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DSC_0629John is on furlough with the government shut down, and we’re loving it.  We’ve been busy enough lately that time off, even if he never ends up getting paid, is just what we needed. (Also, this is why we eat beans and rice and don’t buy stuff– so we have a little extra in the bank for times like this.  And it’s times like this that make me really thankful we don’t own a home or have car payments, so instead of being frantic about everything, we’re just having one long, beautiful, unending weekend and we’re drinking bottles of wine and cleaning out little corners of the house and playing games with Will all day.)

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Anyway, the past few weeks I’ve undergone massive reformation in the way I grocery shop.  I’ve gone way over budget every month ever since we’ve moved to Ithaca, and I decided that it must end.  We’re getting back to basics. We haven’t even been eating great food– I’ve just been lazy and unintentional in the way I shop, and way too indulgent in buying random things here and there.

So now I’m actually planning meals. And I’ve been cooking huge batches of dry beans in my big stainless steel pot and then freezing 2 and 4 cup portions in Ball jars.  I don’t love freezing food (not sure why) but I think having pre-cooked (not in a can) beans is super helpful.

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I’ve found organic sausage and organic ground lamb at a good price, so I’ve been buying one of those each week and stretching out that pound of meat for the whole week.  It’s been awhile since I’ve bought a chicken to roast, but I will add that back into the rotation once a month.  I’ve spent much less the past 3 or 4 weeks, even though I’ve added in buying this pound of meat (I hadn’t really been buying any meat before).  Somehow just a little crumble of sausage or lamb has been making the usual bean and egg dishes feel much more satisfying.

And I’m not a freezer cooker, but I decided that I don’t want to cook on Sundays if at all possible, so the past few weeks I’ve been trying to cook a big pot of hearty soup on Saturday to eat on Sunday.  This happened sort of by chance about a month ago, when we had all the ingredients on hand to make this amazing peanut eggplant stew from Veganomicon.  I made an enormous batch of it, and we ate it for dinner Saturday and then were able to invite people over for lunch after church on Sunday because I knew I had a big pot of something delicious already made.  Our friends brought a salad and a loaf of amazing bread, and it was a perfect meal.  And I didn’t have to cook.

So, in order to have a little rest on Sundays, and also in case we want to have guests over, I am now using Saturdays to make a Big Pot of Soup.

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Last weekend’s Big Pot of Soup was chili (with 2/3 of the lamb from this week– I had saved most of it in anticipation of the chili) with red and black beans.  John usually doesn’t like chili that much (because I never make it with meat, I think), but the lamb did the trick for him and we both feasted sumptuously all weekend.  This weekend I just made a pot of white beans with dried sage and thyme.  We ate it with the ends of loaves of bread doused with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toasted into big croutons.  And large curls of shaved romano cheese.

There is something so calming about having a really big pot of something good to eat, not having to throw something together after church on Sunday, and being able to take a rest without spending money to eat out.

This coming weekend: Buffalo Chicken Soup (but I’m going to add a bunch of white beans to it to thicken it up a little).  I’ll let you know how that goes.

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