Sunday, January 22, 2012

A New Way of Food Spending Leads to (Sort of) Complicated Thoughts Processes

Since the beginning of January, my husband and I have instituted a new way of spending money on food.

We pay cash.

A Mason jar sit atop our bedroom dresser; it contains ones, fives, tens, and twenties.  Anytime we run to the grocery store or to a restaurant for a meal, we use only cash from the jar.  Let me tell you, when there's a limited amount of greenage, you really rethink your choices.

"We're having barbequed chicken sandwiches tonight...hmmm, should I shell out $2 bucks for a package of hamburger buns?  Or shall I thaw out a loaf of homemade sourdough bread in my freezer for the sandwiches (and make another loaf later) instead?"

It's an easy choice, don't you think?  How about this one?

"Should I buy the prepeeled and precut baby carrots for snacking or the cheaper bagged carrots, which I will have to peel and cut myself?"

Yeah, it's a no-brainer to me, too.  I'll take what's behind door number two.

But, as always, there's a fine line to walk.  In the case of the carrots, I'd rather not pay more for the convenience of prepeeled and cut vegetable...choosing instead to do it myself. 

However, many other aisles of the grocery store contain items that forfeit taste and nutrition for price.  Too many for my level of comfort...that's why I now bake my own bread.  I did not want bread that contained high fructose corn syrup or other artificial, processed ingredients...but I chafed at paying over $3 a loaf for it.  Especially when, for right around $2, there's a nice-sized loaf of sturdy (albeit highly processed) sandwich bread readily available.  Economically speaking, it would have been better to purchase the store brand "wheat" bread for the six people in my family.

But, psychologically, mentally, ethically, morally?  The homemade bread is the way to go.  I know what goes in it...about five ingredients, really, and I can pronounce them all.

Other choices I make require similar arduous thought: I have all the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies...except chocolate chips.  But, how badly do I *really* want to spend at least $2 on choc chips??  While my family will enjoy the end result, the bathroom scale will eventually reflect that I too enjoyed them more than I ought to have.  Which leaves me feeling guilty and in the end, I SHOULD HAVE JUST NOT MADE THEM!

Yeah, sometimes, the food purchase choices are easy-peasy...and sometimes they are quite complex and usually end up with my own self-castigation.  But, this is good, right?  A little scolding now and then is relished by the wisest men.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oh Reuben!

First, a silent moment of thanks to the person (it's disputed - either a guy in Omaha or a guy in New York) who decided to combine the flavors of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing...and then named it after himself.

And...let's also send up a second wave of appreciation for the person who thought to make it into a pizza.

I happened to have a phenomenal Reuben at Stein's Market & Deli in New Orleans recently, and within two days of my arrival home, a recipe for 'Reuben Pizza' was in my gmail inbox from www.allrecipes.com.

Fate?  Coincidence?  I didn't ponder that question very long.  I simply decided I must make that pizza...

And what a simple process.

A basic pizza has: pizza crust, tomato sauce, variety of toppings (indefinite), and mozzarella cheese.  A Reuben pizza makes the following substitutions: Thousand Island dressing = tomato sauce, corned beef or pastrami AND canned sauerkraut = indefinite variety of toppings, Swiss cheese = mozzarella.

Assemble as such: dressing, beef, sauerkraut, cheese.  Easy-breezy-peasy.  Looks like this:

Can you detect all the layers of awesomeness here?


My apologies for not taking an picture straight out of the oven, but honestly, my husband, my daughter, and myself were verily frothing at the mouth with ravenous hunger.  I could barely cut it without being overtaken by starving hordes.

Now, I make my pizza crust dough in the bread machine, which I think makes a significant difference in final product, but the highlight is the Reuben taste, which will come through no matter what kind of dough you use.

I won't vouch for healthy calories here...I mean, after all, full-fat salad dressing, corned beef, Swiss cheese?  Yeah.  But, by the time everything's piled on, it's a hearty, substantial pie.  One piece, really, will be enough. 

Or at least it should be. 

Reuben in moderation, folks.  That's what I'm saying.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cash In Hand Makes a Difference (US Gov't - Take Note)

 Two grocery shopping excursions into the month of January have already provided fruit for reflection.

Per one of our January resolutions, we withdrew cash from the ATM machine about seven days ago...with the sole purpose of using it for groceries and eating out.

The idea behind this experiment is if we limit ourselves to a fixed amount of money for food every month, maybe we'll be forced to analyze or reorganize our eating habits...for the betterment of our waistlines and pocketbooks.

And let me tell you, when you only take $100 to the local supermarket exclusively for food purchase, you do start reevaluating your habits.

A disclaimer first: due to deals I'd taken advantage of in November and December, not to mention trips to Costco, our freezer is set right now in the meat department.  Thus, it's possible my numbers for the next month will be skewed, since high meat costs won't be part of my bill.

First of all, I pay much more attention to prices and deals and coupons.  Naturally, right?  Also, where I spend my money is much more crucial.  It's been a few years since I've purchased boxed or prepared meals, etc, but I look now for more bang for the buck.  A bag of lentils proves much more versatile and costworthy than a tube of hamburger.  (Just last week I tried lentil burgers on the whole crew - and yes, we knew we weren't eating meat...but hey, everyone ate theirs!)

My list now tends to contain mostly fresh produce and dairy, and that is what I mostly stick to.  Just this morning I skipped about six aisles in the middle of the store...and did what nutritionists, doctors, food gurus, et al. refer to "shopping the perimeter".

In the end, I procured most of the items to prepare the following meals for dinner this week:

Crockpot Hamburger-Veg Soup
Reuben Pizza (You *know* I'm excited for this one)
Pork Roast
Lasagna
BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
Cobb Salad

Remember, I'm feeding five people in addition to myself...and my total bill today was around $57.  I anticipate another trip later this week to pick up some blue cheese crumbles and green peppers...but that's it.  And that's good for me.

So I got to thinking (which I do sometimes, but not much around the holidays), suppose the government followed this same principle?

Suppose government officials only spent cash they actually had in their hands?  If they shopped the perimeter, what things/agencies/positions wouldn't make it into the shopping cart?

*author pause for audience reflection*

You see, that's what "Be Food" is all about!  Food, and everything related to it, is a giant metaphor for me...for life.  It's how I make sense of the world!  It's how I solve problems!

huzzah!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Fun With Tomato Juice

This blog entry has quite a backstory, but I'll sum it up quickly.

In making the mega-batch of Red Sauce, I drained roughly 32 oz of juice from a large can of diced tomatoes.  "Waste not, want not", so I froze the leftover liquid, to be used at a later time.

That time was today.  My original thought was to concoct a chili or similar, but then...I had ideas!

Searching online, I found a recipe for Tomato-Basil soup at www.allrecipes.com.  With slight modifications (I had no crushed tomatoes or fresh basil) to the soup, today's lunch was soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Raves all around, and I guess now I can say goodbye to Campbell's Tomato Soup.

Thank you - allrecipes.com!
That left me with another 20 or so ounces of remaining tomato juice, and I was hankering to do something crazy with it.  And what would be on the other end of the tomato usage spectrum, if innocent, comforting tomato soup is on the another?

The Bloody Mary, of course!  Bloody Maries make me think of my mom...not in an alcoholic, Mommie Dearest-type way...in an one-adult-enjoying-a-drink-with-another-adult type way.  So, another search online turned up a recipe for "Kick Ass Bloody Mary"...and I was sold.  The result?  Very, very good.  Spicy.  Tomato-ey.  Definitely a keeper...not to mention, cheaper than anything I'd find in a bar or buy in a store.

Pic courtesy of www.formerchef.com
Huzzah to lycopene goodness!