Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tracking Food for Pantry Optimization

When I've tried to determine what we needed in our pantry in the past, I was never quite sure what to get.  I've never specifically recorded the meals we eat for the purpose of pantry building.  Saturday night, I sat down and wrote out what we've eaten.

I am absolutely ashamed and appalled at how we've eaten in the last month.  Two nights a week, neither *B* nor I are home.  He has school and I work a second job.  We both tend to (separately) grab food out.  In the interest of full disclosure and public shaming into changing my behavior, this is what we've eaten in the month of March to this point according to my calorie tracker:

1             Homemade pizza
2             Coconut-vegetable curry, egg sandwich
3             Dinner out with friends – chicken sandwich, fries, jello
4             Coconut-vegetable curry, cheese bread
5             Dinner out – chicken bol, fudge pretzels, coffee, coffee cake
6             Annie’s mac and cheese, corn, asparagus, ambrosia
7             Peanut butter sandwich, oranges, fudge pretzels, coconut-vegetable curry
8             No dinner recorded
9             Dinner out with Dad – crab cakes, fries, and applesauce
10           Coconut vegetable curry
11           Dinner at friend’s – random finger foods (meatballs, popcorn, cookie, nuts, apple)
12           Dinner out - burger and fries
13           Steak, salad, baked beans
14           Dinner out – burger and fries, greek yogurt
15           Cabbage and kielbasa
16           Ordered in - pizza
17           Burger and baked fries
18           Leftovers – cream chipped beef on a biscuit, soft pretzel, eggs, asparagus
19           Coffee and fruit cup
20           Dinner out – chicken bol
21           Dinner out – burger and fries
22           Fettucine alfredo with broccoli
23           Dinner out with family – seafood portofino (2/3 portion), salad, breadsticks
24           Leftovers - seafood portofino (1/3 portion)
25           Lasagna
26           Peanut butter sandwich, banana, coffee
27           Cube steak, potatoes, and peas
28           Peanut butter sandwich, cashews, cheeseburger, fries, apples
You can absolutely see where Saturday night's epiphany happened.  Tonight was a bit of a blip.  I got a Happy Meal after I ate my packed dinner.  I was starving!  At least I only got a small supplimental meal.  Usually that burger and fries is massive.  But next time (Monday) I'll be more prepared with a bigger home-packed meal.

In the next few months, I want to try something new.  Starting the first of April, I'm going to keep track of all of the groceries that we purchase and use.  That way, I can get a better idea of what foods we like and what foods we don't like.

At the same time, I'm going to limit our food purchases to only real, whole foods.  This idea is not new.  When *B* and I originally read Michael Pollan's books and Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, I was all for responsible food.  We slacked off in the year and some since then, and our monthly menu shows it.  But I found a website, 100 Days of Real Food, that helped me find my way again.  I plan on taking the 10 day pledge starting this Sunday.  I'm really hopeful about this, and I'm really excited!  Good food here we come!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We Have Cloth Diapers!

I'm really paranoid that the baby will come and we don't have anything for him/her.  We figure that if the baby comes soon, we'll need diapers, something to wear, a place for the baby to sleep, and a car seat.  We have three little outfits and a crib without a mattress, and that's it.  So *B* and I bought a pack of prefolds tonight. 
A friend let me borrow some newborn covers, so we're started with cloth diapers!  They're in the washer as I type :o)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Garden Progress

Because it's an unseasonably warm March, our garden has exploded much earlier than normal.  We've got more growing now than in April of last year. 

The forsythia bushes are gorgeous.
Similarly, the helleborus is all in bloom.

I have hyacinths that I didn't even know existed just in front of our coldframe.

 My roses have new growth all over the place.

*B* bought me a very little lilac for a bare spot along our fence.  I hope this little guy makes it.

Our clover cover crop has really sprung up.

*B* bought some arugula plants the other day from Southern States.  While I'm not a fan, he will definitely eat them.

The rhubarb is just taking off.  We have two plants this year - I need to find recipes quick!

Even the garlic that I was worried about a few weeks ago has grown much sturdier.


I tend to collect mint plants.  Right now we've got peppermint, chocolate mint, variegated mint, and pineapple mint.  I need to repot the chocolate and variegated mints.  I didn't actually expect the peppermint to survive - *B* ripped it out of the front bed last fall.  We threw a couple of roots that we found this spring into a pot, and they're already sending up leaves.  We will have quite the mint harvest this year!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Preparing for a New Career

This pregnancy is flying by faster than I had expected.  I'm already in my third trimester with a little less than three months to go.  I've finally started showing in the last month or so.  I've always been heavy, so for a long time I didn't look that much different from what I was last year.

I've found that I am more domestic than I used to be.  I've fallen back into the routine of making our bed every morning - flat sheet and all - and I love the way it looks and how I feel when I'm done.  In the mornings, I'll find myself a little behind schedule because I'm washing dishes or putting away laundry.

I'm trying to make foods that we like from scratch.  I just tried whole wheat bagels yesterday from a recipe at Home Joys.  They were okay given that I was a little lax on the timing of things (they were a little chewy for my taste), but I am going to try them again - cinnamon raisin next time.  I made stock and wheat bread without hesitation or fuss, as if it were a normal Saturday afternoon activity.  Come to think of it, it is becoming a normal Saturday activity.

I've started an attempt to make liquid laundry soap.  I can only say started because I grated up the soap and got my borax and washing soda together when I realized that I don't have containers to store it in yet.  As soon as my current laundry soap is used up (any day now), I'll be able to finish off that project.  In that vein, I'm researching cleaning methods, tools to maintain my home, and making lists of things that I'd like to do while I'm home next year.

Where I was unimpressed with our garden last year, I'm taking much more care to get our plants started on time and manage our little sprouts.  Rather than feeling guilty about thinning seedlings, I'm pulling them out without much thought because I know we'll get a better yield when the strong ones have room to thrive.

I am scrutinizing our budget and we are watching where every cent goes.  By the middle of April, if all goes as planned, we will have saved all the money we need to live on next year while I'm at home.  That means that our goal is met in half the time we needed, so I might be able to stay home two years if we can save at the same rate.  I do have a small part time job as well that will help us stretch that money out.

With all of these things that I've been doing over the past few weeks, it hit me just this morning that I'm subconsciously preparing for my new career.  I'm falling into a routine and learning how to take care of my home and family.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Beginning of Spring

We've had really strange weather as of late. Last week, the temperatures were in the 70s. Today, it snowed all day. None of it stuck, but it was definitely strange. But even with the weird weather, *B* and I started the garden this past weekend.

We first took a little survey of how things made it through the winter.  When*B* started sheet mulching, everything had died back, so we had to go hunting for daffodils.  None of them have bloomed yet, but they survived suffocation.  Our three little crocus plants survived too, as did the lilies.

 Little daffodils are starting to poke out.

One of our three crocuses - this one is right on the edge of our lawn.
 Our Alabama crimson honeysuckle flowered really early this year.

Our hens-and-chicks survived the mild winter.
True to its name, our Lenten rose (hellebores) is flowering.
 *B* had ripped a rhubarb out of our raised bed last year and threw it behind our shed in an empty space.  That little sucker is coming back strong!

We have some radishes and spinach (I think) coming up in *B*'s cold frame.  That's been his project over the winter.

 *B* planted the tops of some parsnips last fall.  If you look hard on the left, they're starting to sprout.

We're growing red clover next to our barren footpaths in the back garden.   They're inoculated, so they'll help fix nitrogen in the soil.

In keeping with the bulbs, we have a garlic problem.  Last year, I planted a ton of garlic because I wanted to make garlic braids.  No matter how long I waited, the bulbs stayed small. So I ended up letting them go over the winter and now they're sprouting again.

The three in the back are still tiny.  Some in the front are a little narrower than the width of my pinky.

This is the biggest garlic we have.  The scape is about the width of a pencil.

While the outside is warming up, we've started some projects inside.  *B* wants to put in a small pond this year, and he's been experimenting with watery plants.  These are the roots of run-of-the-mill grocery store watercress that he's been growing:


 I've been lamenting the fact that I can't find grow bulbs at our local stores.  *B* came up with the great idea of using full-spectrum turtle lights to help out our tomatoes.  It works great!

 I'm looking forward to the warmer weather to come and getting back outside again.  We've put a lot of thought into the garden this year as it might end up being a significant portion of our diet.  Here's to the beginning of a good gardening year!