Grocery Budget Win, Dinner Win, Fitness Win

Ah…I finally had a day where I wasn’t super-overwhelmed by school and work and home and just everything.  Once I got my discussion posts done for yesterday, I was feeling pretty good, but now that I’m done with my one for my Asian American Lit class too, tonight’s gonna be a good night!!

Despite my misjudgment of the cheese situation, we still came in at under $45 for the week in groceries.  I’m really happy about this; this’ll be the second full week that we will have eaten all of our meals at home and avoided takeout.  We’ve had a couple of shifts this week as far as the menu plan went, but I’m doing my best not to get all perfectionist-paranoid on myself and to remember that it’s just a blueprint and that the important part is that we’re cooking and that we’re eating better.

I made falafel again tonight and made a few changes; I used cornmeal instead of the flour and I added two very big cloves of garlic.  It was still pretty good.  And here’s a food pic for you:

Yeah, I know…it looks kind of weird and gross.  It’s a Pumpkin Pancake!  After we did Brinner on Sunday night, I started thinking about how much healthier it would be to use something like solid-pack pumpkin in place of the liquid with the pancake mix.  So, the next morning, I took about 1/2 cup pancake mix, 1/2 cup solid pack pumpkin and a little sweetener (and just a splash of water) and made some very thick batter.  I had to actually smoosh the pancake out on the griddle  so it’d be thin enough to cook.  I added a little sugar-free maple syrup and Da-yam was this good!  I’ve done it twice this week and I’ll probably do it again tomorrow since I have a little pumpkin left to use.  Next, I’m going to try it with some of the frozen b-nut squash that I cooked back during my kidney stone debacle.

And my final triumph for the night?  We finally got back to the gym!  I almost punked out at the last minute, but Joey told me that, since I was already dressed and had tied my shoes (and was about a foot from the door), it was too late to back out.  I was glad that we went; I did the Random Hill program on the recumbent bike for about half an hour (set at Level 8…my calves are dying).  We also ran into two friends whom we hadn’t seen in a while!  We won’t go tomorrow because Katie’s coming over, but we’ll definitely head back Saturday.

That’s all I’ve got today, peeps.  It was a pretty decent day!  I’m always thrilled for those, especially since they’re happening more frequently these days.

Eating Whole Foods

Reading these sustainability blogs is killing me, mostly because I’m so jealous that I don’t have a yard full of “edible landscaping” to use in my meals or to put away for winter. Since I likely won’t be able to do any of that on a large scale until next year (although I think I will try to plant some things in pots while it’s still warm here in NC), I have decided to move toward eating more whole foods and eating more simply. I also want to start trying to buy local when I can afford it. Unfortunately, that probably won’t be very often right now as we’ve got to focus so much on frugality right now.

Since I was feeling “whole food-ish” tonight, I made a cold rice salad that was SUPER yummy!

I used:

  • 1 2/3 cup brown rice (cooked)
  • 1/4 cucumber, diced
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • a few sprinkles of shredded parmesan
  • a couple of tablespoons of light italian dressing

Just mix and dig in! It was absolutely marvelous, and eventually, I would want to make my own homemade italian dressing and buy some local cheese to use.

Joey and I also walked two miles this evening. We talked and talked (although slightly out of breath…it wouldn’t have been a workout otherwise). Honestly, I’m loving days like these, where I can come home and go for a liesurely walk and make a fabulous meal and then relax and blog and knit some and read.

I started the back of my tank top!

A Fruitful Evening!

I finally did what I’ve wanted to do almost every day of the week; I set a plan for myself and I followed through with it. When I got home from work, Joey and I took a very brisk walk around the neighborhood for a little over half an hour. Then, I cooked TWENTY pounds of potatoes. Yes, TWENTY. First, I made potato soup (yum!). Here’s my recipe:

  • a crap ton of potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (we used Yukon Golds)
  • 3 cans of fat free chicken broth
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 2 onions
  • garlic powder
  • salt & pepper
  • milk (your choice. I took powdered milk and made it with twice as much powdered milk as called for)
  • A few instant potato flakes

Boil the potatoes in the broth until tender. At the same time, dice up the celery and onion and saute in a pan until soft. When potatoes are done, use a masher to break them up and make the more soupy. Add the onion/celery mixture and seasonings. Let cook for a little while and then add the milk and a handful of potato flakes to thicken it up. Serve with Cheddar Cheese!

The rest of the potatoes, we roasted in the oven with some olive oil, garlic powder, salt/pepper, and Italian herbs. They’ll be very good.

The soup ended up making ten servings, so Joey and I each had one for dinner and I put two in the fridge and froze the other six (in our saved egg-drop soup containers). We will have a few roasted potatoes tonight and then I’ll freeze them as well.

ALSO! In addition, I made a SUPER frugal yummy chicken salad today for my lunch at work tomorrow. Here’s how I did it!

  • picked the meat off a thigh and drumstick leftover from lunch on Sunday
  • in a tiny chopper (the little one with the button), chop 3 of the inner stalks of the celery and 1 dill pickle spear.
  • Add chicken to chopper and top with some light mayo and deli mustard
  • chop until satisfied with consistency.

I was totally amazed with how good the combo was and I’m totally psyched about my lunch tomorrow and about my FRUGALITY! I did the same with some tuna because I had more celery to use up before it rotted.

Today, I did really well to take care of myself. I ate right, exercised, was productive. That makes me feel like an adult, and I’m glad for that. I also got a LOT done on my knitting this weekend while spending endless hours watching the Olympics.

Oh, and the grad school app has left Charlotte. It will be at ECU tomorrow. I’m awash with relief and scared to death all at the same time.

It was a good day.

Small, Winged Potatoes…

Those who are MST3K lovers will get the title. For the rest of you: yes, I am a dork….but at least I’m not obsessed with Star Wars or something. So, I’m trying to cook up approximately 40 pounds of potatoes that Joey bought for us when I was planning to do my “potato detox.” Since I knew I would be furious with myself if I let the food go to waste, we are cooking up loads of potatoes and freezing various meals.

I’ve been wanting to come up with a better system for groceries (we usually buy the same fifteen items and then scrounge all week); I want to shop the sales, stock up on items, and come up with meal plans. The next two weeks will be primarily focused on potatoes, though, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Last night, I made a potato bake (no pics, sorry). Here’s my recipe:

  • A crap-ton of peeled and grated potatoes (sorry, don’t know how many we grated. Just start grating and stop when you hit knuckle. That’s what Joey did)
  • some diced ham (we used leftover deli-sliced ham from the freezer)
  • 2 cans of cream of celery soup (I used 98% fat free, and would probably use 1 can of cream of mushroom soup next time)
  • A little yogurt (b/c it’s what I had. I would probably use light sour cream if I had it)
  • A little cheddar cheese
  • a little Parmesan cheese
  • some bread crumbs

I mixed up the first five ingredients and spread it in two casserole dishes, then topped with the Parmesan and bread crumbs. I baked it at about 400 for 45 minutes. It was pretty good! We ate off one, put the rest of that one in the fridge, and then froze the second one in individual servings (we save egg drop soup containers for this purpose).

Tonight, I made LOTS of gnocchi. To do this, I used:

  • Another crap-ton of peeled potatoes, diced
  • a crap-ton of flour (I mixed white and wheat)
  • A little melted butter

I boiled the potatoes for 20 minutes, strained in a colander, mashed up, added the melted butter, and then started adding the flour. When it was of a consistency that I could start to knead it, I turned it out on a floured board and worked in flour until it looked like any other dough (it will be a little stickier than normal dough). I rolled pieces of the dough into logs and pulled off bite-sized portions. Since I made so much, I didn’t use the fork to give it the traditional “gnocchi-look,” so I rolled them into balls instead. We ate them with some canned tomato sauce that Joey jazzed up with garlic, onion, and Italian seasoning.

It was a TOTAL hit..really good. We put another serving for each of us in the fridge (so we can use up the rest of the sauce) and froze the rest. It makes me feel really good to know that I’m starting to build this selection of meals in the freezer so we can always have something to turn to and don’t have to always think about going out.
I’m even more resolved these days to be frugal with what’s going on in the economy and looking at the costs that we’re going to have to deal with between Joey driving back and forth to school twice a week and me starting grad school in the spring (hopefully). I really feel as though we can end up making ourselves (and our parents) proud with our frugality when all is said and done.

I’ve also been feeling pretty excited these days…I think it’s the thought of fall coming again and the thought of all of the hustle and bustle that the last four months of the year tend to bring. I’m actually looking forward to the holiday season this year, I think because I won’t have to be in survival mode, coming off the traumas of 2007. This year, I think we’ll put up a Christmas tree and do all of the traditional, “fun” stuff. I’m not going to let myself get so busy that I don’t take time to enjoy those things, especially with how hard it’s going to be for Joey with his schoolwork. Learning how to put the most important things first is always easier said than done.

Potato anyone?