Sunday, September 29, 2013

Some Days I Look at my List and Just Sigh

Today is one of those days.

The "list" incorporates a few things:
1.  Cooking at least one big meal for lunch or dinner for the week.
2.  Washing and cutting any fruits we have for the week.
3.  Prepping our CSA vegetables that aren't necessarily going into the big meal.

Yesterday I did not do any cooking (I did make myself a sandwich for lunch).  I did spend a couple of hours sorting through baby clothes dropped off by two good friends.  This is a huge chore, but I definitely always say "yes" to free things.  It's worth the two hours to not have to buy clothing for a year or more for the little guy.

So that means today is all about cooking.  I have:

1.  Caramelized onions in the crockpot. New recipe.
2.  During nap time, I'm going to make Arabic rice and lentils (to go with the onions)
3.  I have green tomatoes, so this time I'm going to make green tomato salsa instead of what I did last year (relish).
4.  Slice up some watermelon.
5.  Wash lettuce and make a salad for th epotluck

I already deseeded 5 pomegranates.

Hopefully that will keep us going for the week!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Getting busy in the kitchen

I even had some help from the hubby this weekend, due to my bruised foot.  Which I got...?  Your guess is as good as mine. I woke up with it.  And big boy has a cold (or at least, a runny nose).  Well, he didn't get the last cold, figures he's starting the next one.

I'm also working on using up items in the pantry and freezer. (These are in red.) Doesn't stop me from buying more though.  I'm trying.  I made the mistake of going to Whole Foods today.  One tiny bag and $35 later.  If I could JUST stick to the produce and the bulk goods (oatmeal), I'd be fine.  But no.  There were scrambled eggs and bacon in the hot bar.  And chocolate.

Here's what the FHS family is making/ eating this weekend and during the week:

1.  Banana muffins (some with chocolate chips).  Hubby made these and they were so much better than mine.  Then I realized - he doesn't cut the sugar in half like I do. :)

2.  Enchiladas.  I made these yesterday - chicken (previously poached and frozen), peppers (chopped by hubby - a HUGE bag of TINY hot peppers), onions, tongue of fire beans (from the CSA, previously cooked and frozen), chard, and cheese (bought on sale that I shredded), and discount tortillas from the freezer.

3.  Aloo gobi (that's cooking right now)

4.  Salad (including pomegranates - 3, that hubby took care of.  Got the seeds out of two and juiced the third.  We both hate that job).

5.  Roasted cherry tomato, garlic, pepper, and feta bruschetta.

6.  Barley salad (well, I'm really just going to put the cooked barley in my salads).

7.  Cantaloupe and watermelon.  You know I list this because I have to wash, peel, and slice.  These were on sale for $2 at the grocery store and there were 55cent coupons at the display.  These are the Tuscan melons. $1.45 for a watermelon and $1.45 for a cantaloupe!

Really trying to be better on the produce all week and on weekends.  I keep reading about how children's palates really develop from age 1 to 2.  Nick is a pretty good eater, but I was pretty strict with the fruit and veggie intake.  I haven't been quite as good with Daniel so far.  This is why I ran off and bought more baby food (it's so much easier to get him to eat it in pureed form).  Nick was the same way as a baby...the veggies were in puree form a lot longer than many kids.  But he loves vegetables still.

Plus.  I need to lose weight.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Delicious Vegetable Dip

A new recipe!  I know right?  From me?  However is that possible? 

I'll tell you  how.  I was so busy having fun this weekend that I didn't cook ahead for the week.

And then in desperation, I needed to figure out what to do with these random bits of veggies from the farm.  So one night, I just threw a basket of cherry tomatoes and 4-6 small, yellow sweet peppers (about the equivalent of 1/2 to 1 regular sweet pepper) into the oven while something else was cooking.  Then I stuck them in a container in the fridge.

Then another night, I steamed a bunch of chard and added it to the container.

And then tonight, I pureed all that in the food processor with a cup of cottage cheese and some garlic powder.

It is VERY tasty.  We are eating it with crackers.  I could probably also put it on pasta or use it on sandwiches or ???

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cheap Fitness

So, I'm a big fan of the blogger Mr. Money Mustache.  I don't agree with him 100% on everything.  I mean, who does?  Maybe his wife, and a few others.  He retired in his 30's and now writes his blog, invests in real estate, and raises his son.  They both do (they both retired).

Anyway, he is a HUGE fan of biking and has often discussed the uselessness of gyms.  Or at least, points out that you don't need a gym to be fit.  This is totally true - I won't disagree there.  I am, however, a gym rat.

I have tried to work out at home, regularly.  My success rate really depends on the age of my children.  There was the "sweet spot" of age 4 to 6 where I could pop a video in and do it - he would wake up part way into it. Sometimes he would chatter constantly while I finished, sometimes he did it with me, sometimes he crawled all over me. Needless to say, it does NOT happen with the little guy.  He just wants to be on top of me.  The gym is the only place I can go to lift weights in peace.  Not to mention: pool.  Classes.  I like people and group exercise.

I have tended to be pretty liberal in my fitness spending.  We belong to two gyms.  The first, 24 hour fitness, is on a $99 a year plan.  (That's a person, so $198 for two.)  The second, the YMCA, is $99 a month.  We joined this a couple of years ago when I was swimming a lot (tri training) and it has been great.  It's a nice family atmosphere and we enjoy getting our 7 year old in the pool.  He has become MUCH more confident in the water because of it.

I have to say, we may not get our money's worth.  My husband only goes to the YMCA when we use the pool as a family (which has not been much with the new baby - he doesn't really dig the pool), and I only go to 24-hour fitness when the YMCA is closed for their annual maintenance.

But that's not all.  In the 2009-2010 time frame, I was running a LOT.  Two half marathons, part of a marathon, a 10 miler, and a whole host of 5k's.  These races were anywhere from $25 to $150 each.  Pretty expensive T-shirts.  (And when you consider the wear and tear...piriformis, followed by physical therapy, followed by Achilles tendonitis...) 

The piriformis resulted in my switch to triathlons.  That added even more expense.  $120 for the sprint tri (500 yd swim, 6 mile bike, 2 mile run, an hour of my time), $100 for the discounted wet suit (the first year it was 59 degrees in August!), and $250 for the summer-long training group.  I love this training group.  I did this two years in a row.  I LOVE group fitness and I found it really worth the money, especially since I started my 40th birthday year not being confident swimming in a POOL and ended it having swum in the ocean dozens of times, up to 3/4 mile.  But man, $400 a year on top of my gym memberships...  Hey, that's one way the pregnancy helped save money...I'd just given birth in 2012 and I don't fit into my wetsuit for 2013.

Last week I got an email about the local park's 5k fall trail run series!  It's 4 weeks long and it's $20 a race ($15 if you buy all four).  Family fun, beer food.  It sounded fun but I can't run (that Achilles tendon again).  This park is at the end of our dead end street and as we were there  yesterday (playing Frisbee) I found their map of the race course. 

I decided to have a little bit of frugal fitness.  I took a picture of the map, printed it out, and today, I put the baby in the Ergo and did the 5k.  It was a little tough here and there (some areas of deep sand), lots of hills, and it was a little hot.  It was definitely a "hike" and I kept a 2.0 mph pace. 

It's not the same as a timed race.  Depending on who you ask, this is good or bad.  Some people figure if you aren't racing or "training", you aren't doing anything.  Others say if you are racing for time or training, you are missing the point of fitness.  (I read a quote by a blogger - don't remember who "exercise is the junk food of fitness".  Meaning, instead of "exercising" for 30 minutes or an hour, we should be just MORE ACTIVE.)  My own personal opinion is - it depends.  What works for you today may not work for you tomorrow.  Training and racing is great (I enjoyed it, even though I will never be fast), but it also resulted in a lot of injuries.  However just plain exercise can seem like you are "going through the motions".

So what are other options for Frugal Fitness that is still fun, and group worthy?  I have a bunch of coworkers who like to go backpacking.  It has expanded to quite a large group.  Yes, it's mostly the young-uns (20's) and there is probably too much beer involved.  But it does occasionally include people in their 30's and 40's, and sometimes even a parent gets a day off to join them.

When we were discussing the triathlon at work (several of us have done them), one of my coworkers said that he wanted to be sponsored.  I said "I'd sponsor you!"  He said "really, you'd pay $150 for me to do the race?"  I said "no, I'd give you 10 bucks, but only if you did the LONG course (1 mi swim, 34 mi bike, 10 mi run), and I bet a bunch of other people would too."  At that point, we all realized that we could probably get 6 - 10 people together and set up our own tri unofficially.

Now of course, this would be more for fun and not for time.  It would be hard to get people to time us - we'd need a place to set up our bikes - we'd have to follow the road rules and you can easily get stuck behind a train around here.  But it would still be cool - I'm sure we could find some surfboarders to watch us in the water.  Training for it - that would be the biggest issue - you always need to make sure you are swimming in the ocean with at least one other person.  Working around kids and schedules makes that difficult too.

Here are other ways for fun frugal group fitness:
Group hikes
Group bike rides
Set up your own "race" (swim, bike, run, all three...)
Lunchtime walks
Go out dancing!
Boogie boarding/surfing
Do your own Boot Camp!

And there is always the Mr. Money Mustache method of biking everywhere, or my neighbor's method of walking everywhere.  She is in her 50's with two daughters and does not drive.  She has never really struggled with her weight, because she walks EVERYWHERE.

So, what say you about keeping fitness fun, and interesting, without a lot of money?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Crazy weekend of prep and my freezer is PACKED

So, I've come to accept that if it doesn't happen on the weekend, it doesn't happen.

While that is not 100% true (I was home sick one day this week and made chicken tortilla soup in the crockpot, corn muffins, and cooked up some beans), it's mostly true.

When big boy was a little one, I did a lot of cooking and prep after he went to bed.  Now with two, bedtime is pushed off to closer to 8:30 or 8:45 for the big boy - so I'm too tired mid week to do anything.

This has resulted in a lot more wasted food.  I'm not beating myself up too much about it, but I AM trying a lot harder to prep everything on the weekend.  I realize that in this phase of full-time job and two kids, one a baby, I simply have to adjust.  This means, generally, that all of our CSA and "fresh" veggies are eaten between Saturday and Wednesday (we get them Thursday night, and we generally run out by Tuesday or Wednesday).  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are frozen vegetable nights.  I try to avoid wasting food by using my freezer and not cooking too much - and by eating what I've already made.  That means we are all sick and tired of things eventually - today's lunch should be the 4th and final episode of the tortilla soup.

I'm still recovering from a cold and now my husband has it.  I've had a couple of nights of insomnia (I'm thinking it's cyclical).  So last night, I just decided to prep as much as possible.

After the baby was in bed, during our movie for movie night ("Daddy Day Care"), I washed, destemmed, and roasted 2 baskets of cherry tomatoes.  I just cannot stomach raw cherry tomatoes unless they are chopped in a salsa like thing.

After the big boy was in bed, I went to town - about 40 mins of washing and prepping a bag of small sweet Italian peppers, fennel, a bunch of baby carrots (they are tasty but I would MUCH rather wash, peel, and cut 5 large carrots instead of 20 baby carrots), a zucchini, and three tiny kohlrabi.  I froze the beans I cooked on Wednesday.

OH, but that's not all - today I took the baby grocery shopping and found a killer deal on pluots - from the discount rack at Fresh and Easy - 2.2 lbs for $1.13.  They were very ripe, so I spent some time peeling and slicing - they are freezing in a single layer in the freezer right now.  I don't know what I will do with them, but some blog somewhere this week featured frozen peaches - and the writer said that she liked to throw a few slices in her oatmeal while it cooks. Yum.  That, or pluot crisp!

I've also got beets steaming, and then I should be almost done with the prep, except for washing lettuce.

My freezer is so packed, I have to make an effort to eat it down.  I am officially done buying meat until I eat everything that is already there.  I also have a lot of veggies (but we eat those), some homemade popsicles (it's the hot season now), various bread products (I do NOT need tortillas).  In order to really be efficient in the freezer use, you  have to have the time to go through the freezer, see what you have, and plan around that. I used to love doing that, but I find that I am too pressed for time.

Thus, I am going to make a renewed effort to plan at least 2 meals a week (weekends of course) based on stuff that's in the freezer. Today, I am going to make mac & cheese with leftover ham (from the freezer) and some frozen spinach - and the roasted cherry tomatoes.  Tomorrow, I am going to use up some meatballs and frozen stir-fry vegetables.  I will make an Asian sauce with some apricot jam and soy sauce and other items, and serve over brown rice.

To give you an idea of how bad my freezers are, here are some pictures of the top-of-the fridge freezer, and the mini-freezer in the laundry room.  Yes, there are corn dogs in my freezer.  My "no processed food" lifestyle took a back seat when I had the second child.  It's generally the early years - 0 to 3 - that make it really hard to cook everything from scratch.  Oh, and there is a jar of plum freezer jam that I think I canned 5 years ago.  I should probably toss that.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A frugal fun afternoon

So, I must admit - it's kinda easy to have a fun, frugal afternoon when you live at the beach.  I mean, really.  Even so, we manage to spend money too easily more often than I'd like to admit.  Usually on food, because we were either not prepared (were out too long), or were too lazy to pack food.  I mean, when I pack up the family - husband, 2 kids, beach towels, umbrella, toys...boy, food is last on my list AND increases the requirement to 2 trips from the car.

But today, I went for the packing the food (and the 2 trips)!  The total cost for today: $1.49 for a bag of ice (most of which is now in the freezer for later) plus gas (probably $2).  And whatever sunscreen we used.  We spent a few hours at the beach.

Here's what I packed:
turkey and salami sandwiches/ wraps
carrots, celery, peppers, radishes and homemade hummus
applesauce (for the baby)
string cheese

Here's what we did:
boogie boarded (daddy and kid, I didn't even have my suit on.  I regretted this, it was a beautiful day).
built sand castles
played in the sand/shade

Here's what we DIDN'T do:
Go to the grill down the street for lunch.  It is delicious there.  But it would have been $30 for lunch for the 3.5 of us.
Go to a beach where you have to pay to park
Pay for a movie
Go shopping