John, Will, and I went pumpkin picking at Indian Creek farm this afternoon. We went right before dinner, and Will must have been starving because he kept trying to eat everything from the pumpkins to acorns and unripe tomatoes. It was adorable. Anyway, it was a perfect October day, we bought some unpasteurized apple-pear cider, and even though almost all the pictures involve Will putting vegetables in his mouth I still think they’re precious.
Sometimes the less we spend on food, the better we eat. Maybe because I have to plan a little more, put a little extra work in to coax meals out of dry beans or little bags of buckwheat groats that have been sitting in the pantry too long. I love cooking with buckwheat. The taste reminds me of the savory buckwheat crepes I ate in Brittany all those summers ago, and because buckwheat is actually a seed (and not a true grain) it is gluten-free and I think agrees with my system much better than real flour does. So recently I decided to use some buckwheat to make a dutch baby pancake (basically, a one pan, eggier version of pancakes). I love the texture of these, and one “pancake” will work pretty well as a weekend lunch for John, Will, and me. We had some blueberries in the freezer so I tossed a handful of those in, and added ginger for a little kick. We ate it with the last drops of the maple syrup. And butter and milk. Perfect, filling fall weather food. Blueberry Ginger Buckwheat Dutch Baby 1 c. buckwheat flour (or half buckwheat and half regular flour if you aren’t used to the earthy taste of buckwheat– though John usually doesn’t care for things made of 100% buckwheat, and I don’t think he even noticed that this was made with something other than regular flour– the soaking process seemed to mitigate the buckwheat flavor) 1 c. water plus 2 T yogurt or whey or apple cider vinegar (or instead of water and the whey or ACV you can use one cup of buttermilk or yogurt) 4 eggs 1 t. vanilla extract 1/2 t. salt 1/2 t. ground ginger dash of cinnamon 1 c. water (or whole milk) 4 T butter or coconut oil 1/2 c. (or more) fresh or frozen blueberries 1. Soak flour overnight (or up to 24 hours) in the water plus yogurt, whey, or ACV. (After adding the liquids, stir to make sure everything is well incorporated before letting it soak.) 2. The next day, or when ready to cook, heat oven to 350 degrees and add coconut oil or butter to an 8″ pan. Place in oven until oil/butter is melted. 3. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and add them, along with the remaining ingredients, to the flour that has been soaking. Pull out the pan with the melted butter or oil, swish melted fat around to coat the pan and then pour the rest of the oil into the batter. Stir batter until everything is incorporated, pour into pan, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the pancake is lightly browned on the edges and set. *Obviously, you can leave out the ginger and blueberries if you’d like. Substitute another kind of fruit, or add chocolate chips instead! Or leave plain! Or omit vanilla extract, fruit, and spices and add a cup of grated cheese to make a nice savory variation.
Will and I went to Indian Creek Farm this morning to pick apples. There were some raspberries hanging on to a few bushes, so we picked some of those, too. The farm also has a great sandbox and play area for kids with swings, old tractors kids can climb on, a giant sling shot for shooting rotten apples, etc. I love fall in Ithaca. And I love this little man!
So the last days of August (yes, forever ago!) brought company (my dearest childhood friend and her beau– they brought bottles of wine and fresh lobsters from the city) as well as the start of my job. Which I haven’t written about much (at all?) here, but I work as a chaplain at a college here in town 12-15 hours a week. Which is just enough hours to make life feel pretty crazy around here. BUT I completely and totally love what I do, and it is pretty much an ideal job in every respect.
Anyway, all that is to say it’s taken me forever to write about the last week or so of the cleaning out the pantry/freezer adventure of August (while spending only $150 extra on groceries for the 3 of us– See here for what our pantry looked like on August 1). And sadly I don’t remember much of what we ate those last days! When Heather and Chris were in town we had lobster one night, and I had to spend some extra money on bread, butter, eggs, etc. for them, and we bought a pork loin from our local butcher for dinner the other night.
So I ended up going over my $150 allotment by about $50. But STILL, we only spent $200 on groceries for a whole month!!!! And I cleaned out the recesses of the fridge, freezer, and pantry and decided what to eat and what to toss. It was like hitting a reset button in the kitchen, which is a good feeling.
The one downside is that we started September low on things I typically store up, but that will just mean that September is another lean month as I use our regular budget to slowly stock back up on beans, pasta, olive oil, etc.
I LOVED doing the month of August like this, and I will probably do similar clean out the pantry months once a year from now on, if not more often.
We’re going into our final days of trying to spend only $150 on groceries this month while I eat our way through the pantry and freezer. As of today I have about $10 left. We have company coming in town this weekend, so I’m going to have to spend a little extra on food for them, but otherwise I think we’ll be able to make it the rest of this week! I have a dozen and a half eggs (really good ones from the farmers’ market two days ago, picture below), we have lots of produce from our CSA, and still plenty of beans and some pasta left in the pantry. Plus 2/3 or so lbs of organic pork sausage in the freezer.
Aug. 18 $10 3 dozen eggs (from local, pastured hens)
Aug. 20 $25 3 loaves of bread, organic yogurt (on sale), organic cheese (on sale), local, pastured pork hot dogs (a very impulsive purchase– I was feeling really sick and was grocery shopping at 4:30 pm and it just happened), 4 Larabars (on sale for $0.60 each)– this grocery trip, the hot dogs and larabars particularly, might not have been the best idea. This trip left me with $16 or 17 left for the next 11 days………. Not sure if we’ll be able to make it!!!!
Aug. 25 $10 2 dozen eggs and a pound of lamb’s liver from a vendor at the farmer’s market
Total spent: $45 (Remaining: $8 and lots of quarters, so maybe $10 total)
August 18, Monday– Breakfast Soaked porridge for me and Will, plus an egg each. Lunch was mung beans and rice. Dinner, salmon cakes with kimchi tartar sauce.
August 19, Tuesday– Breakfast: Eggs and porridge. Lunch: mung beans and rice with curry. Dinner: John worked late and ate sandwiches on the road, and Will and I ate mung bean curry
August 20, Wednesday– Breakfast: (Soaked) buckwheat dutch baby pancake with blueberries Dinner: Roasted potatoes with pesto, hot dogs with sauerkraut and mustard. Will had mung bean curry, blueberries (thawed from the freezer), and potatoes.
August 21, Thursday– Breakfast: I made some little kale-dill cakes for Will and me. The kale had been sitting in the fridge for almost two weeks, and I decided that we would eat it today, by gum. But I don’t think Will is ready to chew sautéed kale yet, so I cooked it and then pureed it in the blender along with some dill and two eggs. I added some bread crumbs (that I made from stale sourdough bread a few weeks ago), and then cooked them up like little pancakes. Will loved them, and I ate several myself. Lunch: Soaked buckwheat crepes with cheese, more kale cakes for Will.
Dinner at friends’ houses both Friday and Saturday nights. Random things for breakfast and lunch.
August 24, Sunday Made a big pot of black eyed peas with rice and ham.
August 25, Monday Dinner: CSA heirloom tomato sliced and topped with pesto from the last of our basil for the week. And some lamb’s liver I bought at the farmer’s market yesterday– dredged in flour and seared in the pan for a couple of minutes on each side. Will ate black eyed peas, lots of liver, little dollops of pesto, and chunks of beets I roasted last night.
Also, Will and I went to play in the fountains at the park today, and I packed a picnic lunch. Trying to soak up as much sunshine as possible over the next few weeks….
We just finished our second week plus a day of eating from the pantry (and only spending $150 for groceries for the month of August). The pantry was a little barer than it was when we began, but our fridge was full of beautiful vegetables from our CSA. Two very sweet friends brought soup on two different days early in the week as I was recovering from being sick. And one of them gave me a whole, cooked (local, organic) chicken later in the week. I pulled all the meat off, made stock out of the bones, and then cooked a warming soup with coconut milk, lime, and ginger. And odds and ends of vegetables.
I’ve had a bad cold all week, and John came down with it later in the week, so I actually cheated a little and bought several boxes of Traditional Medicinals tea and a jar of honey that I’m not counting toward our total for this month. I’ve been thinking about how it’s such a fine line between food and medicine– what actually counts toward the grocery budget, and what doesn’t? Anyway, I made the executive decision to just buy the tea and honey and not stress about it.
One somewhat unexpected benefit of eating from the pantry this month is that I have been just thinking about the overall functionality and aesthetics of our kitchen space. Like I wrote earlier, we’ve lost a lot of pantry space because of Will, and we also lost the storage space under our kitchen island, so I’ve moved a lot of things around over the past few months. But some things were moved hastily and not planned out very well. So I’ve decided that I want to make our kitchen space work a little better. And if possible… be a little prettier. The latter is the hardest, because I also don’t want to spend much money at all. But I’ve changed a few things around, bought a few new glass jars for things, and hopefully soon I can show you all the somewhat improved space! (Baking supplies below– I already had most things in glass jars, but I transferred baking powder to a glass jar, got rid of some old odds and ends, and peeled the labels off a few bottles (vanilla, ghee, and molasses) and replaced with paper labels to create a somewhat more unified appearance. It’s still, as you can see, not Pinterest-worthy glamorous, but it’s uncluttered, and I like it.)
Anyway, here is what I’ve spent on groceries over the past week plus a day or so:
Aug. 10 $16.50 For 2 dozen eggs (local, pastured), a pound of organic butter, and a block of not organic cheese
Aug. 11 $24.50 Cheese, corn tortillas, organic pork sausage (a pound and a half), 4 avocados, 7 bananas, and a small amount of real salt from the bulk bins for some pickles I planned to make
Aug. 13 $4.00 bread
Aug. 17 $15.50 Raw, organic cheese, coffee filters, smoked oysters (for Will), 5 bananas, and dill (for some pickles I started a few days ago)
Total: $60.50, Remaining: $55.50
And here’s what we ate:
August 10, Sunday My fever was gone this morning, but a terrible cough has settled in. Sigh. Once again John has fended for himself and the baby for breakfast and lunch. I ate about a third of a cup of yogurt in the morning, and a piece of cheese toast for lunch. A dear, wonderful, angel-heart of a friend brought us over a big pot of lentil soup for dinner.
August 12, Tuesday Breakfast was eggs and toast all around, plus banana and cheese for Will. Lunch: I ate the rest of the lentil soup my friend brought. Will had another egg, some beans, and sweet potatoes. John took our last two pieces of bread and a tomato to work to eat with some tuna fish he had in his office. Dinner: ANOTHER super sweet friend brought us soup for dinner. Along with a loaf of bread. Truly manna from heaven because I’m still feeling not great and the kitchen is piled with dishes I haven’t done from earlier in the day.
August 13, Wednesday Dinner: I made some pesto from CSA basil and we ate it with pasta, a small amount of the sausage I bought on the 11th (and froze in small portions) cooked up with onions and all tossed with finely chopped celery leaves.
August 14, Thursday Breakfast: More soaked porridge with raisins and cinnamon, plus 2 eggs for Will. Working on organizing the spices and overhauling the pantry in general and as I was cleaning out one dark corner I discovered half a bar of chocolate that had fallen down out of sight! Not too old, either!
August 15, Friday Made coconut chicken soup from the chicken a friend of ours gave us. Used my last can of coconut milk and ginger powder instead of fresh ginger (didn’t have any fresh). John has come down with a cold as well, so lots of soup and tea for both of us.
August 16, Saturday Chicken soup for lunch and supper. Odds and ends for Will, some chicken and vegetables from the soup, bits of avocado, scrambled eggs.
August 17, Sunday Lunch: chicken soup Dinner: Roasted potatoes & tomatoes with heaps of pesto (pretty much all either from our CSA last week or this)
Here’s the pantry (when we started on the left, today on the right):
Our CSA this week: 5 heads of garlic, several onions, a bag of basil, sun gold tomatoes (most of which I ate straight out of the carton this afternoon– I am obsessed with these things), 2 heads of purple cabbage, potatoes, and red and golden beets. And oh this garlic, fresh and shiny and purple under the dry outer skins.
Also, I got this gorgeous cookbook from the library yesterday. I’ve been reading this woman’s blog for awhile, and the book is just rich with recipes for wholesome, good food. I wanted to buy it, but I’ve been on a no-spending kick lately, so I didn’t. I cannot wait to cook as many things out of this as our limited budget will allow this week!
And we’ve been drinking a mixture of equal parts apple cider vinegar and raw honey for our colds. A tablespoon here and there. And drinking lots of tea. Still have quite a cough and might go back to the doctor this week if it doesn’t get any better.
Our CSA yesterday: a couple of pounds of small, red potatoes, celery, kale, basil, lettuce, tomatoes. And a green pepper and two cucumbers. Not, as is suggested in the photo below, sweet potatoes, alas. Those we already owned but John had taken them out of the fridge to dry (because our fridge has been leaking water inside for awhile, and John somehow miraculously fixed it yesterday afternoon). I made some pickles according to this recipe this afternoon with the cucumbers. We’ll see how they turn out.
Here’s a recap of our first week (plus two days) of trying to clean out our pantry/freezer and spend only $150 on groceries this month. John was out of town for most of this week, which (although very sad, especially when I came down with a fever of close to 102) made grocery spending a little easier. I spent a little extra on meat this week, but I’m saving the ground pork for cooking with beans next week when John gets home. It’s been a little lean, but not bad. I did cut some mold off a few pieces of bread and eat the rest, something I normally wouldn’t do. Good practice in learning that small amounts of food matter. Spending for the week and selected menus below, not that anyone really cares, but here they are.
Aug. 1: $4.50 on about 2 pints of blueberries and 2 heads of garlic at a local farm
Aug. 3: $11 3 lbs organic sweet potatoes, bunch of organic broccoli, 6 bananas, bag of onions, salt
Aug. 5: $19.50 2 lbs of chicken bones for stock, a pound of ground beef, and a pound of ground pork from The Piggery
Total spent: $35, Remaining $115
August 1 For breakfast Will and I ate some porridge (a Bob’s Red Mill blend that my mother-in-law gave us, with rice, corn, buckwheat, and sorghum). I soaked it the night before and then cooked it up with a heap of coconut oil and ghee and some frozen blueberries. We ate an egg each, and Will also had some banana. Lunch was some leftover refried beans and odds and ends (cheese and blueberries, mostly). Dinner: John and I had pasta with garlic and olive oil, Will ate a pinto bean cake from the freezer and some cheese, and all three of us had carrots and some leftover pieces of salami from our trip.
August 2 Breakfast: John and Will scrambled eggs, Will and me leftover porridge from yesterday along with some fresh blueberries. Lunch, a dutch baby pancake (soaked the flour in water and a tablespoon each of whey and apple cider vinegar for 24 hours). For Will, pinto bean cake from freezer, cooked carrots, a few pieces of cheese. And blueberries. Dinner: potluck dinner at our pastor’s house. We brought some blueberries for our humble contribution.
August 3 Breakfast: Oatmeal with flax and chia seeds, raisins and cinnamon. Lunch: Pasta with pesto from freezer tossed with chopped celery leaves (from CSA). Dinner: baked trout (from freezer) with roasted garlic, tomatoes, and potatoes (from CSA), and sautéed green beans. (John cooked every last bit of it, and it was amazing.)
August 4 Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and toast with (lots of) butter. Lunch: Will had canned oysters, cheese, and sweet potatoes. I semi-skipped lunch but made a peanut butter, chocolate, banana smoothie when Will woke up from his nap (half a banana, 3 T pb, 2-3 T cocoa powder, 1/4 t. salt, dash of cinnamon (optional), 6 ice cubes, 1 c water– blend and voila. Literally my favorite thing to eat/drink these days). Dinner: John is out of town all week, so lentil kitchari with yogurt on top for me and Will.
August 6 Breakfast: scrambled eggs and toast (and a cup of chicken broth each). Lunch: Will had some ground beef and leftover lentil kitchari with plain yogurt. I semi-skipped lunch again and had another peanut butter chocolate smoothie in the afternoon. (By “semi-skipped” I mean I ate a little bit of what Will didn’t and was generally so exhausted by the whole feeding him lunch after chasing him around all morning thing that I totally lost my appetite. I’m not intentionally not eating lunch, Mom. And my afternoon smoothie has about 5 million calories in it, so it evens out a bit.) Dinner: Will had ground beef, heaps of broccoli with butter, banana, cheese, and chicken broth. I had a large plate of broccoli with butter and a glass of wine. Several hours after he fell asleep I ate dinner, which may or may not have consisted of Thai chili lime cashews, more wine, and an episode or two of Jeeves and Wooster.
August 7 Breakfast: Bob’s Red Mill porridge again (soaked a day before) with heaps of butter, ghee, and coconut milk. And cinnamon. And an egg apiece. Lunch: Lentil kitchari with onions and turnips. After lunch on Thursday I started getting sick… Literally went through an entire box of tissues from late afternoon until the next morning. Even with Nyquil I was up all night with a dripping nose and stabbing pain in my neck, etc.
August 8 Woke up with a fever that reached 101.8 and a sore stomach from blowing my nose so many times. I hardly have language to describe how terrible that night, morning and early afternoon were. If John wouldn’t have been able to get home by the afternoon I would have called one of our mothers to fly on the next plane out. But John was home by 2:30 Friday and apart from nursing Will I was able to lie in bed for almost 2 full days. In my fevered stupor (and before John had come home from being out of town) I somehow managed to cook an egg and a sweet potato for Will for breakfast. For lunch I opened a can of smoked oysters and gave him the rest of the sweet potato and cheese. I wasn’t able to eat anything until John came home and made me toast. I have no idea what he had for dinner.
August 9 John managed to feed himself and Will from whatever odds and ends we had. I had very little appetite but was able to eat some lentils and a piece of cheese toast. In the evening my fever went up to over 102. So thankful that John was home, and in the morning the fever was gone. And this is our pantry now (on right), compared with when we began (on left), minus whatever filter I had on my phone in the picture on the right, oops.
This week: some potatoes, 2 tomatoes, purple beans, a bunch of carrots, celery (with lots of leaves), a box of some super hot peppers, a box of blueberries, some basil, and a couple of turnips. A good haul, and enough to help us get through this week without spending too much of our tiny allotment for this month. John left this morning and won’t be back until Friday, so lots of hours of just me and the babe. Fortunately, he’s going through a phase where he throws his arms around my neck and squeezes me and nestles his cheek in whenever I pick him up, so I think we will survive. Also, this and this:
(And yes, our house is messy, and yes Will isn’t wearing pants, and yes that’s a twin mattress on the floor in our living room. Our neighbor just moved and was giving it away, and I decided I wanted a place for Will to climb and jump and cuddle. So far it’s a success. Our neighbor also bequeathed us an heirloom tomato plant, but no tomatoes so far…. I’m hoping we get at least one before the cold weather comes.)