The primary purpose of this project is to be better stewards of what we have, to stop throwing food away. It would also be nice, I must say, to save some money and be able to give more to the Regional Food Bank. The message I keep getting is to SLOW DOWN. I throw things away without thinking twice, or even thinking about it at all, leading me to believe that perhaps we throw away a lot more food than I thought we did.
I thought I had slowed down and shown careful consideration. I suppose I was wrong. I made a meal plan, I went to the grocery store, and I quite painfully submitted to not getting anything that wasn’t on the list. Despite not buying any meat, aside from a package of bacon, I was shocked that my total was still $110. No bags of chicken breasts, no giant pot roasts, and still $110! And that’s on top of $30 I spent the night before at Walmart. Upon consulting my meal plan, I was even more shocked. I only planned 12 simple dinners and some soups for my lunches. Maybe it will just take a while for the savings to catch up with me.
The Tortilla Situation
I found a recipe online for Chicken Tortilla Soup from Souper Salad, a restaurant that used to be in this area and hopefully will be again! The recipe called for corn tortillas, which I considered replacing with chips, but decided to get the tortillas instead. The smallest pack of corn tortillas I could find was a 30 pack. I knew I wouldn’t need 30 tortillas but without a second thought (of course) I threw the 30 pack in my cart.
After fixing my soup and portioning it out into 7 freezable bowls, I started thinking about those leftover tortillas. I only used 8. That meant 22 were going in the trash. I kept telling myself I could freeze them, but would I? What else was I going to make with them? I have a few recipes, but that would involve getting a lot more ingredients. Within the first few days of my Eat Better Project, I’m already wasting food. I felt horrible.
I wandered around the kitchen, hoping inspiration would hit me and….taquitos! I could cook up some chicken breast, roll some taquitos and freeze them myself! Scott would love to have them in the freeze for quick lunches when he’s home alone.
My first round of attempts was very poor. It turns out, you do have to wrap corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and put them in the microwave for a few minutes before rolling them. The instructions on the package speak the truth. So, 7 tortillas went in the trash anyway. But we ended up with 15 taquitos! And since I didn’t have any taco seasoning on hand, I made my own. Without all the sodium.
I’ve had half a brisket in the freezer for some time now, and I decided to go ahead and fix it up in the crockpot and chop it up. I left some meat out for our meals for the next few days, but froze a few pounds for later. I figured it would be handy for days when I just don’t know what to cook. Once I was done chopping, I was left with a crockpot full of….flavor! I had filled the crockpot with water and boullion, which was now mixed with the stock from the brisket. I was a little antsy about all the chili powder I’d thrown in, but I grabbed a spoon, had a sip and after some debate decided it would be suitable for stew!
Potatoes, carrots, corn, peas, parsley, tomatoes, and about a cup of the brisket meat, and it made for one spicy stew! I was very heavy handed with my brisket seasoning when I put it in. I ended up having 2 bowls for supper, though! It was fantastic! And I had 7 more bowls of soup in the freezer for my lunches.
Stretching it Out
So, I’m on day 11 and I’ve still got 9 meals left from my original meal plan. We’ve been very good with leftovers and have found that we can get an extra meal or two out of a dish just by eating all of it. If there’s not much left, chop up some extra salad or put a slice of bread on the plate. We’ve also had a few suppers out of the soup that was supposed to be for my lunches. However, after making a batch of Potato Soup and Pumpkin Bisque (Yum!) in addition a few leftover bowls of Chicken Tortilla Soup and Brisket Stew, we still have about a dozen bowls of soup in the freezer. I did have to make a grocery trip for $30 because we we low on milk and bread and a few other things. While I was disappointed, if we continue to be diligent about not throwing food out and eating what we have, we should be able to make it until the first week of October before we have to do a full shopping trip again.
I’m slowly getting into the proper mindset. Rather than throwing something out (like the broth or the tortillas) I’m starting to see what I can do with it. But that’s not enough! As I learned with the tortillas, I need to have a plan for every ounce of food before I buy it to make sure nothing goes to waste. It was good fortune that I had everything I needed to make the Brisket Stew and the taquitos. Otherwise, I would have wasted it!
I actually started this post about a week ago. What I said about saving money at the beginning of the post? Here’s where the savings come in: we haven’t eaten out in 11 days. I wanted to get our eating out down to twice a month. We are well on our way! In July, we spent over $220 eating out and in August we spent over $130! August really hacks me off because we were trying so hard to save money for our trip and we still let $130 slip through our hands when we could have spent much less to eat at home. And while we were out spending that money, groceries we had bought were going bad at home and had to be thrown out.
Finally, I’d like to say how happy I am with making my own soups and freezing them rather than buying canned soups. I may get a pressure canner, or ask for one for Christmas so I can can my soups. I love being able to control what goes in. My recipes may need tweeking, but they don’t have to be perfect the first try, they still taste wonderful and I’m not picking out the things I don’t like. I’m also getting a lot less sodium and other preservatives. Well worth it.