Thursday, August 25, 2016

This Budget Crap Bites

Today I started our new 200 dollar a month food budget. We had been reading about the struggles people who are dependent on EBT cards experience so we are  trying it for 2 1/2 months mainly to see if we can do it.  This is going to cause some major adjustments in both the way we shop and also the way we eat and it is going to be particularly hard on TheHub.  Stopping at Publix on his way home from the office is  recreational plus it also feeds his ice cream or candy bar habit.

As usual I am creating some arbitrary rules about the budget.  I decided even if I use something from the freezer, I will deduct the current week's ad price from the food budget.  I want to see if we could actually stick to the budget using the real food cost.  The exception is things like staples, spices, condiments and things I carried over from last week that are in the fridge. I will base all meals on the best buys of each weeks current food ad, and am trying to stay under 50 dollars a week, but am hoping I can do it for a little less just in case there is a terrific buy one week so I could buy enough to carry over to the next week.

                                                  (I wish these prices were still good!)

I have to confess, I have not hated a trip to the grocery store so badly since we were first married and had a 50 dollar a month food budget. (Which is why we ate with TheHubs parents at least once a week, so we could one delicious meal every 7 days.  Plus they had a garden and always kept us supplied with whatever excess veggies they grew. I actually think his dad planted an extra row so he could give us their excess.  We were both still in college and our part time jobs barely covered rent, utilities and spartan living expenses so their food gift was most appreciated)

I am listing our expenses here and will update them as I shop the remainder of this week.

Boneless chicken breasts @ 1.79 lb             6.37
Brown rice @ .50 lb                                       .93
White rice @ .50 lb.                                     1.06
Avocado 3/1.00                                              .64
Bell pepper 2/1.00                                        1.00
Red pepper .98                                               .98
Black grapes   @ .88 lb                                1.79
Tomatoes @ .48 lb                                       1.68
Yellow onions   2 lb. bag 1.00                     1.00
Zucchini @ .98 lb.                                       2.13
Carrots .89 lb bag                                           .89
Lemon   3/1.00                                               .34
Limes 5/1.00                                                 1.00
Dollar Tree
Coffee 6 oz@1.00                                         1.00
Wyler's lemonade 1.00*                                1.00

Eggs .49 per dozen                                        1.47
Cucumbers .25 each                                      1.00
Mushrooms .79                                             1.58
Carrots .49                                                    1.57

Piggly Wiggly
Bread                                                            1.99
Broccoli                                                        1.50
Tea bags                                                        1.69

As of today I have spent 27.43 of my 200.00 for the month.  Since our grocery ads are Wednesday-Tuesday I have a tad under half of my "weekly" budget. (There is no way I am going to keep this as a weekly budget though.  A month is all I really need to keep up with.)

I am keeping up with the meals we are eating and will probably post them at the end of the week. Looks like this week is going to be a heavy chicken and egg recipe week.  It will be interesting to see
what meals I plan based of what the food ads dictate.

* indicates a food I already had on hand but assigned the weeks cost to it
** The coffee from Dollar Tree is horrible.  I only bought it because I was out of coffee and there were no good coffee sales this week.  Horrible coffee provides the same caffeine fix, but in a much smaller dosage.  2 cups is more than enough!

Monday, August 22, 2016

World Box Update

Swedish Flatbreads - Very tasty, but too salty for me so I thunked it (technical term meaning I tapped the flatbread with my finger while holding it over the sink to get rid of some of the salt) before eating.
Brazilian Peanut Candy Bar - Tasty ( Ok, I lied it's incredibly tasty like the peanut filling in a Reese cup but much lighter) TheHub wants to find where we can buy more of this.  He loved them. Nerd that I am, I have already been hunting recipes to see if I can make this instead of buying it.
Swedish Licorice - Great reviews from Son2 who, unknown to me, likes licorice. I smelled the box and it smells like every other licorice, which is just gross.
Brazil Nut Cookies - The bomb!  They are like a nutty shortbread, not too sweet and not too rich. Delicious and another product TheHub wants to find and keep on hand
Nordic Fudge - Nice flavor and great fudge consistency (I did stick in the the fridge because August is a bad month to ship fudge to Alabama and it was seriously misshapen when it was opened) but it was certainly not chocolate which is how I like my fudge. It has a very fruity flavor.  (Citrusy Prune is the closest I can think of to compare it with?) Like I said it is not bad, just different. Since I ordered these boxes to try things outside my norm things should taste different but this is a product I don't need to try and duplicate.
Double Chocolate Crisps - These were fantastic.  The crisps were almost like a sweet coconut pastry with a thin but very rich dark chocolate filling. (Slightly thicker than a hot fudge sauce, but so much more delicious) Yet another product I am going to have to find and have on hand occasionally.
Nordic Coffee - It is tasty but really is no different than my regular coffee.  Using my Keurig refillable K cups we were able to get 5 cups from the package.

So far the flavors have been quite good but the package sizes are very small.  It definitely is giving me some flavors I have never tasted, which is a good thing and has turned me on to possibilities of cooking differently (like those peanut candy bars.)

We were at the lake this weekend and I forgot to take/hide the goodies.  When we got home Son2 had been here and the remaining Brazil nut cookies and peanut candy bars were gone. TheHub was particularly bummed out since he wanted both of them. I guess the saying "you snooze, you lose" applies here.

Will  do an update on the remaining items as they are used!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sigh! Underwhelmed!

I recently saw an online food subscription service that looked intriguing, especially since I really do like to try different things. This is a service that would send products from around the world to my home, monthly, one country at a time. And the first box would be from Brazil, right as I have been watching the Olympics and marveling at how beautiful the scenery is.  Woo hoo! Could it get any better?

 Why yes it could! Offering a free box plus a discounted price if I bought the 6 month subscription package was even more enticing. They saw me coming, cast the line, I opened my mouth wide, and took the bait. Before you could blink an eye I was typing in my credit card info and mailing address. Clicked purchase__hook set!

Well today my free box and my first subscription box arrived.  I was very happy to see it on the porch when I came back from the airport after dropping Son3 for his return flight to school. I was almost giddy to see what was in the box, in fact, I did not make it farther than the dining room table before I started the great unboxing.  I am enclosing photos of both boxes for your amusement (if you are a sadist) or abject horror (if you follow a tight budget).

You will notice there are nine items pictured here. One of the items from the Brazil box is on the Swedish one.  Mea culpa!)

The photo above is the FREE Swedish box.  It came with eight items in a beautiful aqua box filled to the brim with excelsior.  You know why it had so much excelsior? Because the eight items were very small. I now own for future consumption  5.3 ounces of lingonberry preserves, 3.2 ounces sweet hot honey mustard, 1.4 ounces of sweet licorice (who the hell likes licorice?) 8.5 ounces elderberry syrup, 4.4 ounces double chocolate crisp cookies, 3.5 ounces Swedish flatbread 50 grams of Lofbergs coffee (bonus, it makes 6 cups), and last but not least 2.4 ounces of Nordic fudge with the flavor of sea buckthorn. No idea what sea buckthorn tastes like but its oil is used holistically to treat arthritis, acne and measles. And if any of you are wondering, August is a sucky time to ship fudge to Alabama.
In addition to this haul they give you a few instructions on how to make this a true Swedish experience, like put some ham and cheese on the flatbread.  I am glad they suggested it because I would never have thought to put cheese on crackers! Or how about brewing that coffee and eating it with the cookies?

Now lets move on to Brazil to see what treasures can be found there. Once again I got the lovely, exceptionally sturdy aqua box with more excelsior, lots more excelsior. It also features eight items including the errant jam that jumped into the Sweden picture. You have to watch jars of jam at all times because they are sneaky critters.

For my eating pleasure I own  4.94 ounces jabuticaba jam, 2.82 ounces of Brazil nut cookies, 1.76 ounces of churrasco spice mix (dry)  4.58 ounces churrasco sauce (in case the spice blend isn't enough?) 3.5 ounces of traditional Brazilian peanut candy bars, 10.6 ounces of guava paste, 7.05 ounces cheese bread mix (that I have to add my own cheese to) and 5.29 ounces of ground coffee.
Again they included some serving suggestions like having the coffee with the cookies. Those wild and crazy Brazilians!

And this completes my first 2 boxes.  I will not publicly give you the name of this subscription service, but I will be happy to let you know privately. Just send me an email.  Obviously I am not affiliated with it at all and all this snark and sarcasm is my own unbiased and honest  opinion.

I am also not dogging all food subscription services.  I know there are some wonderful ones out there, but I am not sure this is one of them. At the very least it is not the one for me, and a month before my six month subscription ends I will be canceling it.

Meanwhile I will use/eat these products and will let you know how delicious/untasty/downright horrid (hear that licorice?) they are.

If this is the worst mistake (financial or otherwise)  I make for the rest of my life I will be one lucky duck, but right now I am incredibly pissed with myself

p.s. Just doing the box math I will have at least 5 empty boxes and a mountain of excelsior by Christmas.  I decided at least I will have beautifully wrapped presents and nothing will break no matter how hard a "present guesser" shakes the box.

pp.s. The flatbread is truly tasty.  It is a tad salty for my tastes but I am not a big salt fan, so take that with a grain of salt!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Presenting Purple Beans?

This year we planted green beans like we do every year, same seed, same variety, same spot. (OK we didn't plant any last year but it was a difficult year).  We have the perfect growing spot for green beans and even though we are not supposed to have "visible from the street"  food plants in our yard I don't think any of the neighbors know or care.

We have one of those wooden fences enclosing our back yard that are called Shadowbox Fences. They are designed to be esthetically pleasing to both the interior view and exterior.  I guess you would call it a neighbor friendly fence. Though it is for privacy, we have a pool in our back yard and have it mainly as a safety feature to keep any small curious children from wandering into it without an adult. (Our brilliant fence installer put the locks at adult height so no little fingers can reach them). We live on a corner lot and our yard has a ton of "street visibility", so we plant our green beans on the outside (street side) of the side fence. (The inside of the same fence has okra, which would be highly visible from the street)  To our neighbors it just looks like we have a cool vine with small flowers climbing the fence, directly behind the knock out roses. To us it looks like a steady supply of fresh green beans throughout the summer.  Well usually!  This is what our current crop of green beans looks like!

As you can see our green beans are purple.  I did a little research and it seems if the soil is particularly acidic sometimes the green beans will turn purple. I know we have an acidic clay soil. It is one of the reasons our azaleas are such prolific  and beautiful bloomers, but this has never happened before.  

After about 2 minutes in hot water or steam they are nice and green again, but it was a little disconcerting the first time we picked them and cooked them.  The taste?  Exactly like any green bean you have ever eaten. 

So hopefully we will continue to eat purple beans through the middle of September before we have to pull up the vines. I do think for next year we probably need to change planting locations plus we need to do some heavy soil amendments to that area.  Hope you are all having luck with whatever you planted and your food is the right color!

p.s. Next year there will be no strawberries planted here, unless I do them in  hanging baskets.  They bloom, they grow and they feed the chipmunks.  I have not gotten one of them because they are eaten before they are ripe.  All I have  is well fed chipmunks!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Pimento Cheese

I am headed to the beach for a few days and have a love/hate relationship with the entire process.  I love the beach, love the condo, love the washer/dryer in the condo which makes clothes packing extremely easy, but I hate the getting ready part.

In an effort to keep our costs down I generally cook most of our dinners in. Several of the meals will be grilled fish a salad and rolls, which is easy (I mean, we are going to the beach after all and a seafood shop is just a couple of minutes from the condo.)  But I get tired of cooking on my vacation (It is my vacation also, right?) so I try to have a couple of easily totable things prepared that require little more than a quick warm up. (Spaghetti sauce and Picadillo, and yes I know neither of these are beachy sounding but they travel well and are done!)

However, in addition to dinners, I have to have foods for breakfast and lunch, which is something that is not generally on my radar. I will eat whatever is leftover, so if it means salad for breakfast or a teaspoon of green beans, a tablespoon of baked beans and a slice of cheese for lunch that is fine with me.  Having these other people around changes the dynamics and I will need designated and meal appropriate offerings.  Here again I don't mind a little gathering and placing things for these meals, but there is no way I am going to cook.  Cereal, it's the breakfast of champions  and if anyone wants anything hot there is a McD's about a block from the place.

That leaves lunch as the wildcard of the day.  When we get to the beach I will buy some cold cuts and sliced cheese, but TheHub is very finicky about eating cold sandwiches, and I am not cooking at all in the middle of the day, so I will buy smoked tuna dip, and have some shrimp steamed at the seafood shop for him to nosh on. I will take several types of crackers and I made pimento cheese. (Which is the only sandwich that man will willingly eat unheated)

Pimento cheese is a Southern staple and is about the easiest food in the world to make.  The best ones are made of 2 or 3 different cheeses, mayo with no sugar, and chopped pimentos as a base.  After that whatever your personal taste dictates is what you should put in it.

Basic Pimento Cheese

1 pound less 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Monteray Jack cheese
(if i had Gouda on hand I would have added a cup of it and 1 less cup of the cheddar)
1/4-1/3 cup mayo (I use 1/4 but a lot of people like it with more mayo)***
1  4 ounce jar chopped pimentos, drained
pepper to taste

Grate cheese and let it sit covered until it reaches room temp.  With a fork stir in the mayo and pimentos. Keep stirring until it reaches the consistency you like.  This is a very personal preference.  I like mine chunky where you get a real cheese "feel" in each bite. Mom, on the other hand puts hers in her food processor and blends it to a mousse like consistency.  Since I am a tactile eater, hers gives me the creeps, but no judgement on anyone who prefers to eat it this way.

TheHub is a pimento cheese purist so the only thing I added was about 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest.  I prefer mine with minced jalapeno, but I left it out cause I am nice like that.  At various times I have added chopped pecans, chopped bacon, minced olives,minced scallions or a combination of them all. It really is all about what you like and what you feel like adding (or have on hand).  Plop it on crackers or spread it on bread as a sandwich filling. Just a note: Grilled pimento cheese sandwiches are to die for! I have even used it in mac and cheese for a true taste treat.

 Try it and you might like it, but realize if you want to be truly southern while eating it make sure you call it pimmenacheeze.

*** This is best if you use a good quality mayonnaise (Screaming Dukes! Dukes! Dukes! Dukes! ) but it can be made with Miracle Whip (gag me with a spoon!)

p.s. I have no affiliation with any products at all. If I mention a brand it is because I use it regularly and like it. So when I mention the mayo it is because I just truly love Dukes.

Friday, August 5, 2016

July Put em Up Use em Up List

Use 'em up:

1 pound bacon
1 quart vegetable soup
1 quart lamb, rosemary, potato soup
4 hamburger patties

1/2 pint squash pickles
1 pint plum sauce

Put 'em up:

4 quarts peaches
4 pints peaches
2 lbs. cherries
5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
6.5 lb. ground beef
2 lb. pork tenderloin
1 quart green beans
6 quarts sliced squash
2 quarts cubed squash for casseroles
5 gallon bags of individually frozen ears of corn
2 quarts corn for fried corn
8 1/2 quarts lady peas
2 quarts individually frozen green tomato slices
2 quarts tomatoes
1 pint tomatoes
2 pints chopped peppers
4 pints sliced peppers
4 parboiled whole peppers for stuffing

1 quart pepper sauce
4  1/2 pints corn cob jelly

And yes, frost and all, this is my actual stuffed and very messy freezer. Organization here is an ongoing and mostly losing battle. I should have defrosted the freezer prior to starting my summer food storage, but I ran out of time, energy or interest. Now it will be next spring before I get around to it, but hopefully it will house much less food than it does right now and be a quicker task.

Starting this month I will include my pantry purchases and uses (maybe, if I remember to actually keep up with it, but I will only count form today forward.  Anything I bought these first few days are history and I am not going to even try and include tham.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

I Almost Could Have Died,Today

This afternoon while innocently walking from the den into the kitchen I was viscously attacked by Shelby The Dog.  Ok maybe viscously attacked is a slight overstatement, but she did stick her humongous paw out as I walked by, then moved as I stepped on that humongous paw.  As a result I tumbled in slow motion landing on my hip right as my face made contact with the door frame.  Know what happens when you are injured with 2 adult sons watching? Intense laughter! In their defense they did wait until they were sure nothing was permanently damaged. Son2 even said "Go for the jugular Shelby, like we practiced".

Then I called My Beloved Sister and relayed the details of my harrowing event.  She listened for a minute, was silent, then burst out laughing like my sons. Especially when I told her one other thing Son2 said to me today "Well one thing you haven't lost as you've gotten older is your sense of grace". I am having a Rodney Dangerfiled moment here!

And this is why I know when it comes time to get nursing home care, I will wind up in the cheap one that smells like urine.

*As I have been told all night, I have slow motion falling down to an art form.  Just glad neither had their phone near or there would have been video evidence of said slo-mo.