In the words of the great Moose A. Moose…I feel like I’m falling for fall. (If you can identify the song…you have little people infesting your home too.)
I have finally learned to appreciate the bounty of autumn. I have mastered the art of the world’s easiest butternut soup, narcoleptic cat easy. You simply steam them in the nuker in pyrex until they are soft, mix them with stock, salt, pepper, and buttermilk. Puree the whole shabang up with an immersion blender, the coolest kitchen gadget EVER, and you have some tasty creamy healthy fall soup. (You can actually use any cucurbit you have rolling around.)
Still tripping over squash…nuke ’em up like noted above and add them to your cheese sauce for a tasty quasi-nutritious mac & cheese. Create your reg. light roux…fat&flour browned for a minute. (I like butter and a little King Arthur’s white but any fat and flour will do.) Add a little mustard, either fresh or powdered. Add your milk and bring to a slight boil. Toss in shredded cheese. Then add your pureed steamed squash. (Puree the squash before adding because pureeing with the cheese makes for a weird texture.) Pour over whatever noodle you have on hand, or even rice and bake the bad boy until crispy on top.
A taste of summer…coleslaw made with fall cabbage, dicon radish, and apples. Shred it all up, add salt, and pepper,a little mayo, and a little white vinegar. Beyond tasty.
Leftover apples and pears…although they go pretty fast in the land of baby chimps. Cook them down into tasty apple/pear sauce to put with pancakes or even to bake with. (Applesauce can replace veggie oil in many quick bread recipes. Another way to localfy your ingredients.) Or use Green Bean’s fantastic rhubarb tart recipe and just replace the rhubarb with whatever fall fruits you have on hand.
Besides being nutritious, local, seasonal, and delicious…I am also finding these dishes are quite budget friendly. If you haven’t joined a CSA keep it in mind for the next season. Not only will you be supporting sustainable agriculture in your neighborhood, but you will be forcing yourself to learn about food and seasons and, perhaps, saving yourself a little green.
Isn’t it funny how watching one’s retirement plan go from escaping to a small remote tropical island to living in a small trailer on Long Island makes one appreciate a cheap meal? Maybe it’s just me.
I did a little info gathering during my “research” at Hershey. The simple facts: they own 40% of the US chocolate market and about 11% worldwide. The vast majority of their goods are neither organic nor Fair Trade. Last year they did buy one of my favorites, Dagoba, and seemed to have allowed that business to go on as usual in its organic and Fair Tradey goodness. Given Dagoba’s success, Hershey has created a line of less exotic organic chocolates to appeal to the less adventurous milk chocolate eaters of the world. Very mild and tasty. Much creamier than a Hershey Kiss. Not a whole lot of chocolate flavor…but most milk chocolate lacks that cocoa intensity. (The only milk chocolate I seek out is Scharffen Berger…which has about 40% beany goodness. Hmmmm…Scharferific.) So why did I buy the Hershey organic chocolates…which are not the healthy dark kind, Fair Trade, or the new Equitrade. In general, as pointed out repeatedly in Omnivore’s Dilemma, corporate organic isn’t thought to be the best solution. No it isn’t..but if you can get the big guys playing along that is still a whole lot less toxic chemical being dumped into the world. The more people show an interest …the more it will shift…the more it shifts..the more affordable..etc.etc. Hershey has a lot of buying power and based on their purchase of Dagoba and this new product line they are open to the next generation of chocolate. And I for one am willing to sacrifice my time and my waistline to nudge them in the right direction.
While on the subject of Hershey and their potential greeness…no recycle bins anywhere in the park…yet they had signs up with green tips on how to save the planet. Their green campaign is about as effective as their warm Hershey Explosion campaign. Yes…last year they actually had a warm liquid brownie concoction called a Hershey Explosion. Who would of thought that exploding body temperature poo colored chocolate wouldn’t be a big seller?
My strategy for getting food budget under control without sacrificing quality, Fair Tradiness, Organiciness…or cheese… will be have to be simple…narcoleptic cat simple. I know myself…I won’t be clipping ads from papers or keeping track of coupons for 7 cents consistently…I need something much more streamlined, organized, and consistent…and did I mention narcoleptic cat simple.
1. Collect receipts for a month of all food
2. Compare prices between stores…especially for the basics
3. Create an *envelope, repurposed from junk mail/bills of course, for each store I shop at with a list of the items that are found cheapest in that store, along with the price. If I happen to have a coupon for that item or store I can slip it into the envelope. Clip the wad together. Wallllllaaaaaaa. Moron proof budget organization!
*(I use the used envelope method now for my general shopping list…very helpful. Great reuse before recycle too!)
I think even I, the leader of the organizationally challenged, could do this and have it be effective. I have already discovered by glancing over the receipts that by consistently shopping at Trader Joe’s for some basics over Stop & Rob,the local Quickie Marts, or my health nut shops I could be saving quite a lot of money without sacrificing the core quality issues.
So simply by being more organized about my shopping I could be saving $51 dollars a month..over $600 a year on 3 measly items! That’s a lot of stinky cheese. Hmmmmmm stinky cheese. The potential savings thrill me and at the same time make me say…WTF have I been doing all this time? Ok…enough focus on my financial incompetence… back to my happy place……cheeeeeese. Now whatever will I do with all this extra money in the budget?
I’m talking about BUDGET, of course. (How many of you filth seekers counted the stars? Admit it…I know you are out there.)
We have never really had any formal type of budget. Since neither of us shop for sport and we have a decent income it has never really been an issue. We usually just keep an eye on the credit card tally through Quicken. Getting too high …we buy one less diamond encrusted codpiece that month. Pretty loosey-goosey. Now that we are losing about a new car, a decent new car at that, a month in our stocks, 401Ks, and wherever else it is possible to lose money, we are thinking of taking a slightly more organized approach.
Now…I already told you about the November house rules: no new stuff, no buying lunches, and the dreaded wine budget. Obviously the stuff spending freeze is temporary but it will hopefully give us a decent idea as to what we have been spending by comparing it to a month of no spending. Come December I will start to examine those areas of spending a little more closely but for now the stuff spending suspension will hopefully allow me to focus on our big issue.
I would like you to meet my Arch Nemesis:
Hi. My name is Organic Needle and I am a foodie. I have never met a $15 a lb cheese I didn’t like. Worse yet…we are a family of foodies. Even my 2 year old knows the difference between a 99 cent canned olive and a $12 a jarred olive and will voice his knowledge loudly at any given occasion. We spend a fortune on food…real food. Not pre-made or junk..but just good, usually organic, hormone free, ingredients. And our shopping is insanely diversified…the CSA, at least 6 different specialty markets, Trader Joe’s, Stop & Rob, and all the late night milk runs. Because of the scattered nature of the spending, I actually have no idea what we spend on food per week…but I’m sure it is gross. And yes…having grown up quite poor and on a very tight food budget, I am more than a little embarrassed that I have just taken the luxury of buying what I want completely for granted.
So for the month of November I am NOT actually going to cut back on anything in the food department. (That would require willpower and self-discipline.) I am simply going to figure out what I am spending & where. Once I figure that out, I will hopefully be able to see where some modifications can be made without sacrificing quality…or cheese. Wish me luck. This may actually require math with numbers higher than 10. Hey…those extra toes I’ve been growing might not be such a curse after all.
Right before walking out the door for our long weekend vacation we foolishly decided to open the mail. Let’s just say the new car’s worth dip in our stocks this month gave us something to chat about on our way to the land of outlets and gluttony. Perhaps we need to tighten our belts a wee bit more than we thought. (Although after a week of eating chocolate things seemed to have mysteriously tightened all on their own.)
So…for the month of November we have created a few house rules to help us save a few nickels without completely peeing on anyone’s fun parade.
Rule #1…No new STUFF can come into the house. I have mentioned before how much we fight the craptide…well we are building a bigger crap dam. This includes a ban on buying toys, books, house wears, clothes, etc. Now…most of these goods come from larger Big Box stores so it shouldn’t have too much of an impact on our local favorites.
Rule #2…No bought lunches. Now this really only applies to my husband but it kind of falls into my lap. After all of our years of marriage the section of the male brain dedicated to the complicated art of assembling a sandwich or putting leftovers into a tuppy seems to have shriveled up like a forgotten pea.
Rule #3…And this one hurts. We are going to actually set a wine budget. Which means either drinking cheap CA wines…or actually drinking a reasonable human amount of good wine. Haven’t decided which is worse. Tell me honestly…is there a fate worse than Fetzer’s?
It will be interesting to see how much of our income is freed up by these three rules. Obviously December will mean complete debauchery. But isn’t that what Jesus would want?
If I were pressed to describe our personal economic situation I would have to say we fall into the comfortable middle class category. Our bills are paid. We have 401ks…or 4.01ks now and the boys have their 529s. We have the recommended 6 month bumper in case my husband loses his job, no credit card debt. We own our home…well the bank owns it. So why am I boring you with our financial info? Well…being in this position raises a tough question for us. We have not yet began to feel the effects of the economic collapse in our daily lives…just in our retirement and college prospects, which have time to recover. But we are not so comfortable that we can weather long term financial stress without feeling the pinch.
Our dilemma is should we be tightening our belts just in case? Just to plan and see what we could do without? Neither my husband and I are big spenders on stuff..neither care if we are in the absolute latest fashion or desire a complete collection of Greatest German Mustaches commemorative plates. Our big indulgences have mostly to do with food, wine, education, and entertainment. Most of our discretionary income gets spent locally…restaurants, CSA, local stores, local classes…all supporting local small business owners. Tightening our belts would surely mean tightening theirs. The truth is we are all in it together. If we stop supporting the local businesses and they close up…that means a decline in the neighborhood…a decline in the value of our home and the quality of local life. On the other hand…a large part of us feels foolish spending a fortune on one dinner out when it seems the country’s economy is going to hell in a hand basket. As you can see, we are truly in the middle…between responsibility to ourselves, our community, our ideals, and our favorite indulgences. And I’m sure our approach to our finances in the uncertain months/years to come will have to fall somewhere in the middle of it all. As long as the wine still falls in the yes side of the checklist I’m sure life will all be OK.
Meet what I thought would be the new love of my life.
4.19 for 75 ounces. Great price, no?
It does come in a giant plastic bottle. I am guessing it will last me about 21/2 months? A load a day? So that is 5 bottles a year. It is recyclable #2 so this alone it isn’t a deal breaker.
Cleaning? To quote a very wise woman, “You Betcha!” I have to tell you…I was pathetically jittery opening my machine after the first run. (The fact that I have butterflies over a new green cleaner shows that my life has taken some decidedly dull turns.) I was quite pleased with the shine and lack of powder caked on everything. Although…I did notice a bleachy smell which caught me off guard. Not a bleach user; bothers my sniffer. Not to mention it is a wee bit…I don’t know…toxic. Ran a load the next day…same thing….joy at the clean…confused by the smell. Finally by the third load I decided to use my super sleuth detective skills and investigate the bleachy smell. Because I am a crack detective I was able to decipher the cryptic code on the bottle…”contains chlorine bleach.” Huh…that doesn’t seem so green. I have once again been totally green washed! Not feeling like the shiniest coin in the fountain today. But then again…I wash with green cleaners…how shiny can I be?