Days 22 & 23

Day 22

  • $13.51 – fresh tortillas, chipotle peppers and canola oil (I am trying to emulsify the canola oil even as we speak and trying not to watch it too carefully. It is the actual watched pot that never boiled problem.)
  • $7.62 – chips and snacks
  • $2.95 – hot chocolate and brainstorming

Day 23

  • $2.41 – mailing a present
  • $36 – a project I’m not ready to talk about yet.

I love Thanksgiving. Love Thanksgiving. I love the excuse to try new recipes, even if it means trying to emulsify oil, lemon and garlic by any means necessary and covering my entire previously-clean kitchen in canola oil in the process. I love returning to old recipes, like my dad’s cranberry relish and my man’s garlic and herb bread. I love bringing my old favorites to new friends. I love when my friend’s share their recipes with me, like a killer pecan pie I can’t wait to try (will be attempting it for friendsgiving in the next few weeks). I love doing new things, like going to the mountains, and old favorites, like long bike rides.

I’ll be out of commission for a few days. I don’t expect to spend anything, but will report back on Friday in case I do.


Stock Up

For years, when a recipe has called for vegetable broth, I have substituted plain water. Vegetable broth from the store is expensive. Occasionally I have used bouillon cubes, but it’s hard to find vegetable ones and they are quite salty. Plus, I am lazy and I don’t like to mix them into water, I just add them directly to whatever I’m cooking and this seems ineffective.

Well no more!

Being in the habit of composting my fruit and vegetables, when my man left, I started separating the fruit and vegetable peels so that I try my hand at vegetable stock. I quickly ended up with far more supply than I needed. What can I say? I eat a lot of vegetables. So last night, I chopped two onions, three carrots and some celery (the base of the stock) and added several heaping cups of potato ends, kale stalks, and lettuce ends to my stock pot. All in all, I made about ten to twelve cups of stock, and I still have plenty of produce (or rotting vegetables my man would erroneously assert if he was reading this) left over, but lacking more containers, I’m just going to take it the compost at work.

What do I have to say about this: I can’t believe I’ve never made stock before! It’s easy! It’s cheap because it’s using vegetables that would otherwise be thrown away (and are still going to the compost bin in the end, so no waste). And it tastes pretty good! In future, I will separate out the cabbage, as I found that made it a bit bitter, but all in all, I’m inordinately pleased with myself for figuring out something that my grandparents and apparently all of the internet already knew!

And speaking of stocking up, the other main occupant of my freezer this week is seven pounds of frozen strawberries! They are absurdly cheap at the Asian market where I buy my vegetables for the last two weeks, 59 cents a pound! At every other grocery store I visit, strawberries cost at least two dollars more! So I ended up buying nine pounds, which seems like a lot of strawberries, but to be honest, I wish I had bought more. There’s no beating a good price, but there is a limit to my freezer space.

Labor of Love: Meals of Labor Day Wknd

Happy Labor Day! For the past three days, I’ve had people over for meals: two brunches and a dinner. The last time people came over for a full meal was probably months ago, so three in three days is a little out of the ordinary for me, but it has been delightful! And since I’ve spent a bit extra on food, it’s also brought into focus how much more food is at a restaurant compared to homemade.

What I bought:

  • Flour: $2.19
  • Baking Powder: $3.29
  • Kale: $1.98
  • Oranges: $0.98
  • Avocados: $2.00
  • Can of Corn: $0.59
  • Can of Beans: $0.99 (Normally I would have made ahead, but I didn’t)
  • Red pepper: $1.49
  • Sweet potatoes: $7.15
  • Red onion: $.0.76
  • Jalapeno: $0.04
  • Lime: $0.10
  • Green onions: $0.50
  • Blackberries: $2.50
  • Raspberries: $2.50
  • Cranberries: $1.40
  • Pumpkin Seeds: $1.32
  • Granola: $5.11
  • Coconut Yogurt $5.29

What I made for 1st Brunch:

This is my absolutely favorite biscuit recipe, and it’s going to become my favorite breakfast potato recipe too. The biscuits were topped with jam a volunteer made, and the guests brought grapes and orange juice to round out the meal. In fact, they brought so many grapes that we debated about how many grapes one would have to eat if one were to eat only grapes for an entire day. The answer we settled on: six pounds.

For Dinner:

I really like these recipes, but I’d make a few adjustments going forward. For one, I’d use yams instead of sweet potatoes for the prettier color (which to be fair, in The Happy Pear video after the link, it looks like they do, but maybe they call yams sweet potatoes in Ireland?). I’d also add a sauce to the sweet potatoes, like salsa drizzled on top. I think they’d be good with some vegan sour cream as well, or cheese and the real thing if you aren’t vegan.

The kale salad was pretty good as is; I’d probably just use a second avocado since mine were small and the salad felt a little dry in places.

For 2nd Brunch:

  • Parfaits with Cashew Cream, coconut yogurt, fresh fruit and granola

Clearly a great brunch, since it’s the only one I got even a partial picture of. There were also roasted potatoes and banana rice, and mimosas, obviously, since it wouldn’t be brunch without mimosas.

So, I spent forty dollars and change on meals with friends this weekend, not including the regular grocery shopping that I still need to do… hello heads of lettuce! How good to see you again! But, a quick glance at a popular brunch spot here in Hillcrest and my favorite dinner spot show that I would have spent $55 on just my meals had we eaten out. And while I don’t have a lot of leftovers, I do have probably two or three meals left over, and I obviously did not use all the flour and baking powder so there will be future biscuits to look forward to. And as one of today’s brunch guests exclaimed, “this is so much better!”

Sometimes I wonder why I immediately gravitate towards writing about food when I’m thinking about money. I don’t think this is just me–many of the blogs and Facebook comments I read mention cutting down your food costs, either by reducing restaurant meals or trimming the fat from your grocery budget (not necessarily literally). Eating gives us the opportunity to make choices aligned with our values three times a day; there are very few other decisions that I make with such frequency and that I have so much control over. As a vegan, I’ve thought about this a lot in ethical terms, but I haven’t thought about it as much in terms of my budget (as though my budget and my ethics are somehow separate, which of course they’re not).

It’s just food, you might say! And it is. It’s also just money! It’s also just time! Time well-spent with friends for less than we would have spent in a restaurant, and sharing delicious things that feel good to me. It’s not always that I can spend relaxing time with my friends (and also have time by myself later) so I enjoyed this weekend a great deal. The rest of today will involve a lot of knitting, a little more grocery shopping, and hopefully, maybe, an early bedtime.

Enjoy the recipes and your weeks!

What $40 Buys

… at least in San Diego.

  • 10 lbs of potatoes
  • 10 lbs of bananas
  • 4 lbs frozen strawberries
  • 1 watermelon
  • 2 heads of lettuce
  • 3 cucumbers
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 head of celery
  • 1 red cabbage
  • 2 green peppers
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 1 bag of carrots

Ten pounds of bananas is about twice as many bananas as I usually eat in a week, so I froze about half for smoothies next week. Four pounds of strawberries is a few pounds less than I like per week, but I had some left over from last week’s excursion. The lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, carrots, celery and some of the cucumbers will become this week’s salads, and other meals will include potatoes, rice and beans (already purchased–except I forgot I was out of black beans! Fortunately there are so many stores available). Cukes and potatoes will be come snacks, as will the watermelon.

Another Post About Food

All I have wanted all week is a beer and a “fish” sandwich from Evolution, a vegan fast food joint on the other side of the park from where I work.

That’s not completely true.

Sometimes I have also wanted pad se ewe from Plumeria.

Not eating out is hard.

I thought I was getting better about it, and I suppose I am if you compare January to December, but it is still really challenging. I still remember how good the food is at Plumeria and Evolution. I still want it.

Upon learning I’m vegan, or vegetarian before that, people have often asked “how could you give up meat? It tastes sooo good!” and, besides the ethical motivation, the fact that I don’t remember what meat tastes like makes it easy to keep up. It’s hard to miss something you barely remember. I can almost taste the pad se ewe now. It would go well washed down with a “fish” sandwich if I could find room in my stomach for both.

There are nine more days in January. What have I learned, besides that it’s hard?

Food is for comfort; at least, when I am stressed or anxious, I turn to food for comfort, and particularly, I turn to eating out as a way to relieve some pressure for providing for myself and as an escape from whatever has got me so anxious. What I make, at least what I made this week, doesn’t comfort me in the same way. It’s sustenance to keep slogging through, but it isn’t a break. Maybe that’s because I eat at my desk or with my computer. #Badhabit.

I plan to permit myself one “huzzah break!” meal in February, then it’s back on the make-it-yourself-bandwagon. I am saving money and I do like a challenge.

No Meals Out Fail

This month’s goal, to avoid eating out, was entirely a bust. Overall, I spent $252 on eating out, some of it work/derbs related, much of it friend/company related. There is a part of me, a strong part, that would like to engage in justifications now, about the various mental states of my friends (or myself) and the need for restaurant meals to relieve our distress. This is perhaps sometimes the case. It was not the case for all, and in my heart, I wonder whether a meal out is the best relief for an anxious heart. It’s what we did, anyway.

When I was growing up, going out to eat was a special occasion, saved up for birthdays or huge, unexpected successes (I can’t quite think of any now, but I’m sure there were some–winning a debate tournament? Graduating?) When family came to town, we might eat one meal out, but certainly not more than two. The rest of the meals were had at home. One of my mom’s “love languages” is cooking, so a meal at home could be just as special and elaborately delicious as one out (in fact, she regularly made a face after eating and started scrutinizing how she could recreate a restaurant meal for less at home. Now I do the same).


These days, I eat out for anything. Work/relationship/life troubles? Meal out! Major work success? Meal out! Hectic evening with no time to prep tomorrow’s lunch? Meal out! Socializing? Meal out!

There are exceptions of course, book club and game nights, for example, but eating out is easily the default mode. My goal this month was to change that, at least in my own mind, and I didn’t succeed.

(Image right: I need more meals like this, breakfast in my new bowl).

So, it continues another month. I think what Barb said in her comment on my last post is right, doing is easier than not doing. So this month my “do” is to offer food alternatives: to invite others over for dinner and games, or a hike instead of a lunch.

My other “do” is to accept what is as enough. A hike without a lunch afterward is enough. A walk is enough. Time one the patio of my apartment with coffee and the cat is enough. There doesn’t have to be more.

I’m also going to try to take it week by week in January, rather than look at the whole month. It’s easier for me to think about what I’m eating each day in one week because I already do that, and to plan a “sociable meal” option in case I want to invite someone over unexpectedly and don’t want to serve them beans.

January is also “Drynuary” aka no alcohol for the month. I’ve done it before and it’s easy, but it’s a nice start the new year. Maybe that’s just yesterday’s bottle of champagne talking.

An Ode to Oatmeal

While we were in Scotland, the Boy and I went to a lecture on the history of porridge as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As a regular connoisseur of oatmeal (porridge as the Scots call it), I loved learning about the importance of this humble breakfast food, and while I enjoyed sampling porridge combinations from lightly salted gruel to fancy pants chocolate and cherry, I am almost never that fancy myself.  Lately, I don’t even bother to heat it up, enjoying it like a poor woman’s museli.


Second bowl of the day. I ate it cold with vanilla and agave syrup to sweeten.

Porridge was eaten by everyone, according to our lecturer, from the poorest child’s plain porridge that got them through the day to the queen’s decadent breakfast with cream and fresh fruit. With the current price of oats at around $3, they are still an excellently frugal choice for breakfast or a snack (this is my second bowl of the day), coming in at only pennies per serving.

When I was growing up, my mom would make us oatmeal with chocolate chips for breakfast and this is still one of my favorite ways to eat it; an easy, decadent treat for mornings when the thought of going to work is unbearable. But I was surprised by how much I liked plain oatmeal, with water and just a little bit of salt. It was soft and comforting, sort of the way some children enjoy plain pasta.

Since our porridge education, I’ve thought a lot about new ways to prepare it. At the lecture, they made porridge with heavy cream, one of the world’s greatest foods. I indulged in the name of cultural education, and I don’t regret it for a second, but I won’t be making my oatmeal with cream in my daily life. I think coconut milk might be a good substitute, but I haven’t made the time to cook oatmeal properly on the stovetop since coming home, so I haven’t tried it. This week it has been enough to enjoy it with almond milk and raspberries, or with just a little sweetness by itself.

At the end of her talk, as we lingered over chocolate-cherry porridge, our lecturer made the case that porridge liberated humanity, by giving women something to feed their bairns besides breast milk, thus allowing them to have more children and increase the global population. While I am not sure that I would credit the rise of civilization to the humble oat, it is a playful idea. I have had enough busy days fueled by a bowl of oatmeal to know better than to overlook its productive qualities.

Know Where Your Next Meal is Coming From

I read this piece of advice in one of the frugal blogs that I read and it has stuck with me. Know where your next meal is coming from.

Now, that blogger was specifically talking about this as a strategy to avoid eating out. For example, bring a snack when you go to an airport or running errands so you’re not tempted to pick up something unhealthy and expensive. It’s helped me avoid picking up the $2 Luna or Cliff bar from the staff lounge because I’ve remembered to bring a couple of snacks of my own. It’s also been hugely helpful as a non-meat eater because it’s helped me to think about the foods I’m likely to encounter and whether I can or want to eat them.

Tonight I’ll be wKnow where your next meal is coming from.orking an overnight with 130 Girl Scouts at the Natural History Museum. I’ll be running the karaoke station from 6 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. so I’m going to need some sustenance besides carrots, junk food and coffee for dinner, snacks and breakfast tomorrow morning. Plus, whatever will get me through practice and another G.S. event afterward on no sleep.

So I planned ahead.

To the left is all the food I’m packing for the overnight. Rather than relying on a bunch of snacks, I wanted some designated meals, so for dinner, I’ll be having spring rolls with soy sauce. I’m packing a banana, three larabars, and some chocolate and mixed nuts for snacks throughout the night, and some almond yogurt, granola, and a peach for breakfast tomorrow morning. Plus, whatever is there that is vegan (carrot sticks, I’m sure about, probably some additional fruit).

Realistically, this is more food than I need, but I’ve been sick lately and I don’t want to run the risk of not having enough or not having the right thing–that’s why there’s sweet and salty in there even though I’m not much of a salt snacker. It feels a little bit like packing for a backpacking trip, except more intimidating. Twelve hours of karaoke has to be against some article of the Geneva convention. At least I’ll have some good food as I slowly lose my mind.