Sunday, August 29, 2010
Last night I pulled out a loaf of bread we stored in the freezer. It wasn't sealed tight enough, so I found when it thawed this morning, it was hard as a rock. I was loathe to throw it away, but I certainly couldn't use it for sandwiches.
I had an image of my depression-era grandma. Perhaps her ghost paid me a visit this morning, and I thought of the Lord's Prayer:
"Give us this day our daily bread."
I had a moment of reflection on what it meant. My grandma grew up during the very worst of the 1920's dust bowl and following depression. They couldn't afford to waste anything. They either used what they had, or they traded it with neighbors. Throwing something away unused was forbidden, taboo. Moldy bread had the mold cut off and they ate the rest.
There was nothing wrong with my bread, other than it was very dry and hard. It's a multigrain loaf. I started thinking about what my grannie would do with it. I came up with the following recipes for this week:
1) French toast for breakfast this morning.
2) Ground up the very hard ends in a food processor, mixed with tarragon, sage, thyme and rosemary for a stuffing. There's a lamb roast in the freezer that I'll thaw out and stuff in a couple of days.
3) I'll make up a batch of french onion soup today or tomorrow and use it as a crouton topping.
Thanks for the visit this morning, grannie. I miss you.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
I wrote this in response to a blog post by a Sparkfriend. Her Spark page is set to private, so unfortunately I will not be able to link to her original tale. To give you a summary, she went on a hike and got lost. Some trail markers got moved and she ended up way off track. Fortunately, she found a man feeding his chickens and was able to call someone to come get her. So glad she is ok!
The following is what I posted as a comment:
Reminds me of a time I went hiking with some friends of mine. Even when walking in a group you can end up in an unexpected adventure.
The group organizer was a young man who pretty much thought he knew it all, never wrong, and invincible. We went hiking Bandit Peak trail in Washington. Or tried to. The problem was, we started late, about 11am in the morning. It was late September in Washington, which meant the sun set at about 5:30pm. We walked until about 3pm in the afternoon, and some of us were quite nervous. We weren't anywhere near the peak, and there was no way we could get to the peak and have time to walk back to the parking lot. So we decided to abandon the hike and started scurrying down the mountain.
We weren't prepared for a night hike, so we didn't bring flashlights, or warm coats. The sun was starting to set, darker, darker...we had no idea how close or far we were to the car park. As it was getting darker, some people tried using the glow from their cell phones to see where we were going. (Of course, no cell phone reception.) As the sun set, it got cold - fast. One girl in our group was US Coast Guard, and she had a small light source - so handy those military types! But even if we could see her light source, it was hard to see where we were going as we followed her, twisting around turns and avoiding branches to trip over.
Mr. Fearless leader started panicking about how he read about hikers getting caught at night and freezing to death - great pep talk. I was so scared, but I tried to keep my cool. Finally, as twilight set, we made it to the car park. I think we all cheered and enjoyed the most appreciated apres hike beer ever.
I always bring a small flashlight even on a day hike now. Ya just never know...!
I was so scared on that unexpected night hike, and I remember I kept praying for us to make it safely. In the last 10 minutes, we walked in almost complete darkness - you could barely see silhouette of the trees against the blue-black sky. I'm certain we could not have made it without Sarah's (the Coast Guard) flashlight. If nothing else, she said she would make it down and get us help. Fortunately it didn't come to that. We were very, very lucky no one was hurt as well.
Friday, August 27, 2010
How many of us got a Costco or Sams Club membership intending to save, and ended up wasting a lot of money throwing out a 5 lb bag of rotten apples?
Yep. I did.
I am a huge Costco fan. They have very high quality items and food at very good prices...if you have room for the bulk purchase. It's taken me a while to figure out how to maximize savings and minimize waste, but it's worth it. We save hundreds of dollars a year, and spend enough to get a cash back from executive membership. Even when buying for just two people. Here's a few tips.
The Primary Directive: Not everything is suitable to buy in bulk.
1. Unless you own a restaurant or have a very large family, skip the 5 lb bag of asparagus or broccoli. Unless you really, REALLY like asparagus and broccoli and are going to eat it for lunch and dinner every single night. I love asparagus and broccoli and eat it often, but it's more economical and fresher to buy weekly at the regular grocery chain. Bulk buying fresh veggies do not freeze well.
2. Instead, buy the large bags of FROZEN veggies and fruit. They are flash frozen to retain freshness that you cannot do in your regular freezer. I love green beans, peas, corn and blueberries. I buy large bags of them and put them in the freezer. Whenever I'm low on fresh greens, I grab a cup or two from the frozen veg stash. I thaw the blueberries in the microwave for my cereal every morning.
3. Buy large quantities of fresh fruit and veg that you love and will eat weekly. At my house, we eat a salad with each lunch and dinner (about 10-14 bowls per week), which means we buy large quantities of salad type veg. Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. If you aren't used to eating this many salads, then it's better to buy a smaller amount at the grocery store.
The fiance loves fresh oranges. Just loves them. To encourage him to eat more fruit, we buy the bulk 5lb bag. I like watermelon, apples, plums, peaches, pineapple - almost anything really. I'll pick one or two from the list for the week - not all of them. We usually eat all of one or two of a fruit group in a week, then get a different group the following week so we don't get tired of eating the same fruit over and over. We have very little waste, trust me.
4. Buy long storing produce...as long as you can store them properly. I buy huge bags of onions and hang them in my utility closet in panty hose. A 10 lb bag of onions will last me a month, and they never go bad this way. Potatoes are stored in a cool, dark cabinet. Never store onions and potatoes together - they will give off gases that make them both go bad.
5. Buy bulk household items. We buy the following things in bulk because we use them every day:
Hand dishwashing soap
General cleaning wipes
These are purchased infrequently. If bought while on sale or with coupons, it can rack up some really big savings.
6. Buy bulk spices for frequently used only. If you cook at home a lot like we do, then you need a very wide array of spices. Unfortunately, spices can lose their potency quickly if they aren't used right away (see prime directive). I've been cooking long enough that I know which spices I use with very high frequency. These include:
I will easily go through a bulk containers of these in about 6 months or less.
The exception is olive oil. Although I use a lot of olive oil, I can't use a gallon of it in 3 months, which is the shelf life when opened. I buy a 6oz bottle from the supermarket instead. Fresher is better with olive oil, so better to buy frequently, rather than in bulk.
Spices I use, but less frequently, I buy at the regular supermarket. This includes cumin, coriander, tumeric, allspice, caraway seed, and chipotle powder.
I do not buy premixed rubs and spices. Using a pantry of all these spices, I can make any kind of spice mix I need from taco seasoning, to spaghetti sauce, to Indian curries. Don't need Lipton Onion soup mix. It's just onion powder, garlic powder, celery and beef stock. No sodium, no gluten, and no preservatives. The premixes costs more than the raw spices when mixed this way. With the raw spices, I get the versatility to make any of the spice blends listed above - and more.
7. Buy shelf stable staples. Rice and pasta last a long time if you store them in air tight containers. I always have three different types of rices (white, brown, and wild) and several pastas (spaghetti, bow tie, rotini, macaroni) available. Whatever I'm feeling like for dinner that night!
8. Buy bulk meats and store in the freezer. We get really big savings on meat at our Costco. Our local Piggly Wiggly sells ribeye steak at $12.99-$14.99/lb. Costco sell it at $7.99/lb. Sometimes we can get prime grade (restaurant quality) ribeye at $9.99/lb. Superior quality to PW, and costs less - we like that! The only catch is, we have to buy 4lbs or more of it. That's ok. We eat one for dinner, then vacuum seal the rest to store in the freezer for another day.
I regularly buy whole chickens from Costco for $.89/lb. They come in packs of two. I'll roast one for dinner. The other one will get cut up into parts, vacuum sealed, and stored in the freezer for future meals.
In conclusion, it is possible to take advantage of wholesale club savings. It's just like anything else. Be smart about it, and plan ahead.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I've read several blogs recently about weight loss success stories and the compliments they receive. Several of them complained about comments along the lines of, "You look so much better now!". They felt it implied they didn't look good before.
The other day when I was at the pool, there was a woman probably about 50 pounds overweight. Voluptuous is the word that comes to mind. Even though overweight, she still had a curvy, hourglass figure. Many would consider her very attractive and sexy.
Unlike her, when I was overweight, I gained weight in 'all the wrong places'. My round face gets rounder. My stomach bulges. My hips and thighs are always quite curvy, and they just gain more mass. My breasts don't get much bigger. I do not have an hourglass figure - I am very pear shaped. I looked like an oompa loompa.
My small frame is not built for a lot of mass. Many times when I was younger I wished for fuller breasts. Now I've come to accept that my body was made to be more lean, like a cheetah. I am curvier when I have more muscle and less fat, seemingly ironic.
Many of my friends have said I look 'amazing'; 'beautiful'; 'younger'; 'healthy'; 'active'; 'fit'. I don't take it at all as a backwards slight to an overweight me that looked 'bad'; 'ugly'; 'older'; 'unhealthy'; 'inactive'; 'couch potato'.
Maybe I was always wonderful no matter what my dress size, but I sure didn't feel it. What I saw didn't reflect all of the things I wanted to be. All of the things I could be.
While many people have weight loss goals because they want to look better, I've found that as I've become healthier, more active, and stronger, the beauty aspect falls into place on its own. You just can't beat the glow of young, healthy skin unless you are feeding it proper nutrition, and blood flow from strong lungs and heart.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
This morning, just out of curiosity, I calculated my calories for a couple of days on my vacation. I was preparing myself to write a blog about how I blew it, and how to do better next time.
To my surprise, I did better than I thought. Despite the all inclusive buffets, the only day I really 'blew it' was the travel day home when we hit the fast food restaurants at the airports. 2200 calories - ouch.
With the all you can eat buffets, I certainly did not eat the way I do when I'm preparing meals myself. I ate lots of french toast and bacon, which I almost never make except for an occasional Sunday. The biggest calorie sink was the pina coladas. Despite the open bar, I only had one or two a day. I drank mostly Diet Cokes and water. It was really hot, and I was trying to stay hydrated. I also know how many calories are in a colada, and that was a pretty effective deterrent to say 'no thanks' to a 3rd or 4th.
Many people look at vacations as a time to let loose with the 'diet' and eat whatever they want. I don't, because I'm really afraid that I won't be able to control myself. I tried to follow my home rules to the best of my ability - eat a little of the 'yummy' stuff, and mountains of veggie and fruit. I tried my best to have a salad with every meal, and ate fruit for dessert instead of cake. When I did have cake, I had a bite or two and that was it. I didn't eat the whole thing.
I didn't want to eat mountains of bacon. I didn't want to eat piles of food and go back for third or fourth servings. I didn't want to eat dozens of cakes. I didn't want to drink alcohol to stupor. I think I was pretty successful, even if imperfect.
I don't feel deprived - it's what I wanted to do. Looking at my calorie counts, I feel quite relieved, actually, because I know how bad it could have been. I wasn't exactly a health food black belt at the buffet, but I know I would be feeling terrible right now if I had given in completely.
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