Eating from the Pantry: August 18-25

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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.

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Spending:

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)

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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.

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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….

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Eating from the Pantry: August 10-17

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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.

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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.)

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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):

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CSA 8.17 & Other Things

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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.

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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!

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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.

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CSA 8.10

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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.

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Eating from the Pantry: August 1-9

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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.

Spending:
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.

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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.

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CSA 8.3

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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:

photo 1-5 photo 4-3(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.)

 

Blueberries

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Used $4.50 of this month’s grocery money on a couple of pints of blueberries (and 2 heads of garlic) at a U-pick blueberry place down the road. Will loved it, obviously, and figured out to pick them himself.  He ended up covered in dirt, with blue-stained hands, and little burrs all over his socks and clothes (fortunately, not super prickly ones).  Not a bad way to spend the morning.

Eating from the Pantry for August

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Somehow we have ended up with an overflowing pantry.  (See above. Please note the bottom shelf and floor, which used to be very handy, usable space, and have recently been surrendered to the indomitable Toddler.  I hope everyone’s heart is welling up with sorrow and pity at the way in which I have lost fully one third of my already quite tiny pantry space. But then again, I have a tiny pantry full of food, and there is more food where that came from, and potable water flows from our faucets with zero effort on our part, and there are many, many people in the world who would be overjoyed to have running water and four pantry shelves full of good food with more to be had with the swipe of a plastic card.)

Anyway. Since our pantry is so full, and since we’ve spent quite a bit of money the past couple of months on trips and the dentist and eye doctors I decided that we are going to clean out the pantry/freezer this month and my goal is to spend only $150 on anything additional this month, to cover eggs, a lemon here and there, etc. That’s going to be about $30/week.  I’m already getting a little nervous, but I think the discipline will be good. And we do get a heaping bag of veggies from our CSA each week.  So we should be fine.

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So here’s what we have in our capacious pantry, full of food: a few extra bags of dry beans, a huge jar of black eyed peas, lots of rice and buckwheat, several boxes of Barilla Plus pasta (which I picked up on sale at Target), some cans of tuna and salmon and little jars of red curry paste.  A can of coconut milk. Some packets of flavored oatmeal left over from our trip. A not insubstantial jar of ghee. Lots of peanut butter and cocoa powder.  2 bags of Thai chili lime cashews from our recent trip to Trader Joe’s. And some random things (not sure what, but I suppose we’ll find out, won’t we?) in the freezer. I am almost positive I have at least one ham hock, which will help us take care of the black eyed peas. The fridge is bare after our 8 days out of town, but we’ll get our CSA on Sunday. John will be out of town most of this upcoming week, and Will and I can get by on lentil kitchari (basically his favorite food of all time, except for blueberries) and grilled cheese sandwiches.

And we did just buy 2 cases of wine at Trader Joes, so that will help (one case of 2 buck Chuck, and one case of a variety of $4.99 wines, which after the case discount were $4.50 per bottle).  Stay tuned for weekly updates and menus! (And if anyone has any ideas for good pantry meals, let me know!!!!)

The (Tiny) Nursery

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So this is the story of how our nursery became semi-decorated, only a year after our baby was born!  I decided to write about it because we spent next to no money on this room, it’s tiny (8.5×7.5 feet, or 2.6×2.3 meters), and we’re renting so we couldn’t paint, or at least we probably could have if we painted over it before we move but neither of us are that invested in wall color, and between the painting and re-painting when we move it would have cost over $100 probably. Also, our apartment is also on the small side (about 800 sq ft) so we still needed to use this room to store some of our own things.  So with all those limitations in mind, this is how his nursery has come together! (And yes, I use the words “come together” quite loosely, as his room is still somewhat bare and odd-looking.)

Before Will was born our small second bedroom was a combination office/guest room, but when I was pregnant we got rid of the twin bed and as much other stuff as we could, and the office-y essentials we either moved to a shelf that John built in the newly established nursery or brought into our living room (which is also our dining room and now home to our printer and papers, etc.).

I knew a regular-sized crib would feel too big, so we opted for this mini-crib.  (Although if I had imagined in my wildest dreams that my tiny, innocent baby would one day be chewing the paint off his crib I would have bought the unpainted, natural wood version of the same crib. Sigh.) We also got an IKEA dresser that doubles as a changing table (actually, crib and dresser were gifts from our parents, thank you, parents! If our parents hadn’t helped us both these things would have been bought on craigslist).

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We also had a set of white shelves (that we got from a friend for free several years ago), a little side table (that i got for free from a friend after college). We bought a swiveling, rocking recliner at Mimi’s Attic for about $50 (after John successfully haggled on the price). It has turned out to be one of the best purchases of all time.  It’s SUPER comfortable, and I’ve spent countless hours there nursing and rocking the baby.  When Will was born, that was really all that was in the room, except a sweet little IKEA mobile that used to hang above his changing table. Until his arms got long enough to pull it down. Sigh.

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(On the shelves in the picture above are some white Skubb boxes from IKEA. They’re not the highest quality or most beautiful storage boxes, but they are extremely inexpensive, and they work.  I use one to store clothes that Will has grown out of, and one for clothes that he’s about to grow into– I try to bring up the clothes that are a size bigger than he currently is so as he grows out of things, sniff sniff, I can move the smaller things out of his dresser and move larger things in.  And then once every few months I bring up the big storage bin from the basement, pack away the things that are too small, pull out new things in the next size up, etc.  I also use a Skubb box to store things for Goodwill or the consignment store, and several for toys that are out of rotation so we don’t end up with too many toys on the living room floor.)

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Anyway, the walls were pretty bare.  I just could never bring myself to spend money on decorative objects. But on a trip to Target a few months ago, the three of us together, I made John look at all the home decor aisles with me and he spotted a light blue wooden whale.  We both loved it and in a moment of reckless abandon John threw it in the cart.  I was appalled.  But delighted. So we came home and he put it right up on the wall. $20.

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Not long after that I decided I would buy A CURTAIN! Because Will had been waking up at the crack of 6:00 every morning and I was hoping that a black-out curtain would trick him into sleeping later.  For a month or two I draped an old, brown fleece blanket over his window, but obviously that was depressing and so (after 4 or 5 trips to Target) I finally bought a navy, faux velvet blackout curtain.  $29.99.

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Other things in the room: My mom made us the blanket above, inspired by a blanket my sister-in-law has! I love the vintage alphabet design!  The “You are my sunshine” canvas on the wall is also thanks to my mother, who did not appreciate the spartan aesthetic of the nursery last time she was visiting and bought this for us at T. J. Maxx. It’s also the song John sings to Will when he cries.  The pillow on the chair is thanks to John’s mother, who gave us two of those pillows from IKEA a couple of years ago. Zigzag pattern blanket on the chair was a gift from my good friend Heather. ABCs picture was made for me by the women at our church as a baby shower gift.

So that’s our nursery, simple and spare, but I love it.

Road Trip Food (with Toddler)

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Soooooo we just got back from an 8 day road trip that covered 9 states and involved driving from Ithaca to a lake in Maryland to spend a couple of days with John’s family and then from there to St. Louis for the wedding of two very dear friends! Which I was a bridesmaid in! I was actually a groomsperson, but I wore a dress and stood on the women’s side. And the reception and other events were in a super fancy, amazing hotel (well, this one) so we decided to splurge and stay there rather than staying in a motel 6, where we’d have to leave our precious baby with a babysitter we’ve only just met. (Well, we did leave him with a babysitter, but it helped me knowing he was in the same building!)

BUT with all the gas and hotel money (and random concomitant costs, the babysitter, pedicure for me with the bride and bridesmaids, disposable diapers for Will) I was determined to buy most of our food for the trip in advance to save a little money. I thought I would share how we did this in case anyone else is going to be on the road and would like some food ideas! (Though this list is admittedly low in the fruit/vegetable area, I have to admit. I know we could have packed apples and avocados or something, but I just didn’t want to deal with the stickiness and mess.  Will got some veggies in the veggie burgers (and at the lake, while we were there), and we’re all going to eat lots of good greenness this week to make up for it.)

I was really worried about how all the food was going to work out (especially with Will), so I made a little chart (above) to semi-plan our meals. I blocked out the meals we would eat at the lake house, and then as we ate meals I blocked those out as well.  We ended up buying ZERO food on the road until the very last day! We did buy a few diet cokes and one pack of gum, and the last day we bought some McDonald’s for breakfast and a package of smoked salmon and a pint of blueberries at a Trader Joe’s for lunch. But otherwise, for breakfast, lunch, and dinners this is what we ate.

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Turkey jerky sticks.  I bought 10 of these at our health food co-op. Jerkey is basically the most expensive food per pound of all time, but based on road trip experience I know that having easy access to good protein is important!

Salami. Less expensive than jerky, and also doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Inspired by Robert Capon’s description in The Supper of the Lamb of tossing hunks of cheese and salami along with a pocket knife to kids in the back seat of a car during road trips. (Obviously we didn’t toss salami and a knife to Will; we both just like the idea of using a pocket knife to slice things with on the road. Maybe in a few more years.)

Cheese. For obvious reasons.

Bread.  To go with the salami and cheese.

Hard boiled eggs.  I bought eggs at home, took them to the lake in a cooler and then hard boiled them for the STL leg of the journey.

Sausage.  I bought some organic ground pork and seasoned it myself and made sausage before we left (cheaper per pound than organic sausage). I made sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches the morning we left our house and the morning we left the lake house for lunches those days. And Will loves sausage, so that was his protein for a lot of his meals.

Nuts. Mostly cashews with some other random things mixed in.

Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.  I added chocolate chips, omitted all the sugar, and substituted ground flaxseeds and ground walnuts for a cup of the oats. I loved these.  Loved them. (I also made a batch using this recipe.  These tasted a little more strongly of banana, but were super tasty).

Tins of sardines and oysters.  Opened these periodically for Will (and John).

Veggie burgers.  I made some veggie-bean burgers before we left, but they were too crumbly so I broke down and bought some pre-packaged veggie burgers for Will– with beans, rice and vegetables all in one fairly non-messy format, it was worth the money.

Oatmeal packets.  I bought some for breakfasts, and we didn’t end up eating as many of them as I thought, but oh well!

We had a lot of picnics in grassy spots by gas stations or at rest stops.  This was our first lunch, and certainly the most scenic stop we made. Will sat on top of a picnic table and ate a veggie burger.

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