daily recap · planning · what we ate

Day 105(!): Sesame Noodles & Popcorn

I felt peppy at lunch so I made some sesame noodles with the kohlrabi. Matt had grabbed some soba by mistake at H Mart last week so it was nice to use some of it up! I had a huge amount of kohlrabi so I went ahead and cooked it all up so I have some ready to do something else with. I don’t know if the greens would have last much longer in the fridge but cooked, they should be fine.

For dinner we had the leftover eggplant pasta and some popcorn with Trader Joe’s “everything but the elote” seasoning.

I harvested 3 raspberries today! The beach plums look really good too. Last year we had a great yield and the fruit was really big (some years they’ve been blueberry sized and they have giant pits) but last June was when my mom was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer and she was in the hospital/rehab a long time. I was too fried to even bother picking them. Somehow she is still with us (went for a routine MRI yesterday) and seems pretty stable so things are more normal on that front at least. So fingers crossed I’ll feel up to picking plums and making something with them this year? It’s not like we have much else to do.

I still haven’t made that lemonade!! Maybe tomorrow??

Non-food related activities:

Matt zoomed with his parents for their anniversary. The cookies and treats I had delivered arrived safely! I found a local to them place that was a bakery that also sold breakfast and lunch and had regular delivery drivers vs a bakery that packed things up to ship. I thought it would be fresher and cheaper that way!

I’m trying to read an easier book after that mess of a book I read yesterday. I’m doing the summer reading program at the library again so I’m trying to read at a good pace. I have like 6 kindle books checked out so the pressure is on.

I listened to more of Faded Out. It’s pretty good but I feel like they sort of bury the lede a bit. We heard a lot from random people like their landlord at the time before learning that the dad had a record and apparently was a child molester.

We watched a little more of Black Spot on Netflix. Matt’s still on call and was up for hours at like 2 am today so we are all a little tired, especially him, of course!

daily recap · planning · repurposing leftovers · what we ate

Day 99: Jajangmyeon & Chicken Tenders

For lunch I made some packets of jajangmyeon Matt bought at H-Mart. They didn’t have the fresh noodles so he got this instead of us making our own from scratch. It was pretty good! We had one pork chop left from the 3 we had for dinner last night (I saved it without the sauce) so I diced that up and tossed it in.

I prepped mustard greens to pickle tomorrow and left them to dry on the enclosed porch.

For dinner I made chicken tenders. I missed the really fluffy battered kind we get at one restaurant so I tried to make a lemon pepper version. It turned out great! The physical piece of chicken seemed to greatly expand when it was frying (??) because the final pieces were huge despite the chicken tenderloin (when raw) being rather narrow and only about the length of my hand when I took them out of the package. I don’t really understand what happened but I don’t normally fry large pieces of chicken breast or boneless meat too often. We also tried Aldi brand tots (not bad, maybe needed an extra minute in the oven) and a bagged salad. Since I’m making so much food so often I really need to have some meals with only one labor intensive part to it. Since the chicken was freakishly big once cooked, we have some leftover.

Hogan has opened the state (and our mayor, the city) to basically 50% capacity everywhere despite he sharing that he personally, with his health issues, doesn’t feel comfortable dining in at a restaurant. Of course he thinks it’s fine if you have those same conditions and work there! People really can’t think past their own selves. Like how Trump hate germs and illness and no one is allowed near him with a cough but it’s all fine if we get a virus and die.

Non-food related activities:

We watched Greta on DVD (Netflix) which seemed like two movies stitched together. I wonder if there was some drama during production?

Matt worked lateish and got a call during dinner so we didn’t do much.

I finished a book and started the new Vera Kelly book.

daily recap · planning · what we ate

Day 96: BLTs

I realized we still had some lettuce from last week’s produce delivery so I made BLTs for lunch. That finished up our bacon, lettuce and the last of the bread.

For dinner we had hot dogs. Matt justified it by saying we’ve had bacon-wrapped hot dogs so we can have one day with bacon and hot dogs in the same day. We were really just at the end of food in the fridge. I served it with kale mashed potatoes.

Non-food related thoughts and activities:

I set up a pick up time to get some library books tomorrow then I will go to Aldi for another big shop. How has it been 3 weeks already? I think we’d be fine for a bit more thanks to all we have in the freezer but I keep thinking things will get worse and I might really want those things in the freezer.

I don’t think I’m going to keep requesting physical books, the two that are in are ones I requested back in January. I have a bag of returns. I think I might have some books from other counties requested but that system is shut down so I can’t check and they aren’t sending them out. My local branch isn’t doing book pick up (it has extremely limited parking) so I have to go to a different branch at my appointed time, call them and they bring a bag out to me.

It just seems like a hassle. I prefer books on my kindle anyway; it was mostly older or more obscure books I was getting physical copies for and I can do without for a while. I can always change my mind of something I really want is only available as a physical book.

We finished season 2 of Hidden on Acorn.

I think the host of the Your Own Backyard podcast isn’t very bright. He keeps pushing things (like the found shoe) as related to the case even when it doesn’t seem like the same shoe Kristen Smart was wearing and it could easily have been beat up looking because it was ran over on nearby freeway not because it had been in the woods for years.

daily recap · planning · what we ate

Day 77: Seafood Orzo & Deviled Ham

For lunch today I went from having no idea what we were having to making this seafood orzo dish in like 10 minutes. I had read how frozen mixed seafood is super gross but it really turned out great! If you click on the recipe link, I talk about what went into making it; it’s very pandemic-friendly!

For dinner I made a version of these deviled ham toasties but I heated some oil/butter in a pan and placed slices of take and bake Italian bread leftover from lunch on it and topped it with the deviled ham and cheddar for sort of a open-faced grilled cheese/toast type thing. It was really good! I might have liked it even more than I did with English muffins.

After dinner (it’s baking right now, actually) I made a small cake for Matt’s birthday tomorrow so I won’t have to wait for it to cool to frost it tomorrow. We’ve planned a lot of food and cooking tomorrow so this will be one less thing to worry about. I made this cake but used all regular sugar instead of brown because I’m going to ice it and brown sugar gives it a stickier top.

Non-food related activities:

I worked on Coconut & Lime a lot.

I listened to more of In the Dark about the coronavirus.

We watched more of season 3 of The Good Fight so Matt can catch up and we cancel the service. I watched the season 4 finale in the morning. I heard Cush Jumbo might be living the show. I can see it but I’ll miss her! I’m sure there were supposed to be more episodes than seven so I wonder how they will deal with it.

daily recap · planning · repurposing leftovers · what we ate

Day 75: Put an Egg On It & Muffins (again)

For lunch I heated up some leftover chicken and wild rice pilaf, tossed in some feta and topped it with a fried egg.

After lunch I made more muffins for Matt’s breakfasts (carrot-walnut-ginger-yogurt) using up the last of the yogurt and some sad looking carrots. I also made chicken salad with the last of the feta, arugula from our produce delivery today, red onion and lemon pepper for tomorrow’s post-grocery store lunch.

Matt made fish stick sandwiches (to finish up the fish sticks and the last of the bread) and red mustard greens, Vidalia onions and potatoes from our produce delivery for dinner.

Our fridge is so empty! The emptiest its been in many, many months. We have a lot of shredded cheddar and butter I haven’t opened and we have some greens from today’s produce delivery but we are really low on pretty much everything else.

We are thinking about getting steamed crabs or raw meat from Fogo de Chão to grill for Matt’s birthday this weekend. Possibly both if it’s good weather! I’ll make the side dishes though.

Non-food related activities:

We finished A Discovery of Witches and I watched Liar on Sundance Now while we still have it.

daily recap · planning · what we ate

Day 74: Soup and Spatchcocked Chicken

For lunch we had (canned) soup and the tiny bit of tuna we had leftover. Matt made us breakfast sandwiches with the last of the bacon and the English muffins.

For dinner Matt made kale with wild rice pilaf and grilled a spatchcocked chicken slathered in spices and lemon.

We have a ton of chicken leftover. My goal was to have at least enough left that we could have some tomorrow for lunch after I come back from Aldi.

It’s been nearly a month since our last big grocery shop! We did get a small delivery with some basics like rice and Matt did a small shop at Weis for hot dogs, rolls, soda and condiments mid month. I think we could probably go another week without another big grocery visit but Matt’s birthday is Friday and I want to get some food for that and we are out of potatoes. He’s still taking Friday and Monday off so we will have time to make something fun if we wanted to.

We are still getting most of our food in person but our grocery stores are limited here in the city and we haven’t been to our local small grocery stores where we’d get things like rice in months.

I feel like we are spending less money on groceries but we didn’t track it too closely before. At any rate we aren’t spending anything on takeout or going out to eat. We normally got takeout for dinner at least once a week and lunch out or takeout on Saturdays and Sundays and often out to dinner too.

We are debating where Matt should go to shop on Wednesday to fill in for my Aldi shop. Our produce delivery fills in a lot of gaps but since we like a lot of variety it’s hard to just shop at Aldi and get produce delivery. Aldi is great but unless they are having a specific sale, we mostly get the basics there and go to smaller speciality shops for everything else.

Non-food related activity:

We watched more of A Discovery of Witches.

I had a horrible migraine after dinner and went to bed early.

planning

How to Grocery Shop Less Frequently

I’ve had some questions about how we have been able to go so long (3 weeks then 4 weeks) between grocery shopping so I thought I’d put together some tips.

We have made every single meal since 3/12/20. We had some dry goods delivered including small amounts of soap, pasta, flour, yeast and bread products once during that time. We have a weekly produce delivery that started up again recently. That’s a great option if it is available to you or you can do what I did before it started up and focus on longer lasting fruits and vegetables. Not much is in season right now (May 2) so my produce boxes have been very basic–onions, potatoes, lettuce, and carrots. The majority of my produce is coming from chain supermarkets.

I do not plan meals before going to the store. I buy what looks best and has the best expiration dates. Then I come home and decide what to make from what we have. We had a large spice cabinet but we didn’t have much of a pantry (beyond a few cans of tomatoes and beans, tuna and baking items) or anything in the freezer before this began due to storage issues (we live in a small house in the city with little storage and have a small refrigerator with a top freezer). I’ve been trying to stretch each dinner into two “big” meals by purposing the leftovers and making something lighter for lunch vs having dinner leftovers for lunch then making another whole big meal for dinner.

You do need to be flexible, this really only works when you are cooking what is available vs what you want that very minute. That’s not to say I’m m cooking food we dislike but if we don’t have something need to make something I’m craving then I have to wait until the next trip to hopefully get the ingredients.

I admit is it a great privilege to be able to spend our whole month’s food budget at once. We are not spending money virtually any other way beyond the same basic bills each month we had before-no entertainment, eating out/takeout or other social expenses so it’s working out. We are lucky that we both can work from home (although I basically have no work now as I am a freelance recipe developer and places are not hiring) so our transit costs are virtually nonexistent.

I shop with getting through 3-4 weeks in mind (you can check the archives and see what we eat each day) but this also works if your goal is every two weeks. The less frequently we all shop the less stress there is on the store employees, the stores and yourself.

Pick your stores wisely. I shop primarily at Aldi anyway so it made sense to go there for the basics. The two times I’ve been there it’s been fully stocked with meat, produce, tons of canned goods, paper products and their usual deals. It’s a smaller store, they are taking lots of percautions including plexiglas between you and the cashier, wiping down each cart (eliminating the need for a quarter), requiring masks and limiting the numbers of people allowed to shop at once. My husband has been going to one “regular” supermarket later the same day to fill in the gaps with food Aldi doesn’t sell (some international ingredients, condiments, particular brands of products we prefer) or something I wasn’t able to find. His trip has been more “wants” than “needs” and if we had to we could eliminate it but they do make for more interesting meals. 99% of what he is buying is shelf stable, dairy or frozen ingredients to complement the staples I bought at Aldi. If you have a store that is great for staples and everything else you could obviously just shop at one store.

Chose stores that have the best chance of having what you need. For example, we chose supermarkets with pharmacies so we could pick up things like mouthwash and vitamins while getting food. We also picked by which store was having sales of items we wanted and went on the first day of the sale; when they would most likely be in stock. We also like going to both stores on the same day so he can pick up anything Aldi unexpectedly didn’t have, it makes planning a little easier and our “outside world” exposure clocks are synced.

Meat/Seafood: Shop by expiration date. Meat in vacuum sealed packaging generally has longer expiration dates—a week or more. Pre-marinated meats, sausage, bacon, hot dogs, and ham often have expiration dates of 4-6 weeks out. When you get home, make a list of expiration dates and use the food in order of expiration. Freeze anything you can’t make in time. I also froze food to help provide variety. I had two packages of chicken that had back to back expiration dates so I froze one so we weren’t eating chicken all week. Buying in bulk from local producers is also an option if you have the storage space. Use less meat if possible.

Frozen seafood is a great option and can last 6 months or more in the freezer. Eat fresh seafood right away. I do not recommend freezing “fresh” seafood because a lot of it is actually previously frozen and defrosted before it is sold to you at the supermarket. You can freeze freshly caught, cleaned fish.

Produce:

Buy long lasting fruit like apples (which were probably picked last fall and kept in cold storage anyway) and citrus. Both can last around a month or more if in a cool spot. Softer fruit like berries, peaches and plums need to be eaten more quickly or frozen after purchase.

Vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, rutabaga, celery, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, radishes, potatoes, onions, garlic have lasted me 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator or in a cool, dark place (my uninsulated enclosed porch houses our potatoes, onions and rutabaga). Fennel, eggplant and summer squash like zucchini are good for 1-2 weeks. Hearty greens like collards, kale, dandelion greens or rapini can last up to two weeks in the fridge. Lettuce grown hydroponically and sold with the roots attached can last around two weeks if kept in it’s original clam-shell container. Eat more perishable vegetables like most lettuce, baby spinach, fresh herbs first.

Regrow your scallions and spring onions by putting the roots in a jar of water.

Dairy:

Check your dates. Organic milk generally has an expiration date of 4-6 weeks out. Most packaged cheese (either in plastic bags or containers) will have expiration dates of at least a month away. We have some Cabot cheddar that expires in October! Yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese often has a date of 2-4 weeks away. Hard cheeses like Parmesan can last many months stored properly.

Dry Goods:

Don’t forget the staples like pasta, rice, bread, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, any condiments. Try to keep a stocked spice cabinet to keep things interesting. Buy rice in bulk if possible, it lasts many months if stored properly. Store-bought sliced bread has been lasting about 2-3 weeks on the counter. We’ve been turning the heels into breadcrumbs and freezing them.

Canned tomatoes, seafood and beans are must haves. I like Better than Bouillon stock bases for when I don’t have homemade. We don’t have the storage space to make and store stock in bulk. Vacuum packed ready serve lentils, wild rice and farro are great to toss into salads and soups with minimal effort.

Misc.

Look for long lasting ingredients that pack big flavors like chipotle peppers in adobe, capers, pickles, mustard, harissa or other spice pastes. We’ve really enjoyed packs of mi goreng noodles to toss with leftover meat and vegetables.

Chocolate chips, marshmallows and other baking ingredients last months. We have been making our own cookies and cake for treats.

Remember to get some “treat items”. We’ve been getting small packages of smoked salmon at Aldi and a few large candy bars each grocery visit.

Keep a running list of any staples or food items you run out of during the weeks between shopping. It can help you decide which store to go to and of course, make sure you remember to pick it up. I have a “note” on my phone I just add to when I think of something that has some items we always need (eggs, bread) on it already then I print it out or handwrite a list to bring with me/give to my husband so we don’t have to handle our phones in the store.

Don’ts:

Don’t buy food you don’t think you will like it or food you don’t actually plan on eating. It’s wasteful and takes away from others. I’m seeing a lot of this online. Don’t be one of those people!

Unless you have a ton of freezer or fridge space don’t buy a ton of single meal items (frozen dinners, pizza) which take up a lot of space in the freezer or refrigerator. Raw ingredients like take up less room and are more versatile.

Do:

Be reasonable about your expectations and flexible. You can’t always get what you want when you want it.

Figure out what works for you. Do you eat breakfast every day? Can you make something that lasts longer with fewer or bulk or fresh ingredients? Think muffins, fruit with peanut butter or oatmeal vs fresh eggs and toast every day. Do you hate leftovers or eating the same things in a row? Freeze leftovers or repurpose them vs serving the same meal back to back.

Be reasonable. You are not going to want to cook an elaborate meal every day. It’s okay if lunch is a can of soup. Eat crackers for dinner one night. Who cares? Toss in some vegetables in your next meal and move on.

Have a stash of reusable Ziploc type bags and reusable containers for leftovers and storage.

Plan meals around what is available and needs to be used first. Repurpose leftovers before opening a new package of beans or meat.

daily recap · planning · repurposing leftovers · what we ate

Day 47: Corned Beef Baked Frittata & Ravioli

Matt made a baked frittata with 4 eggs, leftover rice, leftover corned beef, garlic, onions, leftover shredded cheddar and frozen spinach for lunch. It took forever to bake but it was great! Frittatas are wonderful for using up leftover odds and ends and when stretched with a lot of other ingredients (like rice) don’t have to use that many eggs.

For dinner I sauteed some cubed ham, mushrooms, onions, garlic and kale and tossed it with from frozen truffle mushroom ravioli from Aldi. This is my favorite way of serving frozen/fresh store bought ravioli or tortellini. It’s easy, has vegetables and doesn’t require me to make a real sauce.

I made tuna and pasta salad for our lunch tomorrow and prepped ham, rutabaga, carrot, parsnip, and celery for slow cooker split pea soup tomorrow. All I will have to do is make some broth (using Better Than Bouillon) and get it going in the morning. Last time we went grocery shopping it was an exhausting day and I wanted to make sure I didn’t have to come home and cook lunch or come up with dinner. I don’t love grocery shopping and we don’t have many grocery stores near us. Even though we live in the city, the closest store to us over a mile away and unfortunately, we have bought rotten meat, expired dairy, and spoiled seafood there before. I don’t want to deal with that at all if I can manage and I really don’t want to deal with it now. The next closest stores are about 10-20 minutes away so that plus the stress of shopping right now and the volume of buying for hopefully 3 weeks or more is so stressful! The last thing I want to do is worry about cooking tomorrow.

It has been 28 days since we last shopped so we are down to the bare bones in the fridge. We have a fair amount of frozen seafood and some chicken we froze earlier in the month in the freezer but it’s mostly condiments, cheese, a lone tub of hummus, eggs, carrots, zucchini, and celery in there. Like last time I am going to go to Aldi and then Matt is going to go to a “regular” supermarket to get the odds and ends we don’t get at Aldi-bread, International ingredients, anything from the pharmacy department (vitamins, mouthwash) we need and whatever Aldi didn’t have during my trip. And soda. I really am getting low on Coke and it’s making me antsy.

Nonfood related activities:

We are still watching some Meurtres à… They are a little uneven because they are basically made for TV mysteries taking place in different French towns but some are really good! It’s on Mhz.

I finally was able to get the last variety of bushes for my island in New Horizons. I’m still listening to podcasts while doing it. I don’t have a lot of TV shows that I watch airing right now and there are few jobs to apply to right now.

We both talked to our mothers who are in good spirits. My mom got the Skip-Bo deck and notecards I sent her for an early Mother’s Day gift and was really excited.

daily recap · planning · repurposing leftovers · what we ate

Day 46: Grilled Cheese with Corned Beef & Green Beans with Chicken and Rice

For lunch we made grilled cheese with leftover shredded sharp cheddar, marble rye, mustard and leftover corned beef. The ground corned beef was pretty crumbly so it mixed well with the cheese but wouldn’t have been great just sliced on a sandwich.

After lunch I made some Spiced Applesauce Corn Muffins using yogurt, applesauce and cornmeal that is/was all taking up a lot of room in my fridge and freezer. I posted the recipe here. Matt had one as a snack and said they were tasty! I froze some and left some out for him to have for breakfasts for the rest of the week.

For dinner we had some green beans to use up from last week’s produce box and some cooked chicken leftover from yesterday’s fritters. I don’t love green beans because they are a lot of work for something I find kind of blah but it made for a good dinner. Matt cooked them some chili oil/crisp, oyster sauce and sesame seeds for a sort of homemade takeout vibe.

I’m trying to plan for food to prep for tomorrow for Wednesday when we finally go the store. Last time I planned ahead and had soup I had made ready to heat up for lunch and we just had quesadillas with leftovers for dinner. Matt found shopping really stressful and it took a long time to both shop and unpack/organize everything. I’m leaning towards making tuna pasta salad for lunch and split pea soup in the slow cooker (prepping both tomorrow) since I have some boneless “carving” ham in the fridge. We are really scraping the bottom of what we have in the fridge now. It’s been almost a month since we shopped last and we haven’t had much delivered besides oil, a few produce boxes, flour, bread and yeast. We have a good amount of frozen fish but that all takes more effort and energy than I think I will have on Wednesday and doesn’t really yield leftovers if I were to have it tomorrow.

Tomorrow I think I might make some frozen ravioli because we have a bag taking up a lot of room in the freezer and I can dress it up with whatever vegetables arrive in our produce box tomorrow.

I found out we won second place in the challenge! Not too shabby. I can’t imagine first place made food that was any tastier than ours though!

Non-food related activities:

We watched the ever delightful Muppet’s Treasure Island on Disney+ and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on Hulu. I keep feeling like we should play a game or be more abitious in the evenings but I don’t have the energy.

I started listening to podcasts while playing Animal Crossing which turned out to be an excellent idea. I normally would only listen when washing the dishes or driving alone but since we are here 24/7 that hasn’t been happening.

daily recap · planning · repurposing leftovers · what we ate

Day 43: Hard-boiled Eggs, Tuna Salad & Chili

Another oddly chilly day for late April. Our backyard is basically flooded from the rain. I’m not eager to get to super hot weather but a few warmish sunny days to lounge in the hammock would be nice!

For lunch I made tuna salad (2 3.5 oz cans tuna, mayo, dill relish, dash Goddess dressing, lemon pepper) on white bread (me) or pumpernickel swirl (Matt) with bibb lettuce from the produce box. I made double what we need and refrigerated the rest.

I had a snack of a hard-boiled egg dipped in “everything bagel” seasoning. I got the idea from these pre-packed eggs with dry dip I tried at the Natural Products Expo. It’s really good!

We heated up the leftover chili and I had it over some baked potatoes to use them up and Matt had it over pasta. He made extra pasta so I stirred it into the leftover tuna to stretch that out.

We are out of Utz chips and our favorite pretzels. I’m very close to ordering a case of pretzels from the factory. It seems a little nuts but if they had good expiration dates it might be worth it. We eat about a bag a month and had planned to pick up more at the pretzel museum when it got warmer but that’s of course closed now. We had bought 6 bags back in November and finished them up yesterday.

We had a little ice cream with my favorite caramel sauce and we are almost out of both. I think we will be able to get more ice cream but I get the caramel sauce from this tiny supermarket further in the city and I can’t imagine getting there anytime soon.

Matt picked up our box from Blue Hill Tavern for the contest. I’m a little disappointed. The soft crabs were supposed to be local “whales” but the owner said couldn’t get them (understandable) so we have some frozen tiny crabs from somewhere else and a few shrimp. No mirepoix, just a tiny bit of mystery grated cheese, and about half the amount of potatoes I was expecting, 1 onion, 1 carrot, a tiny Roma tomato, 2 ears of corn, cream, butter, 4 eggs, a packet of Kool-aid, 2 kumquats, a slice of watermelon, and a bottle of wine. The last two week’s boxes look a ton better than what we ended up about. We’ll use it of course, but I wish we were told that the crabs weren’t available and we could have just gotten something else or tried another week. I was excited at the idea of an activity for the weekend (and very very excited for soft crabs!!) but now it’s shaping up to be more of a chore. I had some fun ideas but they really won’t work with tiny crabs, a tiny amount of shrimp and 4 baby potatoes. We can use our own oil/spices/garnish for the contest but there isn’t a lot to work with. I’m sorry we spent the money now. It is nice to help out a local business which was part of my goal so I’m trying to focus on that.

Non-food related activities:

I read some of an ARC of the upcoming Lisa Jewell novel. I’ve been reading her books for like 20 years now! OY! They are so uneven but they are normally pretty entertaining.

We watched the Hedwig episode of Riverdale. I think it was their best musical episode yet! Heathers was by far the worse.