist.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Day 10

Excuse me while I rail against the vicissitudes of all things gastronomic.

I am gaining too much weight again.  Way too quickly.

My spending on groceries has been culled to a very dull roar each week.  Even though I'm only 10 days in, I've spent less than $25 in two weeks on actual groceries.  There have been a couple of take out and restaurant/cafe meals in this past fortnight though too.  I'm not counting those as "groceries."

But my girth is not thanking me for my frenetic purge of the FFP (Fridge, Freezer, Pantry).  I am missing fresh food something fierce!  I crave salad ingredients, like tomatoes and greens.  So... this is telling me, I need to slow down a bit.  Yes! I still need to purge and declutter my FFP without re-stocking at the mad family rates I used to.  I still need to get it all under control.  It's important to me to get to a point where each component is a tool, rather than a catch-all for "stuff" These three things need to be actively assisting me to lose weight in a sustainable and healthy way; and creatively, at that!   I need to get back to really basic real food eating.  My mantra of late has been

"Eat food: not too much, mostly plants" (Michael Pollan

It means real food, with complex nutrient chains and nothing really very artificial.  Stuff that grows from the ground or lives from stuff from the ground!  That's pretty much the kind of diet I grew up with, meat n' 3x vege!  Simple, basic, nutritional.  No artifice.  No panic about fats or sugar.  Just real food.

I guess this doesn't mean making stuff like this, just to use up "stuff"?  (Although I quite likely will, but will have to give this sort of stuff away at work or something where other people can help me eat it).

Okay, so now I need to readjust my vision for this journey.  It is likely going to take me quite a bit longer than I wanted to get the FFP under control.  It may be that I will have to get a whole lot better at meal planning and identifying what can be used in any given menu.

Example:  My arancini turned out okay (if a bit bland, which was a shock as I thought I had spiced & seasoned them up pretty well) but I still have two left in the fridge and I just can't freeze them.  I will have one for dinner tonight but the other one?  It's a bit long in the tooth (too old) now, so I am thinking I may have to actually throw it away after all.  This sort of thing bums me out so much.  I really want to avoid *wasting* food.

I think I need a worm farm!  Even so, because that last arancini has meat in it, it may need to go in the actual rubbish instead.  Poo bum. Not Happy Jan!

So this also tells me, that I need to select recipes with care.  Four servings is probably more than enough of any given recipe.  Making recipes that feed more people than that adds considerable resource/cost ratio for freezer and/or landfill for one person.  Not sustainable at all! The idea is that I don't want to be constantly adding to my freezer just because I have too much and cook too often.  

It's all turning into a right old Goldilocks problem.  How to get the ratio just right at any point in the FFP triangle, so that it doesn't overwhelm my culinary and gastronomic interests or ability to keep control - of the money, the girth and the food clutter?

Goodness! This is so much more complicated than I ever realised.   I am going to go get some salad vege for dinner.  The last TWO arancini may wind up as landfill at this point.  Let me muse on the tragedy of that.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Day 9

Well, I've started to pull some things from the freezer today.

I have about a cup of frozen left over cooked Moroccan Chicken that I used for B'Stilla's a few weeks ago (and yes! I even made the ras el hanout spice mix and need to use the rest of that, too! Aromatic deliciousness).

And I've always wanted to try Arancini.  I don't have a deep fryer (I really want one of these!) so will opt for an oven bake version.  The question of what rice to use in place of calasparra rice, as this isn't easily bought in my town?  I think I'll just use a short-grain rice - perhaps even the Japanese sushi rice of which I have a couple of cups left in the pantry.  This recipe will turn into a bit of a mashup by the looks.  It will certainly be an experiment.  I want to maximise the Moroccan flavours in the pre-cooked chicken mixture by punching it out with a citrus palate.  Dry white wine, chicken stock with some lemon and lime zest and juice and perhaps some cumin and sumac are potential suspects.  I have tri-colour capsicums (bell peppers for the Northern Hemisphere folk) to use up and will chop these quite fine. AND to make things really complicated, I have a miniscule amount of canned beetroot still left in a glass container in the fridge that should be used by hook or by crook.  I'll drain the little pieces and chop these up to get tossed into the ragu too.  In fact, instead of wine, the beet juice might be just as effective but will have a bit more of a think about that because...colour!

Inside the Arancini? Well, I have this jar of baby bell peppers stuffed with cream cheese unopened in my fridge!  I am going to drain these and use them as the surprise ingredient inside the rice/chicken ragu mix.  There is also an opened jar of Mango Chutney and this might be fantastic to serve them with!  Hmmmmm?  It all sounds pretty great in theory.  Proof will be the bite test. Fingers crossed!

Looking through recipe books to use what I have is becoming time-consuming and is coming to the fore because I can look up recipes by key ingredient, which is helping enormously.  I will likely have to shop for some very basic fresh ingredients this week as I am always missing at least one or two staple ingredients from the lists. Frustrating and then some. Cakes a'plenty could be baked but one can't live on cake as much as one might like to.

The lack of fresh vege lately is starting to wear thin.  I have *plenty* of carrots and a big bag of apples.  Things to do with those are a must.  The carrots are likely to be dressed with various spice concoctions and roasted to accompany meals.  I may also make a carrot cake once I have that promised ANZAC cheesecake out the way.   I also plan on making an apple pie (with the blueberries thrown in, maybe - because they're still waiting in the fridge for some cooking love).

It was impossible to foresee just how challenging this project would be - even in this first 9 days.  Eating my way out of my fridge has been at the forefront of the task.  But now, I have to do something to "fill" my fridge (within acceptable limits of use) with certain things that will get me through the freezer phase.  The aim is to whittle down my freezer to near bare. This way, I can begin the process of restocking it with things cooked and baked in the pantry de-clutter phase.  As a person living alone, a freezer is handy for those times when going shopping is a chore and there's no money in the kitty for eating out or pizza delivery!  I need to figure out what sort of useable things are required staples in the freezer.  Much of the time, the freezer just gets filled up with lots of leftovers from cooking binges.  That's great, but if one forgets to access these left-overs in a reasonable time frame, the food can end up tossed anyway because of freezer-burn, lack of flavour, and general disgusting'ness.  A good freezer, I think, should be a workhorse offering staple ingredients and convenience home-made meals every week.  It will be a bit of a long term research project to see what I genuinely need in my freezer that can work to my gastronomic pleasure and advantage.

There is overlap of course, between fridge, freezer and pantry in that things from each do get used but I've been thinking linear so far, by whittling down fridge first, then freezer and then to really bust the pantry into submission. Innovation is having to come into play; hence, the experimental Arancini idea.  The thing is of course, is that once the Arancini are made I won't be able to freeze those, so I am hoping I can give some away to friends - as long as they taste good.  I'll be really bummed if this gets the bin treatment *pout.*   I may have to prepare myself for this eventuality, though.  It's an experiment in downsizing and not every experiment is required to succeed first time.

It's Day 9.  I'm impressed that so far, I've only needed to spend just over $20 on food.  In truth, I've also scored some "freebies" along the way to supplement the experiment, but even so, this is a vast improvement on my decades of unmindful spending on "groceries" every week.  I don't think I've spent $20 on Groceries for an entire two weeks since I was in my early 20's (when one lived on potato chips and booze, ya know? *roll eyes*).


Saturday, 23 April 2016

Day 8 23rd April 2016

Well! I finally had to succumb to a grocery shop yesterday.  Admittedly, it was for toiletries and some items for my Mum but I bought cream, extra cream cheese (my workmate already bought me some specifically to use in that ANZAC Cheesecake recipe), vanilla essence (the good quality stuff), some eggs.

The eggs were *really* expensive.   BUT... and it's a big but, I don't actually mind this time.  I downloaded the Choice Australia's CluckAR app, which helps consumers find eggs that are from genuinely free-range chook farms.  The best ratio is 1500 chooks per hectare, but lots of supermarkets promote free-range on farms that squish way over 10,000 chooks per hectare!  Hardly a happy Henrietta farm there, right?  There's a fair bit of dodgy economic sleight-of-hand going on in the supermarket industry so apps like CluckAR will give consumers information to make the right choices.  The pic I took below, is of my app in action :)   These eggs got a 7sqm per hen (see the row of numbers at the bottom of the pic?) and a "Happy Henrietta" thumbs up. $6.30 for a dozen in Coles.

I realise paying premium for eggs for those on limited incomes is like asking the poor to "just eat cake" but if you're cutting your grocery collecting way down, spending only on what you actually need - as opposed to filling the trolley with "stuff" you "might want or need someday" - the costs will be mitigated significantly.  Am I right?  I am right.  *nods emphatically*

So anyway, I bought some  "Down on the Farm" brand free-range eggs from Coles at premium and couldn't be happier about it.  I am forthwith a super free-range egg snob.  Booyah!

I also bought some fresh ginger because my throat was feeling really quite scratchy and because most of my workplace are all suffering the dreaded change-of-season lurgy lately, I am a bit paranoid.  I have heaps of honey and lemons and some garlic and now ginger, so I'm going to make a "brew" for sipping to ward off the evil demon cold.  Consider the ginger medicinal!

All up the food component of my shopping jaunt was $20.31.  Everything was pretty up there price-wise but I'm still happy that I only bought what I genuinely thought I needed (well...the ginger is a stretch, but medicinal, remember?).  Incidentally, has anyone else noticed how natural vanilla essence is becoming akin to buying good saffron, these days?  My gosh that stuff has gone up in price lately.  I refuse to use the imitation stuff though, might as well pour neat ethanol into cakes for what that's worth.  I might look at making my own vanilla essence but the vanilla beans are just as expensive so may not be worth the hassle... then again....

In other Frugrrl news, I gave away one of my quiches from last week to my Dad to eat.  I had to explain it as an "Egg & Bacon Pie" because "Quiche" wasn't in his Farmer-Dude-Without-A-Cooking-Clue vocabulary.  I'm not sure how it went over, but will find out over the weekend.  I have frozen down a piece of the other quiche as I can't face anymore of it.  A week of quiche for lunch has been convenient but wearing on the soul after 4 days!

Speaking of freezer.  Mine is FULL!  I have been so diligent in freezing down the left-overs of my fridge purge that I literally can't fit much else in!  I am going to re-pack it this weekend and get a feel for what needs using stat.  I will need to start planning to eat out of it very soon.  I do know, I shall not want for bread for quite some time (that focaccia I made last weekend, split into at least 10 serves! Phew!).

I still have things in the fridge which need using.  I have a bottle of fish sauce going begging and some capsicums asking for some cooking love.  Perhaps I need to "invent" something a little bit Asian'ish to use the capsicums, onions, fish sauce and all the lemons I seem to have acquired recently.

OH... and I scored a big bag of apples from the work fridge so am thinking of making an apple pie!

I have a lot to do this weekend.  Apart from the cooking and a freezer audit, I need to get cracking on some assignments for uni studies.  Thank goodness it's a Long Weekend in Australia.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Day 5

Yesterday wasn't one of those eat-at-home days.  Well, I sort of did in that I ate some of the BBQ chicken in my fridge for lunch.  I went to the movies after work (Saw Allegiant and it was very good!), so had some dim sims and fried rice on the run.

Today after work, I had an Engineer come and inspect the cracking and dropped floor in my kitchen.  Turns out it's too dry in my part of the world and the big old gum tree in the back yard may have to go.  I knew it would be a potential liability so I don't really think I'll be overly sorry to see it go other than it's been cute to watch some of the birds take nest in it occasionally.  But gums are a hazard in towns.  They drop their limbs willynilly and they're gigantic water sinks so this one has been pulling all the water away from my foundations making everything settle rather unevenly.  It's going to be expensive to fix.

So when a girl is down, a girl makes quiche.

I had that leftover BBQ chicken which needed using stat.  I also have some mozarella cheese and some not-quite-as-fresh-anymore farm eggs that I figured best be used pretty soon too.  I had cream fast going out of code as well as some capsicums.  

I make my own shortcrust pastry these days because FOOD PROCESSOR (Seriously? If you don't have one of these puppies...get one!  Worth every single dollar spent.  While the Engineer beeped his red dot thingy around my house, I made the pastry.  When he left, I mixed all the ingredients together and after blind baking the pastry shell for a few minutes, put it all in then into the moderate oven for just on 35 minutes.  It's a pretty big quiche! That's it in the image up there at the top!

I had some for dinner.  It's actually a bit bland even though I added some fresh garlic.  I think that's the mozarella cheese doing that.  I probably should have added some cumin and coriander to punch up the flavours.  It's still very edible though and will grace my freezer once cold in nice meal-sized portions.

The second quiche is smaller.  I made this into one of my favourites, which is a caramelised red onion, bacon and camembert quiche.  I added fresh spinach leaves at the bottom of the mixture with this one.

 There is a handful of fried bacon bits left over and I am considering having those with a baked potato tomorrow evening to use up the rest of the mozarella and also the Tzatziki dip I made to use up my cucumber, fresh dill and greek yoghurt.

My fridge is sort of bare.  I still have some soup left from the other day and I will need to freeze that down in portions tonight.  Once I get to the point where there's really not a lot I can make from what's in my fridge, I'll start defrosting and using things from my freezer.

Desperately missing ice cream though.  I wish I had some now.  Methinks it will have to be a hot chocolate and some marshmallows instead.  I *did* have a Sweet Sherry nip earlier, which was very nice I must say.  Might do that a little more often as an apertif.  I should use some of it in a boiled fruitcake!!!  Hmmmm, now there's an idea.  I have dried cranberries and sultanas and even fruit and nut mix and some brandy so that could actually be a good idea for the weekend.  I'm not sure if I still have a pudding bowl anymore, though?  I can't remember where it is if I do have one.

So even though I feel really bummed about my cranky house playing "Let's play slide towards the tree!", one can't lose too much sleep because one is still clean, dry and very well fed, even though it's been almost 8 days since I bought groceries!

You gotta love that.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Day 3 April 18 2016

So I *still* haven't frozen down that left over Chow Mein and today is it.  Have to to freeze it or eat it.  There's too much for one sitting, so freeze it will have to be or it has to be tossed and that's RIDICULOUSLY WASTEFUL!

My Veggie stock, I so diligently made yesterday, turned out crap.  I think it spent too long in the slow cooker.  Plus, the whole no salt thing sucks. Really needed some Herbamare from the start!  I turned the stock into potato and leek soup  [pictured] and added a piece of chilli I have in the fridge.  It's not too bad now, but really spicey!  Will take some getting through that too, there's over a litre of the stuff.

All those veggies will be doing their thang, so all good.  :)

And how good are Grocery Clearance Stores?  I went to our local NQR after work and managed to only buy tucker for the cat and some body butter for me!  Seriously!  It was a rocking AUD$24 all up.  More to the point, even though I went through the big giant cool room sussing out the cheeses, yogurts and dairy deliciousness...and saw great huge giant slabs of garlic and chives or almond fruit cheeses...I didn't buy any!  Go me!

Tonight's fare will be a bowl of soup and I think I will make a toasted sandwich with some of the chow mein.

I desperately need to use up some Mount Zero Black Olives too.  I have done this thing for awhile now, where when I open a jar of something, I write the opening date on the label with a Sharpie pen.  Then I write the number of days it must be used within in a circle underneath that.  So my jar of beautiful locally-grown black olives were opened on the 26/3 and need to be used within 30 days.  That window draws near!  Black olives will need to be eaten this week.   I am planning on making a focaccia so this could be the perfect opportunity to use up some of my vine-grown tomatoes and the olives I reckon.  I think I'll go get some yeast out of the fridge to warm to room temperature in preparation!

I used up all my white SR flour making some cheese scones yesterday too.  I have plenty of wholemeal SR and some plain.  Quite frankly, I need to get over the concept of buying SR flour as it is very easily made by sifting plain flour a few times over with baking powder and bi-carb soda.  It should be a no-brainer but of course, I have gotten sucked in by the convenience of it.  I will try to start a practice of just purchasing plain flour and sifting it to SR as I need it.

Munch on!  (I had a thought yesterday, that I probably should have named this blog "The Very Hungry Caterpillar's Overstuffed Pantry"  but honestly, the fact that no one has yet used the word "Frugrrl" in anything online (they must have, surely?)...I have soldiered on. :D