Saturday, July 29, 2006

Just When I Thought I Had it All Figured Out

I discover today I've been drinking caffeinated coffee. All day long. Every day. For two weeks.

It's all falling into place. No wonder I haven't been getting to bed until 1am.

And then haven't been sleeping. Thank goodness I weaned our daughter a few weeks ago.

Damn the Target for carrying a brand I'd never seen in a huge size at a great price. Behold:


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Update from the Kitchen

One houseguest, third birthday party, husband's protracted business trip, major power outage, and tree explosion later, I'm back. I've made about three grocery runs since last we talked, including one to replace stuff I had to throw out when the fridge got too warm for comfort. I will tally the results of those visits in a day or two.

We're still doing a good job of living out of the pantry and freezer, though, with the addition of produce and dairy. I have been taking advantage of some loss leaders at the Superfresh to restock (e.g., butter and cheese to freeze, Snapple for D's lunches, canned olives, tuna).

Just a few notes:
  • Potatoes baked in the microwave (russet and sweet) really don't taste any different to me than those cooked for an hour in a hot oven. The "experts" always complain that the texture of oven-baked is so much more delightfully fluffy. I've never oven-baked a fluffy potato in my life, and I've tried every recommended method I've come across. What I like most about baked potatoes--the potato taste, the salt, and the butter--can be had from four minutes in the micro. (Be sure to poke it with a fork a few times unless you like cleaning baked-on potato crud from the walls of your oven.

  • My salad days are a-changing. I have very few lettuce plants still producing, but the tomatoes and cucumbers are just now getting started. I should be letting go of salad greens and moving on to marinated and fresh vegetable salads at this point. However, I purchased some Romaine today for $1.99/lb, and probably shouldn't have. I have a taste for Salade Nicoise and couldn't resist. I didn't have time to make it tonight, so we had a Caesar salad instead, but I'll do the whole Nicoise shmear tomorrow.

  • My 16mo daughter likes Romaine lettuce with Caesar dressing. Very strange indeed. She likes it so much she learned to say "salad" after just one bite.

  • It's a monetary blessing that my grocery store is out of pine nuts. As I am burdened with a ton of fresh basil (poor me), I will give walnuts a try for my pesto. I already have some in the freezer, and this recipe looks darn good. I'm also going to throw caution to the wind and use the trusty green can of Kraft grated Parmesan that's on my shelf rather than spring for pricey chunks of Parmesan and Romano.
  • Sunday, July 16, 2006

    Skinflintstones, Day 7

    One week is behind us. How'd we do?

    Running Total: $63

    Shopping Today: Had to get basic menu prep stuff for our lovely meals for the houseguest this weekend, plus party food for my son's third birthday tomorrow. At Target, I spent $9, with sales and coupons, on two boxes Cheerios, two boxes Post Honey Bunches of O's, and two boxes of MSF "sausage" and chik patties. At Superfresh, I splurged a bit for our dinner tonight, plus I did some stocking up on sale items: French bread, two loaves of sandwich bread, Hamburger buns, potato chips, frozen peas, feta, sour cream, sushi, gal of whole milk ($3.89--$.50 more than the other grocery store!), and marinated artichoke hearts, all for $25.

  • breakfast: cereal, bananas, milk, juice
  • lunch: leftovers, sandwich, milk
  • dinner: Greek pasta, grilled salmon burgers, fish sticks, milk, white wine, salad w/cucumber, tomato, and avocado
  • dessert: ice cream sandwiches

  • Thoughts:
    tomorrow I need to get a fruit platter ($$) and lemonade along with the Thomas the Tank Engine cake from the Shopright. If I had a few spare moments, I could buy whole fruit from the orchard and cut it myself (although I will add their fresh peaches to the platter). I just don't have the dang time!! That is often the trade-off, no? How much is YOUR time worth?

    Friday, July 14, 2006

    Skinflintstones, Day 6

    Getting tired of this yet?

    Running Total: $29

    Purchased Today: Went to Highland Orchards and picked up some produce. Broccoli crowns, $1.89/lb; white peaches, $1.89/lb; blueberries, $2.99/qu; lovely canteloupe, $1.49. Total was $13. (I always round to the nearest dollar for my totals.) Produce there is almost always cheaper than at the corporate supermarket (Superfresh). And even when it's not, I have no qualms about supporting my long-standing neighborhood farmers over the conglomerate who sells produce from who-knows-where.

  • breakfast: cereal, soy/milk, NutriGrain bars, bananas
  • lunch: sandwiches, leftovers, apple, pudding
  • snack: graham crackers, milk, apple juice
  • dinner: lasagna, bread, broccoli, canteloupe, red wine, milk
  • dessert: blueberry cobbler, ice cream, ice cream sandwich

  • Thoughts:
    Didn't have time to go to the grocery store today, just the orchard. I plan to go to the Superfresh and the Target tomorrow to get some food for our meals and for the birthday party Sunday. I'd love to visit Trader Joe's, but I know I will spend money on things we don't need. Their stuff is reasonably priced, but most of what I buy from them are luxury items.

    Skinflintstones, Day 5

    Running total: $16

    Shopping: Had to get a few things at the Superfresh, so I stocked up a tiny bit for the month by shopping the loss leaders. Purchased tomatoes for $.99/lb, loose garlic, 18 eggs for $1.50, 2 boxes Kraft Mac&Cheeses for $.60/box, 2 boxes of store-brand round waffles (froz) for $1/box, and a bag of pretzels for $2. Grand total of $8. I thought I did pretty well.

  • breakfast: cereal, fruit cocktail, juice, milk, soymilk, banana
  • lunch: MSF garden veggie patties and buns, sandwiches, applesauce, fruit cocktail, juice, milk
  • dinner: cheese tortellini Alfredo w/mushrooms, green beans, salad w/tomato, rolls, mac&cheese
  • dessert: banana, waffles and syrup

  • Thoughts:
    Two important things in terms of expenditures this month: a) my brother-in-law arrives tomorrow for three days, and b) my son's third birthday is Sunday, for which we are having a party for approx. 15 people. I've decided that I will put his birthday groceries into the month's tally, but not his cake ($19). The big shopping trip will be tomorrow. I will not skimp on my guests, but I will try to find good food at the best prices. Wish me luck.

    Wednesday, July 12, 2006

    Skinflintstones, Day 4

    Running Total: $8

    Out of garlic and eggs. Making lasagna for our houseguest (one of D's older brothers) Friday night, so these are necessary very soon. Plus, I imagine we'll be using eggs for breakfast while he's here.

  • breakfast: milk, cereal, Nutrigrain bar, soymilk, bananas, English muffins
  • lunch: sandwiches, apples, fruit cocktail, frozen pizza, milk
  • snacks: graham crackers and milk
  • dinner: breakfast! scrambled cheese eggs, English muffins and jam, MSF sausages, more fruit cocktail, apple juice
  • dessert: honey roasted peanuts

  • Thoughts:
    Alphabeter reminded me that if I didn't have these two toddling tornadoes, I would have time to make my own things more cheaply from scratch. Those were the days...

    Lands' End of the Road

    I am embarrassingly fond of Lands' End. Am in fact wearing a pair of their jeans; I own at least three, probably four. Maybe half my casual wardrobe and much of my work wardrobe bear their label. I've bought from them for about twenty years, until two hours ago, when I was pretty dissappointed to see this inside the latest LE Kids Catalog (in fold-out card form):
    The Lands' End "Squish-a-Bug" shoe-size chart.

    Can someone explain how a company that has such a wonderful, classic, outdoorsy, level-headed reputation decides to promote kids killing bugs for fun?? Yeah, sure, it's a joke. But it's senseless, you know? It reads, in part, "Go on kids, squish the bug!" hahahaha. just closed the wallet.

    I also just sent them an email detailing my disappointment. I'll let you know if they write back. And hey, if you're disappointed too, it wouldn't hurt to let them know.

    Go to their customer service form and write your comments. When you click on submit, if you have my experience, you will get an error screen. Sadly, another strike. You'll know in a few minutes, though, if they've received it, because they will write you back with a tracking number. I sent multiple forms of the same comments because I thought it was not going through due to the error screen. But they received at least two of these, come to find out. Oh well, I guess they'll see how much this "bugged" me. Roll those eyes, people.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Skinflintstones, Day 3

    Running Total: $8

  • breakfast: cereal, bananas, milk/soymilk
  • lunches: sandwiches, leftover "Mexican lasagna," leftover vegetables, scrambled cheese eggs, English muffin, milk, applesauce, apple, snack pack pudding (lunch items look ridiculous all together, but I send D to work with a packed lunch that is very different from ours at home)
  • snacks: blueberries, graham cracker squares, milk
  • dinner: coconut milk curry w/mushrooms, peas, strips of MSF Chik Patties, and golden raisins over brown rice; corn on the cob; fish sticks; rolls; milk--always the milk for the kiddos
  • dessert: honey roasted peanuts, red wine

  • I took it easy on the decaf today--only three cups.

    I'm cooking and feeding us like we are not skimping, primarily because I have a well-stocked house and I'd already planned the menus before I got this hair-brained idea. I suppose once we start running low on something I will begin to get creative. I also suppose I'd better make some kind of rule for myself like, "I will only buy groceries that are necessary for our continued good health, food that I can't make at home." (And thanks for the cereal bar idea, Alphabeter!)

    Don't Miss Ya, Wouldn't Wanna Kiss Ya

    Tonight I was cleaning my study in preparation for the painting and reflooring, and I found print-outs of two emails from a student in an online American literature class I taught four years ago. They arrived within five minutes of each other, about an hour after I posted the semester's grades. Not only did the student not sign his or her name, but s/he wrote the wrong course title in the subject line.

    So, for your amusement, I type verbatim:

    I hope that you checked my very good, because I never worked so hard on a paper and get such a bad grade. Thank you for making me never want to take a another online class, I had Three people pro-read my work and two are engish majors.

    Dear, Pro, [My last name].
    Please don't take this the wrong way, but there is no way I should recieve nothing lower than a "C" it's a shame, shame on your teaching skills.

    I guess what really got my goat about these emails is that this person--a college student, no less--didn't know that if you capitalize "Three," you must also capitalize "Two." Good God! No wonder I failed him. Or her.

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Skinflintstones, Day 2

    Running Grocery Total: $8

  • breakfast: cereal, NutriGrain bars, milk, bananas
  • lunches: leftovers from last night's dinner, cheese toast
  • snacks: snack-size packages of Teddy Grahams (bad choice--bought the 15-pack at Target specifically for outings, not for home snacks)
  • dinner: spaghetti and canned white clam sauce, peas, Trader Joe's roasted balsamic vegetables (froz), rolls, salad w/tomato and black olives
  • dessert: graham cracker squares and peanut butter, red wine

  • Thoughts:
    I drink a lot of decaf. It isn't cheap. Maybe I could cut down.

    Bought some bananas at $.50/pound, some apples at $1.49/pound, and a gallon of whole milk ($3.39). Spent about $8.

    Sunday, July 09, 2006

    Meet the Skinflintstones, Day 1

    My mission:
    To spend as little as possible on groceries (food items only) for the next month (July 9 to August 8). At the end of the month, I'll tally my expenses for future reference. I estimate that right now, I spend approximately $400/month on our food, which is way, way too much.

    Not knowing I would launch into this project, I shopped yesterday at Superfresh, my overpriced neighborhood grocery store (I shop the sales AND use coupons), and picked up some fruits and veggies at Highland Orchards about two miles away. So, while I am relatively well-stocked in terms of pantry, freezer, and fridge, I will be trying my best to help us live off our stores for the next month. It's me, my husband, my almost 3yo, and my 15mo. Let's see how we do!

    Today's menu:
  • breakfast was cereal, milk/soymilk, bananas, two cereal bars

  • lunch was sandwiches of various sorts; we also finished last night's leftovers (tofu and green bean Thai stir fry w/brown rice)

  • dinner was Mexican lasagna (beans, corn, tomatoes and tomato sauce, spices, fake meat crumbles, layered with corn tortillas and jack/cheddar cheese), steamed zucchini and onions, and salad w/avocado. Fresh peach and blueberry cobbler for desert. Kids had graham crackers.

  • Running low on:
    whole milk for the kiddies (D drinks soymilk); only four bananas left

    So thankful I do not have to economize in order to make rent or pay medical bills. Replacing the family room floor seems quite luxurious by comparison. Until you witness the heinous odor assault down there. D and I have almost decided how to proceed with flooring, but in the meantime he is painting the walls to get us moving on the redo. He rocks.

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    Brighter Days

    Well, the flooding rains are gone. (For now?) We celebrated by steam cleaning the nasty half of the family room carpet, but to no avail. It still stinks. I know conventional wisdom says steam cleaning won't do a thing for pet odors if they have penetrated the pad, but we thought we could do some good. Nay. I am more convinced than ever that we need to get a hard-surface floor down there, after we trash the fifteen year-old blinds, clean and paint the walls, and tear out the mess that we walk on daily. Then we have to scrub the cement floor and baseboards with some odor annihilator; no small task, I imagine. After all those preparations, we can install (or can we afford to have a professional do it?) a wood laminate floor, I guess, although that laminate stone is awfully pretty. Awfully expensive, too. "Laminate." That is a funny word when you say it a lot.

    My annual July 4th peach pie is baking in the oven. I am incredibly lucky to live a hop and a skip away from Highland Orchards, a long-running family farm that isn't officially organic but shuns pesticides and chemical use. Their peaches are now coming in and I selected white ones this year. I've only used the yellow ones in the past. I follow the two-crust peach pie recipe out of How To Cook Everything (although I'm hesitant to plug the guy since he dissed Julia Child). The following will be our little secret: I use Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust. P.C. (pre-children), I would've donned my dark glasses to buy a small tub of Crisco (gasp) for the homemade crust.

    Yesterday (Sunday), D, N, AC, and I had an outing to the Kalmar Nyckel Ship Yard, which hosted "A Gathering of Tall Ships." We toured the Kalmar Nyckel, our own tall-ship-in-residence here in Wilmington. There were other ships there, too, plus some pirates, live music, and vendors. An all around fun day.

    D works today, but is off tomorrow for the fourth. We don't have much planned except that D will take N to his first fireworks show, on the riverfront (near the Ship Yard, in fact). AC will be in bed already (we hope), so I will stay here with her and the dogs.

    I suppose that's our news of late. Nothing fancy, nothing too exciting, but I think that's good for me just now.