Along with adjusting to the schedule and commute of my new job, I’ve been living the single life. Neil’s been gone for a week, and isn’t heading home for another few days. This has made it really easy to slip into some old, inefficient habits, especially in the kitchen. When I’m home alone, it’s almost all I can do to get up early enough to walk the dog and get myself put together to get on the bus and head to work, then get home, walk the dog again, get a few chores done, get things ready for the next day, and crash into bed. Then get up the next day and do it all over again.

Feeding myself well doesn’t end up very high on the priority list, and when I do need to eat I find I’m reaching for the old, easy, expensive standbys: Pizza. Take out. Fast Food. Toast. Okay, toast isn’t that expensive. But toast alone isn’t all that healthy either.

Before the great budget challenge of 2009, I wouldn’t have blinked about spending what I have this past week on food. But now, seeing the money I’ve spent on convenience and knowing the bounty I could’ve bought with the same amount of cash (or just the amount of cash I could’ve spent on other things) and not much more effort, it’s kindof disheartening.

It’s another reminder that this whole budget exercise is as much about state of mind as state of wallet.

I’m reminded of a quote from Alice Waters on a recent episode of the Splendid Table Podcast (on not wanting to waste the local produce she’s worked so hard to source & obtain): “We used to base most of our food decisions on ‘what do I want,’ now we start thinking about meals with ‘what do I have?'”

I’ve been operating in “what do I want” mode for the past week, basing my food decisions on fast and easy, rather than affordable and healthy.

Which is dumb. Because if I take three minutes to look through the fridge, freezer and pantry, I have: bread, wraps, eggs, rice, pasta, chili, soup, beans, frozen fruit, frozen veggies, etc. etc. etc.

I have a bounty of food available, if I’d take the time to look for a couple minutes and do a minimal amount of thinking and prep. And I’d probably feel a world better by feeding my body real food as opposed to fast food. Not to mention having some extra funds for things I really want, instead of blowing it on short-term instant but fleeting gratification.

If you made your next meal with what you have already instead of what you want, what would it be? And what are you waiting for?

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8 thoughts on “Plenty

  1. Mel

    I think we both keep a bit of a mental file of what fresh items we have available and try to keep the pantry stocked with nonperishable essentials. It’s usually pretty easy to look up a recipe, pick up one or two things from the store on the way home (if necessary), and create something delicious & nutritious.

  2. Sue

    This is why we’ve specified a dining budget separate from a grocery budget. Dining gets $100/mo split into two $50 allotments, and groceries gets $500/mo split into two as well. This helps us limit our reliance on take-out and eat-out, even when neither of us feels like cooking. We’ve also stocked the house with SOME quick-and-easy prepped dinners like our fave frozen pizza or chicken lasagna (what we had tonight), so when the cooking fairies have abandoned us we’re not left dipping into the dining budget. Ergo, dining gets saved for REAL restaurant meals that we look forward to!

    Each semi-monthly period when I do the meal plan and grocery list, I am always amazed by how much food is still left over from last period’s shop/menu, usually because we have scrounged some other idea for food. Tuna melts take the place of a chicken dish and now we have extra chicken to carry forward. Come summertime I think we’ll start using more fresh veggies though, which can get pricey until our garden starts to yield.

  3. Raul

    I always make a budget. In my case, I try as hard as I can not to eat out, if at all possible (despite my numerous restaurant reviews!) — I normally make pasta and rice and salads. My mom taught me how to cook since I was very little so I’m used to it 🙂

  4. Hannah

    If I base my next meal on what I have, it’s going to be cake and cookies. Several parents brought in gifts of cake and cookies to work. I suspect I’ll be going to get a bite to eat out, though. Cake and cookies won’t last me the day.

  5. Darren

    The way I resolve anxiety about wasted food is to run an apartment composter. That way the food doesn’t end up in a landfill, but in somebody’s garden instead. Or, you know, occasionally a local park.

  6. Anne

    I freeze leftover chili and soup in individual serving sizes, then update a list I keep on the fridge with the number of servings currently frozen. Often we are not both home for dinner, or even if we are, there is at least one night where we don’t eat the same thing. Every weekend, before I grocery shop, I meal plan for coming week. This involves a few recipe books and trips to the fridge, freezer and cupboards to see what’s already on hand. I also know to be realistic when meal planning, because coming home hungry at 6:15pm doesn’t lend itself to cooking for an hour before you actually eat.
    I also keep M&M frozen pizza on hand for when you really don’t feel like cooking. Normally I’d rather do without pizza than 1) eat frozen or 2) pay a fortune for delivery… I love Me’n’Ed’s for our pizza budget. But M&M makes the best frozen pizza that I’ve found so far, and it’s thin crust which is the best in my book.

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