Friday, September 17, 2010

A week in food

So after the Sam's Club caving in, Erik challenged me (and himself) to spend only $75 more dollars in food that week. That included going out. And wine. And, in fairness, beer. After having spent $240 at the Sam's Club that seemed like not so big a trial (a box of wine and 24 Sierra Nevadas went a long way to cutting our "food" costs). But as you know, Sam's Club is good for meal planning but bad for actual meal making. Too much broccoli, absolutely no celery. You can buy 4000 cloves of peeled garlic but note just one head. I really did not want to go to the regular grocery store but I had CSA and the Farmer's Market. Celery, which rarely makes an appearance at any farmer's market I've been to, would be out.

In Sam's Club fashion I bought 2 packages of 40 oz ground turkey. Oh my, the ground turkey we ate. The first thing to make, along with grass-fed, locally raised ground beef, was bolognese ($5/lb.) I had bought 2 pounds of roma tomatoes at the farmer's market too $2.50/lb) and sweet onions. (I had chicken livers in the freezer (almost free), cream for my coffee (so that counts as free) and boxed red wine (also counting as free). But I did not have any celery. The last time I made bolognese, I didn't have any carrots. I also had some accidentally bought "fat-free" cream" which made the sauce corn syrupiriffic. This time, I was closer. It was almost perfect-- everything fresh and already at the house. So I substituted zucchini for celery. And, I do believe it was fine. Using fresh tomatoes instead of canned was also fine although maybe the sauce turned out a little less tomatoey-than you'd expect.

The next thing to do was to roast a roast. I made mashed potatoes and sauteed some amaranth greens from the CSA. Suffice to say, the roast, mashies and gravy (helped by cubes of beef bouillon (oh the humanity, bouillon cubes!)) were great. The amaranth greens tasted like sauteed caterpillars.

But the next night, more ground turkey awaited (I froze one of the 40 oz packages). Erik made turkey and shitake mushroom mini-meatloaves. What did we have on the side? That's right, leftover mashed potatoes and beef gravy with poultry seasoning tapped into it. Also, we had no worchestershire for the meatloaves so we substituted vinegar, fish sauce and a titch of sugar. Whatever. It was fine. On Facebook, people recommended tamarind paste. I can't imagine the amount of tamarind paste Sam's Club would sell me, if they had any, which they didn't.

The next night. Ground turkey tacos. The nice thing about all this ground meat was that since "the flavor profiles" (sorry, I just gagged a little typing that. Too much Top Chef) were from such distinct cuisines, it never tasted like you were eating the same meat. Plus, the 40 oz of ground turkey didn't go bad. Bonus.

Then, on Wednesday, I roasted a chicken (one of two bought from Sam's Club for $8.61. At the Farmer's Market, free range ones were $3.85/lb. Maybe next time). I brined the chicken for half an hour in salt water and then stuffed the bird with rosemary and thyme. Salted and peppered the outside and stuck that chicken on top of carrots (farmer's market $3.00 a bunch), red potatoes (CSA) and onions (I need to buy a case of onions). An hour and a half later, voila, best chicken ever. The potatoes were a slight bit salty and I think I would salt the already brined chicken a little less next time. It was possibly the easiest dinner I ever made. One pot! I've heard of these one pot dishes but they always make me think of casserole. This was more of a one roasting pan dinner and that I can abide.

Then out for pizza for dinner on Thursday--$35 (including wine and beer).

So did we spend less than $75? We did. Would I do it again? Even with the distinct flavor profiles, that was a lot of ground turkey to plow through. And there was something kind of regimented about it. And, I still have a lot of food leftover. All week, roast beef sandwiches. More bolognese in the fridge. There's still that much turkey and another chicken in the freezer. I have enough tortillas to see me through the End of Days (although I fear they'll go bad before that).
Zoe has enough juice boxes to last until Halloween (ACK the waste! I hate the juice box. But can I send her to school with a sippy cup full of big-bottled apple juice? I don't know!). We still have enough tissues, paper towels and toilet paper to line the outside of the house with absorbent pulpy products in case a giant vulture sneezes on us. Also, do you have any laundry? Because I have some laundry soap.

Today, I gave in and went to Safeway. It wasn't as painful as I'd remembered it. Maybe my expectations were low. I bought just a bottle of wine. Just a pound of carrots. And some celery. Zoe got a single doughnut. I felt so minimalist. I spent $60. Already, if I were on the $75 plan, pizza would be out this week. But really, the main problem with the regular grocery store? I think I have to go back tomorrow.


Dr. Write said...

Imagine, just imagine, if you lived across the street from the store. Then you could go there, oh, all the time even when you didn't need to or maybe your definition of need would become less intense.
However, visits to Costco make trips to the little store less frequent, but also, why?, necessary. I had to go get stuff for chili, which only included, from Costco, let's see...two peppers. Oh well. It smells good.

What Now? said...

Large quantities of ground turkey and chicken breasts from Costco is pretty much the way we live, but we're helped by the fact that we have a freezer in the basement in addition to the regular fridge/freezer in the basement. So we make turkey chili and bolognese and meatloaf and all the rest, plus dividing up the chicken into ziplock bags with various marinades, and we freeze it all in dinner-sized portions that then get us through most weeks. It makes for uninteresting food blogging but pretty consistently decent and easy dinners.

Lisa B. said...

I remember the days when the challenge of making do was kind of satisfying but I am less thrilled with this challenge these days. However, I have a rising disinterest in going to the grocery store in general--so this means I often am making do, anyway. With the farmer's market, usually I am at least making do with fresh stuff, so that's good. Thank you for pointing out the consistent celery dilemma! Celery is necessary!

Thai food tonight. After a long day yesterday, even though there were the makings of a damn good dinner at home, out for Mexican. Sometimes being exhausted beats every good intention.

Molly said...

You eat so much better than we do, but I try (and usually succeed) in limiting our grocery bill to $75/week. Sure, I have to run around to several places to do that - coupons, coupons, coupons, ads, ads, ads, and once a month shopping at Sam's Club. Bargaining hunting - such an art.

Nik said...

I love hearing how you guys do it. I often think of grocery stores across the street and wonder, why must I drive 10 minutes to the nearest store? What Now? I need a big freezer. Especially for the 1/4 free range happy (well, was happy) hog I might buy. Lisa B. I think it seems like we spend less money but I do not think we do. No not at all. Molly. Coupons and I do not mix.

lis said...

When we were back in Salt Lake, we stopped at the farmer's market and I was astounded by the cheapness: 6 ears of corn, 6 anaheim peppers, a pound of edamame, and some onions and it was six dollars! what? this would probably have cost me $15 at the farmer's market in Canada. Even my stop at Caputo's for the fancy sausages seemed like a bargain. Food is just expensive here in the cold, cold north. So I don't really try to be frugal in the food department. Ben and Jerry's is $8 here, people! Although we are currently on a mission to not eat out (except one a week when we give in to laziness).