Being Smart About Food

Earlier this year I figured out a way to shop for groceries every two weeks and to save money in the process. The goal was to have nutritious meals and snacks but to be more strategic about it during a No Spend Month. I’ve held onto much of what I learned because it simply works well for me.

First of all, you quickly learn which produce items last the longest. For example, apples and oranges have a longer shelf life than grapes or berries. So you use the grapes and berries during week one and save the rest for later.

Salads are best enjoyed for the first week while frozen veggies are a nice change for week two. Although, if I’m in the mood for salad, I’ve been known to cheat and stop at the store to grab a few things!

At some point I realized that all my bananas were going into smoothies so I could buy ripe bananas, dice ’em up, and freeze them to be ready when needed.

In fact, many things freeze well. I buy mushrooms for stir fry and flash freeze the extras for later. Lots of foods can be frozen for cooking and other things keep well when properly stored in the fridge far longer than most people think.

I prefer fresh foods but usually keep some plain frozen steak fries and lots of frozen veggies. I rarely buy the cook in the bag kind because they’re more costly and I never need an entire bag of frozen peas at one time. Buy a regular bag of cheap frozen peas and you can cook them as needed.

Plain and simple, you find ways to be less wasteful and to meal plan better. I made the above pictured pasta primavera using a combination of stuff from the fridge and fresh veggies that I had flash frozen last weekend. The sauce was something from a jar that I had leftover from another dish. The pasta was the end of a package I had opened a couple of weeks ago.

This ability to plan, salvage and preserve has come in handy these last few weeks. Very little is getting wasted right now. I even discovered that leaf lettuce can be frozen for smoothies!

Another thing – when I come home from the store I jot down a list of things that need to be used first and hang it on the fridge. Things tend to get shuffled around and forgotten to languish in the back.

Given how much food is wasted in this country, I would hope that people are using this uncertain time to be more careful and thoughtful about food. That’s probably a pipe dream but this seems like the perfect time to embrace the old adage- use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

I’m not advocating that anyone do without but I would like to think we could embrace using and making do.

What about you? Are you being more careful with resources? Have your attitudes about shopping and using what you have changed lately? Let’s talk!

Time For Some Changes

When this blog began almost two years ago, it was partly an answer to calls from friends who wanted to know about my adventures. It was partly a distraction from a major life change. It was partly an outlet for sharing words and pictures that matter to me.

In the beginning it was mostly about my travels both far from home and in my own backyard. The blog has evolved some. I still tell those stories but occasionally share about other things happening in my world – food, books, Scout, and the random things that turn my head.

Daffodil 2020It’s time for things to shift again, at least for a while. As I type, I’m staring at my hands which are dry and sometimes bloody from the near compulsive hand washing that has become socially acceptable. The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day for adventure but there’s nowhere to be. It’s too windy to go outside so when I get up from this desk, it will be to go to another room to perhaps read a book or organize something or maybe just take a nap.

I’m not complaining because I’m safe at home. I’m not a victim of this pandemic but a lucky human who is healthy, who has a safe place to live, and plenty to eat. There are a ton of things to do in this house and one day life will go back to normal.

Meanwhile, plans are on hold or perhaps just cancelled. Book talks and concerts have been postponed. My list of museums, restaurants and junk shops to visit keeps getting longer. I’m looking at small businesses in my community – a riding stable that does guided trail rides, an antique store, and a host of others that I worry for because times are always tough for a small business without having all their customers quarantined. How much can I afford to support these businesses when this is all over?

Plans for my epic summer vacation are now on hold to the degree that I gathered up all the brochures and maps and stuffed them in a drawer. It’s almost too much to hope that I’ll be able to go.

Obviously, I have no new adventures to tell you about right now.

Part of me wants to just live in this quiet world I wake up in every day. And it is quiet. It’s made up mostly of books, music and birdsong. I’m currently working from home so that keeps me busy. Scout entertains me too but there are days I don’t even turn on the tv except to hear the governor give his daily briefing. While others are going stir crazy, trapped in prisons of their own making, I’m perfectly fine. Disappointed about lost adventures, but fine because I know there are better days ahead.

So I’m going to shift things again, just a bit, and hopefully for not too long. When this is all over, I want all of us to be prepared to do something important. For those who can, I want us to go out into the world, boldly and without apology, to do all the things we cannot do today and to support the small businesses that need us more than ever.

Shop. Eat in a restaurant. Stroll through a museum. Fly. Stay in a hotel. Take that guided trail ride. Sit in a crowd of like minded people and listen to beautiful music. There’s so much to see and do. We need to go out and be part of it.

So I’m going to start talking about the places I want to go when this over and then I can tell you more about them after I visit. Someday.

There’s also probably going to be more stuff about what I’m reading, maybe some about music, and a little about what’s going on here in my very small corner of the world. Perhaps by looking more closely at my everyday life I can start to appreciate it more.

Life will return to normal someday and we need to be prepared for that inevitability. We also need to embrace the world we wake up in now because there’s no point in wishing our lives away by waiting for tomorrow.

It’s sort of a tight rope to walk.

Who’s with me? Comment and tell me how you’re coping and what you’re looking forward to doing when this is all over.

Cancelled Plans and Quarantines

Anyone who has been reading here for a while might remember the Winter Survival Guide I wrote last fall. Well, it sadly, now contains much relevant advice for anyone who isn’t accustomed to staying at home for long periods of time.

Thanks to COVID – 19, lots more people know how to spell the word apocalypse and have such an enormous supply of toilet paper they won’t need to stock up for a few years. Many parents have learned that their kids aren’t such great students after all and that staying home from work isn’t so fun when you have nowhere to go.

The year just isn’t working out as planned.

There were a number of adventures on my calendar beginning this week so I have been working hard to coax myself out of the mindset that I’ll soon be out running around and exploring the world.

Friends, it has been a real challenge.

At this point, I go to the office and back home. Even my hair appointment got cancelled! I think I speak for ladies everywhere when I say that I’m not prepared to meet the four horsemen of the apocalypse with my roots showing but have no choice thanks to common sense and an order from the governor.

While work has kept me busy, home has made me lethargic. But I’m not the type to just sit around. Instead, I’m typically up and moving, busy with chores and trying to make the most of the little time I have each evening.

This has been a struggle as well

I have started a list of things to do/clean/read/organize/ research for a few weeks. Maybe when this all over, my house will be in order and all those little projects wrapped up.

Meanwhile, Scout is thrilled to have me home so at least someone is happy!

Stay safe, friends. Follow direction from the CDC and remember the quicker we all distance and quarantine ourselves, the quicker this will all be done and life can settle into a new normal.

There are better days ahead.

Adjusting Expectations

Today’s theme is adjusting expectations.

Since the first of the year, I have been living very quietly and enjoying this time of a No Spend Challenge which has allowed for more self care, planning, reading and lots of other activities at home. I’ve been saving money for this year’s adventures too.

Lunchtime walks, upcoming events and the promise of travel have given me something to look forward to. Plans include one of my favorite old(er) movies on the big screen, a weekend trip away, an author talk, and a concert.

And then this little global pandemic hit, containing me to home at least for a while longer. While the last couple of months have been centered on voluntary self seclusion, I’m not thrilled about the involuntary kind.

In fact, I’m downright irritated that my adventure season isn’t starting this week as planned and am already concerned that my summer trip won’t happen either.

That’s why it is time to adjust expectations.

Here in Ohio, the governor has closed schools and banned gatherings of a hundred or more. Limitations have been placed on restaurants too. Churches are cancelled or holding services online. Communities like mine are scrambling to provide lunches to low income kids, and many working parents have no clue what they’ll do with their kids for the next few weeks. Lines are long in stores and people are clearing shelves of everything from toilet paper and medicines to ramen noodles and pizza rolls.

The messaging surrounding this virus has been unclear. We’ve been told to wash our hands and to be smart about germs while we’re watching Italy and China shut down entire cities. No one knows what the future holds but, from what I’m seeing, there’s potential for a lot of bad to find it’s way to this country before it gets better.

From what I’ve seen of my Facebook friends, people seem to be continuing life as usual when it comes to recreation and fun. We’ve closed schools but parents continue to drag their kids to the store, to the movies, out to eat, and basically anywhere else they wish to go because they don’t want to be stuck at home.

When I started my January No Spend Month, I jotted down a list of things to that didn’t involve spending money and most of them were things I could do at home. For me, that list included household projects like organizing kitchen cabinets and weeding my clothes closet. I had a list of recipes to try and a list of fun things too! Taking my camera for a walk, puzzles, movies, books, playing the piano, and long bubble baths are just a few things on that list.

This is a great time to spring clean and to freshen up your house by rearranging things you already own. If you have kids, give them art supplies and ask them to make cards for residents of nursing homes and hospitals who aren’t getting any visitors right now. That should entertain them for a few minutes anyway!

And remember, you’re still able to go outside. I’m making a mental list of work that needs to be done in my yard and there’s a shed that needs cleaned out and torn down.

Yesterday, I experimented in the kitchen, making up my own potato soup recipe, tried making tomato jam, roasted broccoli, chopped up some salad veggies and made a few biscuits. I read, did some laundry, began researching cruelty free companies (this has been in the list for a while), strategized for the week, and watched a little tv.

Exciting? Hardly. But I was busy, productive and completely disconnected from the mass hysteria that has caused so many people to lose their minds. 

It was a good day.

So I am going to dig in and devote this time to getting some stuff done and getting back to basics. If nothing else, I’ll be well read and rested by the time this madness is over.

I have an inner old lady who survived the Great Depression who believes in the Depression era mantra – “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” She sits in the back of mind every day but I’m hoping that I don’t need her services more than I already use her.

Look at the bright side – we may find some wonderful new hobbies, authors, recipes, family traditions and habits! Meanwhile, stay calm, avoid people when you can, and wash your hands. This too shall pass.

And one more thing – our communities are filled with people who are older, who have mobility issues or who have weakened immune systems. If you’re healthy and able and going to be out anyway, offer to run some errands for them. They might really appreciate the helping hand!

Have a good day, friends. It’s all going to be ok.

 

 

Happiness Is…

Happiness is the first subtle signs of spring. The initial hint that spring is near came last week with a chorus of March Peepers serenading us at night. Yesterday it was the bloom of Crocus and Daffodils. Some trees have buds on them and the air is a bit warmer despite the absence of sun most days.

After months of rain and cold, these harbingers of spring give us hope that better days await.

Fortunately, sometimes hope is all we need to get ourselves through.

Preparedness

I grew up in the country.

We were a single car family for a lot of my childhood so my mother went to town just once a week to do all her shopping. Back then, gas stations were closed on Sundays and there wasn’t a Dollar General in every hamlet across the country so, if you ran out of something, you likely did without until the next grocery trip.

I still live in the country but work in a town with a pharmacy, grocery, hardware and a couple of dollar stores. However, I attempt to limit my stops at the store, making a point to never need anything.

There are always plenty of supplies in my home – from toilet paper and rice to frozen vegetables and cat litter, I try to always have a supply of essentials on hand. This is especially true in the winter because you never know when you might be snowed in for a few days.

That’s probably why it’s so shocking to me to realize that other people don’t do this. Those who keep only a five day supply of food on hand are not my people. Those who could eat out of their pantry and freezer for a few months are.

And no, I’m not a hoarder – I tend to only keep what I can use – and bargain shop to get it. After all, if you don’t need something today, you can afford to wait for a sale later.

So I’ve been watching with interest as friends fearfully stock up on supplies like it’s a fresh concept. Last night I made one of my two monthly trips to Walmart. The goal was to pick up regular list items and to gather a few extra supplies I would need in a time of sickness or quarantine – Morningstar sausage patties, vegan chocolate chips, tissues, Clorox wipes, and cat food were on the list.

After all, if the zombie apocalypse is going to happen, we can’t have Scout going hungry!

You can see where people’s priorities are. As I suspected, the selection of toilet paper was picked over and the shelves nearly cleared of soap, Clorox wipes, bleach and other cleaning supplies.

The store seemed busier than it should be on a Tuesday night and it made me wonder if people are just out doing their normal thing or if they’re stocking up for the COVID-19 which will inevitably hit all our neighborhoods soon.

In case you’re looking for some friendly advice, I suggest always keeping the house stocked as though you might not be able to leave for a few days – not because of this virus but because things happen. Your car breaks down, you get a nasty stomach bug, there’s a snowstorm- any number of things could keep you at home at any time.

That means it’s always a good idea to have soap for hand washing and food for the whole family including the four legged kids.

And one last thing, fellow adventurers. Stay safe but don’t live in terror. Practice good hygiene and protect your personal space in public. If you’re sick, don’t go places where you might spread germs like work, public events or school. And if you know someone with a weakened immune system, offer to run their errands so they don’t have to be exposed to the germs of the masses.

But please, don’t stop living for fear of illness. Go live your life and do your thing within reason. This too shall pass.

Bird Feeder Fun

Scout’s birthday gift has provided him with hours of entertainment. I need to wash my windows but I’ve been able to grab a few snapshots of some of his birdies, as we call them. Here are a few from yesterday at dinner time.