Saturday, July 21, 2012

I'm (almost) packed!

I know, I know, it's a whole week before we hop on a plane and head to Guatemala but I know this next week is going to be crazy, so I wanted to get a head start on it. So far, I've packed most of my bag (minus the last few gifts that have not arrived in the mail yet, plus my last couple clothing items that are currently in the washing machine), and I've packed Pooh's bags for daycare and for my sister. And I made daily love you's for Pooh.

The love you's are just envelopes with notes on the front, and little treats inside. The treats include a family picture, a new hot wheels car, a new card game, fruit snacks, cheese crackers, and a few other small things. Each morning Pooh gets to have someone read him the note and then open the envelope. It's just a little way for us to say "I love you" even though we are not right by his side. We'll be talking by Skype or Google chat while we are gone too, but there's not a limit to how often we tell him we love him, is there?!

Friday, July 20, 2012

En una semana...

I'm participating in Spanish Friday over at Latinaish today. English translation is at the bottom.

Ya voy en avion! En solo una semana, el P-Daddy y yo llegaremos en la Ciudad de Guatemala! En la ciudad, encontramos us bus de primera clase (no voy a poner el P-Daddy en un chicken bus el primer dia!) o un shuttle para llegar a Xela. Nos quedamos con amigos en Xela el viernes y sabado, y el domingo agarremos otro shuttle para Panajachel. En Pana, relajamos, exploramos, y vemos el terreno. Guau! Queremos ir ya!!

I'm leavin' on a jet plane! In just a week, P-Daddy and I will arrive in Guatemala City. From there, we'll grab a first-class bus or a shuttle to Xela (no chicken buses for P-Daddy on his first day in the country!). We'll stay with friends in Xela for a couple days, and then head to Pana, where we'll relax, explore, and see The Property. Wow. Let's go already!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Veggie co-op cost analysis

I've been a member of a local veggie co-op for several years now. This week, here's what I got in my 1/2 share:

The veggies heavily outweighed the fruit this week. Here's just the fruit.

And here's the overall list:
1 bag of loose spinach
1 head of green leaf lettuce
2 red bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
6 roma tomatoes
1 broccoli crown
2 jalapeños
3 small sweet potatoes (a little over a pound)
3 yellow onions (almost 2 pounds)
3 white onions (a little over 2 pounds)
14 red potatoes (about 3 pounds)
1 red cabbage
1 head of cauliflower
1 zucchini
3 carrots (about a pound)
2 cucumbers
a small bunch of grapes (about 3/4 of a pound)
4 peaches
2 nectarines
2 oranges
1 lb of blueberries
1 quart of strawberries

I've been assuming that we are saving money by participating, but I've never actually sat down and taken a good look at the difference in cost. This week, I decided to analyze the difference in cost between what I get from the co-op and what I'd pay at Aldi, the most economical place around here to get fresh produce. So Sunday morning when I stopped to pick up milk and watermelon, I took the time to write down all the prices for comparable items.

I'll note that Aldi did not have either green leaf lettuce or fresh spinach. I estimated .99 for each of those if I could have gotten it there (both would be more than that elsewhere, but I'm estimating low). And there was no red cabbage, so I just used the price of green instead. Here's what I found:

My co-op share is $15, and a comparable shop at Aldi would cost around $26. If I were to buy the same at Kroger or Tom Thumb, it would be even more of a difference, since Aldi's prices tend to be much lower than theirs (I'm so glad that an Aldi opened less than a mile from my house!).

Just in terms of the price difference, this looks like a pretty good deal - I'm glad I figured it out, because it convinces me that participating in this co-op really is a good deal. Plus, participating in the co-op means that we always have a variety of fresh fruit and veggies in the house, so I have confidence that I'm feeding my family well.

That doesn't mean that there aren't negatives. For me, that includes a long drive across town for pick-up, but I get to see my sister(s) at the same time, so I consider it a trip I'd make anyway. And you don't get to pick and choose your items, so sometimes you get stuff that's a little past its prime, like this nectarine and cucumber from yesterday's share:

But even if I were to remove the price of those 2 items from my Aldi list, I'm still saving over $10 on fresh produce. For me, that's worth it. Plus, I still use those items! I cut the mushy end off the cucumber, peeled and sliced it, and sprinkled it with salt and freshly ground pepper.

It was a wonderfully refreshing snack in the midst of prepping the produce for the rest of the week!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

P-Daddy's Potato Pie

I mentioned in my pantry update that P-Daddy made a wonderful frittata this weekend for us to have for easy lunches this week. We make a lot of these egg based casserole dishes. They are a great way to use up almost any kind of veggie that's sitting around and needs a dish to go into, plus, they re-heat easily, but are delicious cold, so they are a great choice for quick and easy lunches on the go.

The thing I love the most about making frittata is how easy and forgiving the dish is. Generally, I use chopped up veggies, eggs, and maybe (if I remember) a little milk. No crust to worry about, and ratios can be adjusted to your own taste. Here's the one that P-Daddy made this weekend.

And here's how he did it. Note that I'm estimating ingredients, since no measurements of anything were actually taken. And we'd usually start on the stovetop in an oven-safe skillet and then slide it into the oven, but we had too much this time to fit in the cast iron skillet, so we just used a casserole dish.

5 large potatoes, boiled (we used a mix of red and baker)
1 dozen eggs
1-2 bunches fresh spinach, roughly chopped
salt, pepper, and garlic powder

First, lightly grease a large casserole dish. Beat 2 of the eggs together, season with salt and pepper, and pour into the bottom of the dish. Spread the spinach on top of the eggs. Slice the potatoes into chunks, and spread them on top of the spinach. Beat the rest of the eggs together, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and pour over everything. Don't worry that the potatoes are not completely covered. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350. Consider broiling for the last couple minutes to brown the potatoes. Serve hot or cold.

If you wanted to, you could add milk and/or cheese to the egg mixture before you pour it over. Sometime we add these, sometimes we don't, and it turns out great both ways.

I was especially impressed with this dish because I love tortilla española and this dish reminded me of it. For tortilla española the potatoes are typically fried in olive oil, but boiling them worked well, and I bet roasting them would as well. Since we always have an abundance of potatoes from our produce co-op, we'll probably be making this dish more, since it's a delicious and easy way to use up potatoes.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My addiction

I love finding a good deal. I freely admit that I'm addicted to these orange stickers at Kroger (people who know me will tell you that I'm addicted to anything orange in general):

I'm especially addicted to them when they are attached to really good 88% cacao dark chocolate like this:

P-Daddy went to the store for bleach and came home with that stack of chocolate bars in the midst of our pantry challenge. But not a word of complaint from me on this! I can see that he's learning to check the special wall at our local Kroger, and that he knows to stock up on a deal when the price is right. Plus, he was clearly thinking of me when he bought these ;-)

I have to admit that I'm a little worried about getting a good chocolate fix while I'm in Guatemala! For this trip, I'll be dropping a couple of these into my bag, and taking a look around to see where I can find the good stuff.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

An update on eating down the pantry

I've already mentioned that one of my goals for the month of July is to eat from the pantry. This will help us save money, rotate the contents of our stockpile, and not have food sitting around going bad while we take a quick trip to Guatemala.

So far, this is going pretty well! We stopped at the store for essentials like milk, picked up a couple watermelons because the whole family loves them, and I grabbed a few packs of jalapeño cheese wedges - normally I wouldn't stock up on these in the middle of a pantry challenge, but they are on a special buy at Aldi right now, and they may be gone by the end of July. And P-Daddy stocked up when he saw good chocolate on sale. But overall, our purchases have been minimal, and we've been making progress on eating from the pantry.

One thing we have to make sure we keep on top of is eating fruit and veggies in a timely manner. With a new co-op delivery every two weeks, we have plenty on hand, and we have to consciously plan how to use them. What has really been helping me with is that I try to spend time on the weekend prepping for the week. This helps me use up things I have on hand, and it keeps me sane - and healthy - even when things get crazy around here.

When the fruit and veggies are just hanging out in the crisper drawers and I have to peel, chop, cook, etc. right when I need them, I'm unlikely to want to go through all of that for a snack or for a quick dinner after a long day at work. So I've been doing as much of the prep work as possible on the weekend to make my life easier - and my meals healthier - during the week. This has been especially helpful for my lunches. Because I portioned different things into individual serving size containers that can be grabbed and tossed into a lunch bag easily, getting my lunch together for work was a breeze. I had pork roast for a couple of entrees, and ate them with carrot sticks, pepper strips, watermelon chunks, and strawberries.

I also had more of all of those things, plus cucumber sticks, that I put into larger containers to keep in the fridge for quick grab snacks or to add to evening meals as needed. We've been really working on Pooh's swimming the last couple of weeks, so we've gone to the pool every night. We don't want a heavy dinner before we go, so we've been putting together simple meals with some kind of protein, plus fruit and veggies. We've really enjoyed having these ready to go, and it's made life a lot easier this week!

This coming week will look much the same. I've got broccoli, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, blueberries, and watermelon ready to go, and I've got bananas, kiwis, oranges, and apples yet to prep. For entrees, P-Daddy made this gorgeous frittata that we'll be working on.

Yum! I'm ready for another good week! And yay, we used up some potatoes! Still have more to go, but it's a start!