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

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Day 2 continued

*Wails loudly*

I don't have any Triple Choc Mudcake Icecream left!


Really dangerous stuff but even so... delicious in the extreme.  It's the one from Aldi Supermarkets - brand Monarc "Indulge" and indulge I certainly did!  Straight out of the box.  Something I would have seriously frowned upon if it had been my kids back in the day...but now that I'm on my own, it's saving water by not needing a bowl to wash.

I don't actually need it but seriously, if I find this puppy on "sale" anytime soon, it's going to take an extreme amount of willpower not to include it in the needs-only shopping list.

I will just have to make something sweetie to assuage the ice cream dream.

Day 2: April 17 2016

This morning I wondered what the heck I was going to do with the veggies languishing in my crisper. The idea of it being a "crisper" is a complete misnomer, as they generally shrivel into soggy, festering, fur-growing semblages of their former selves. Poor veggies!

So anyway, I decided I could make some veggie stock.

Now two days ago, before I had this whim of an idea about eating my way through my pantry and food stocks - as opposed to just spending squillions on "groceries" I don't actually need every week, I happened to buy a swede and a parsnip. I had no real proper idea other than at the time I think "I might make soup" on my mind. A fleeting justification but which triggered the purchase anyway. 

Ergo... there is now a big old batch of veggie stock in the slow cooker which will take a few hours to mellow out. I'll freeze it into containers for future use.

The idea around this challenge is starting to get me excited. I'm eager to see just *how* creative one can be as the pantry begins to diminish in scope and scale. Before I really even get to all the cans and packets of things in said pantry, I do need to consider how to get my freezer into a useable state. It's quite cluttered at present and I have plenty of stuff in there that needs to be eaten - some of it soon, if one were following good food storage practices (I never have!). I have the left over Chow Mein I cooked last Wednesday in the fridge and while I probably *should* have another serve of it today (I was supposed to last night, but couldn't face it and ate a bowl of ramen noodles instead! At least there's none of those left in my pantry now!). I think I'll freeze another serve of the chow mein and have the rest for dinner on some toast.

I've frozen down my packet of wholemeal bread slices into bags of 4 slices a piece. It means I don't really need to be buying bread. Besides, I want to practice making my own. I am thinking foccacia might be an option!

I bought a massive - I mean massive - bottle of canola oil in that shopping jaunt the other day! Heaven knows why? I mean, chances are, it's the worst possible oil one could buy but - oh well - once its gone, back to good quality olive oil I will go. At least I know I can always make some dog biscuits for my friend's doggie! He quite seemed to enjoy them.

So as I was saying, the aim of this exercise is to totally reduce what I already have available down to a manageable and sensible amount of pantry goods and fridge/freezer capacities. I'm living on my own, so all this overstuffed consumerist greed is a sign of needing to do something! I will aim to limit grocery spending on food for home (this won't apply to my two lunches a week that I choose to buy should I want to), to about $10-$15 a week tops. I should only need to get the barest minimum essentials required to ensure I can actually use what I have here at home in a recipe or meal. It might be a packet of mince, or a chop, or a tomato, carrot or peach... just whatever it is that I genuinely need to make a food preparation work. I will try to invent, extrapolate on recipes and so on where I can. I'm not a particularly imaginative cook, and much prefer flexing written recipes where possible but this will be good training I think.

I'm a bit excited by the prospect of this challenge. It's quite different to any kind of challenge I've done before (and never completed). There's no guarantee that I can finish this one (I've given myself a tick sheet of 70 days!)

Day 1: April 16 2016

So I have put it out "there" on my personal Facebook how I need to get real with all this food in my house. I have a fridge, a freezer and a pantry full of things to eat and if I don't get onto a solid cook and chowdown, it's just going to go off. I spent money and time getting it there... time to make it work for me. So. I am going to attempt to not buy groceries except for the absolute bare minimum essentials that will crop up from time to time. I will endeavour to cook, create, and eat my way out of the foodstuff clutter I've gotten myself into. Heaven knows, but my finances could use some easing up so this should help. If I can limit the grocery spend to under $10 for essentials no more than once or twice a week tops, that would be a great outcome. Day 1 and I've had an eggs and cheese toasted sandwich for breakfast. I have an Asian Salad kit I'm going to go for, for lunch and tonight, is yet more rice and left-over Chow Mein I made in the pressure cooker the other night. I've already put some of it in the freezer, but I'm thinking that another batch may have to go in there. I've eaten 4 servings of chow mein since Wednesday, so that's it for that one for now.