06 July 2009

Summertime, and the living's easy

Summer is my second favorite season, a close second behind fall, especially here in in the Northwest when the weather is perfect--sunny, not humid, and warm. This past week was particularly beautiful in Portland with temperatures in the 90s and nothing but sun. (I can handle it for a few days, but that's it.) With the warm temperature comes camping, vacation, outdoor fun, and of course, visitors. We had our first visitor the last few days. Shawn's friend Jeremy came out for a short four-day visit from NY. We spent a lot of time at various breweries since Jeremy's a big beer enthusiast, but tried to stay in to cook most of the time to keep costs low(er). There was, of course, an exception for a dinner out at Pause.

With the first one down, Shawn's parents visit to go, as well as concerts, camping, the baby shower I'm throwing, and vacation...I needed to find a way to cut down our food budget a bit. Here are my challenges:
  1. We eat about 85% organic; I mostly shop at New Seasons
  2. It's hot out and difficult to make soups/stews I would normally resort to in the winter, as well as bread for sandwiches
  3. I'm back to eating healthy with the start of a new boot camp
  4. I get lazy, especially when it's warm
I've been reading a lot of articles about eating on a budget. The problem with many of them is that they rely on cutting coupons for products I would never use and/or they ignore a balanced diet of fresh food. I did, however, find one on salon.com by a woman who attempted to buy basically "ethical" groceries for her and her husband on the food budget allowed by food stamps. That would be a little beyond what I'm going for, but it's the same idea. How can we eat the food we're accustomed to and still be able to afford all these extra activities? Let me tell you, it takes some creativity, and I'm still learning.

Day One. I found a recipe for red lentil soup on epicurious.com. I meant to make flatbread to go with it, but got lazy last night after cooking dinner. Too bad, too, as it would've gone perfectly. We just ate some tortillas we had laying around. We also have two more servings to put away for later in the week. My recipe calculator estimates that a serving of 1.5 cups is only about 126 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 6 grams of protein.

Tonight I am cooking up some pinto beans for Wednesday's dinner*. Beans are so easy, cheap, and delicious. It kills me to buy the canned stuff, but I still do. As a kid, I hated the smell of cooking pinto beans. I guess I knew it meant we were having beans and rice...again. As an adult, I love it. I don't know if it makes me think of my mom, or I just realize now how lucky I was to eat such delicious homemade food. Maybe both. But I digress. We had some extra 10% fat ground beef I bought while it was on sale last week in the freezer, so I'm making taco meat tomorrow night. That will extend into another meal (or two) later this week when I don't want to cook.

The funny thing about all this is that it just takes a little preparation, which I do, but my cravings usually end up getting the best of me, and we go out. I would say that's our number one problem. I guess I can't be perfect all the time. (Ha ha.) I'm sure I will have more revelations and ideas as I continue this journey to cook well on a (tighter) budget. Now if someone can just keep me from happy hour...

*If you're really curious, tomorrow we're having hot dogs with macaroni and cheese. I know I know...but it's Back to Nature whole wheat macaroni and cheese, and nitrite-free turkey hot dogs...they were on sale! We also have salad fixins.

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