Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cutting Yourself Some Slack

Most people who know me know that I am pretty much a Type-A. Oh, I try and relax & force myself to be calm, but it's not my actual nature. My husband and I joke that it's not enough, for example, for me to eat heathy (I recently lost 20 lbs). No, I have to follow weight watchers, lose 20 lbs, eat healthy - but make sure that I cook from scratch, buy local, and spend the least amount of money as possible on food.

So it came to quite a surprise to my husband that I decided to try "Simple Meals" again. It's a local business that lets you prepare food for the freezer to eat at a later date. Like Once a Month Cooking, but someone else does all the chopping and cleanup.

I did this once before, last year, with a friend as sort of a "fun" thing. The meals, honestly, weren't that good. Half of them were terrible and took a long time to prep. The other half were okay, but at an average price of $15-20 per entree, it wasn't cheap. And I know, for example, using my price book & method of shopping that I could make these meals for about 1/3 the price. But I'd also be spending probably 6-8 hours on prep and cleanup. Which is about $10/hour, $15/hour before taxes ($60 savings for 6 hours of work, but that's after taxes).

So, I let myself get talked into it again. I had a coupon that decreased the price to $14 per entree. I learned from the past and chose all meat options, no vegetarian (which weren't good the last time). Besides, I cook mostly vegetarian, and I'm really good at it. Lo and behold, my friend who wanted to do this didn't show. Oh well, I did manage to get 6 meals prepped in an hour.

So far, one meal into it (meatloaf), I like it. One meal at $14 is actually two meals for us, but of course, doesn't include sides. And it's really nice to have one or two days a week that I don't have to plan a meal - a far cry from the "plan everything a month in advance" or "cook two big meals on Saturday and spend all day doing dishes".

That's where "cutting myself some slack" comes in. I think it's enough that I work almost full-time, have a two-year old, cook a lot of fresh veggies from our weekly CSA, am training to run a 10k, and am managing to keep almost 20 lbs off, all while dealing with deafness in one ear from an ear infection. If I do this type of thing once every two months, that's $45 extra dollars on food for basically one or two meals a week. If I do it every month, well that doubles. And hey, I'm saving $40 a month by giving up soda. Which I am successful at about 60% of the time.

I have a lot of friends having babies right now, and I think this will be just the ticket to providing a hot, healthy meal to them also. And that's the kicker...the meals, for the most part, are healthy. It is pretty easy for me to identify 6-8 healthy options each month.

So I will probably go back again in March. And continue to cut myself some slack. Because I deserve it. And you know? The meat loaf was pretty good. (And who wants to spend all day Saturday doing dishes?)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Winter Squash and Getting Your Toddler to Eat Vegetables

Our CSA has a winter share this year that started up 6 weeks ago. It's been wonderful, but I noticed this weekend that I've been slacking. You see, with winter colds and an ear infection-turned- "I'm deaf in one ear", I haven't felt much like doing the weekend cooking.

So I looked on my counter and saw 6 winter squash from the CSA. One butternut, two acorn, three delicata. This added to the frozen spaghetti squash & butternut squash soup.

I decided to try roasting the squash, but cut up. I'm pretty lazy and it's really hard to cut squash. Mostly we cut in half, scoop out seeds, put face down, and roast. Today I had my husband peel two delicatas with the vegetable peeler and cut in half and seed. Frugal Marcia said "save and roast those seeds for a snack". Deaf Marcia said "we can do that with the next 4". Deaf Marcia won.

I diced the squash and roasted at 400F for about 40 min, in between attempts at a nap. I added canola oil, pepper, a little salt, and fresh rosemary (also from the CSA).

It was quite delicious.

We have been having a problem getting toddler to eat veggies. Since he started off eating them fine, I never expected that he would stop. So it's been a conundrum. I have found many suggestions on how to remedy this. Tonight I tried two:

1. Puree the squash with cheese, mix in some milk & serve as a dip with crackers. He didn't take to this idea (though he loves guacamole and hummus), but he did eat a few bites of the squash mix anyway. We ate the rest. It was good.

2. Frozen peas. Seems weird, but it actually worked. I don't mean that I cooked them. He just ate them right out of the bag.

Next I'm going to try pureeing and putting them in burritos. We still serve them to him directly, but he doesn't eat them. I just keep trying though.