Wow. It feels pretty awesome to be nearly a third of the way through the year — I’m beginning to feel like my new habits are fully settling in. The thing that’s helping the most is really that I know myself pretty well by now; after over a decade of adulting, I have a decent sense of what will and won’t work for me. But one thing I’ve been doing this year is genuinely new, and not something I would ever have said I’d like as much as it’s turning out that I do.
Anne at Money Propeller linked me to this WSJ article on food waste: according to the EPA, Americans threw out 36 million tons of food in 2012, up to $1000 per year per person. The people they interviewed for the article (which is sort of an ad for high end refrigerators that claim they can keep food fresh longer) are interesting, because they testify to the fact that we like imagining we’ll use all that beautiful produce, so we buy it…and don’t use it.
No-Waste Food Tip of the Week: Buy in the Bulk Aisle, but Don’t Buy in Bulk
Until I started this challenge, I thought of myself as a stockpiler. It was very satisfying to have a pantry full of dry goods — lots of kinds of flour and beans and grains and pasta and canned tomatoes and coconut milk and, you know, whatever. Things that don’t go bad. So I was always prepared for whatever I might want to cook. Except: I often did not take advantage of the great variety of stuff I had. Since those bulk things are nonperishable, mostly, it wasn’t that big a deal, in that eventually I’d decide to eat through my pantry. But why was I stocking up if I wasn’t regularly using these things? Other than the feeling of abundance, I don’t really know why.
My stockpile is as low now as I think it’s ever been. I’m working through the big bag of brown rice I bought last year, and through a few other things like the soba noodles I also had from last year, which are in the recipe below. But when those are gone, I won’t re-buy “just in case” stuff until I’m actually going to use it. What’s making that possible is that I’m now buying all my grains, rice, etc, from the bulk bins at either the grocery co-op or Whole Foods. It’s great because I can buy exactly what I need for the recipes I’m going to make. I don’t have to buy a 1-lb bag for a recipe that calls for 10 oz, then figure out what to do with the extra. I kind of can’t wait until I can take a picture of my new, drastically slimmed-down pantry shelves. They look so sleek already!
This Week’s Groceries
Meijer (grocery store)
2 bundles green onions, $1.18
Sweet potatoes, $1.93
Swiss chard, $1.99
sandwich bags, 2.49
serrano pepper, .03 (seriously! .01 lb at 2.99/lb)
steelcut oats, $3.19
laundry detergent, $7.99
cup hooks, $1.99
Total with tax: 23.65
plain yogurt, $3.39
mung beans (in bulk!), $3.24
Total with tax, $8.92
Grand Total, $38.57
Weeknight Soba Noodles for One
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
This recipe is a little unusual for me, in that (a) it requires cooking after work, which I virtually never do — cooking with TWO POTS, no less — and (b) it can’t be prepared in a batch on the weekends and eaten all week. However, I was looking for something to help me use up the soba noodles I bought in the fall, and found this on one of my favorite cooking websites. It turned out to be absolutely perfect for this week: it’s been cold and rainy, and I gave blood yesterday, so I wanted something with a lot of iron in it, and the spinach fit the bill and this was so hot and soothing and comforting. The original recipe calls for tofu, but I skipped it as too complicated — you could put any kind of protein in here, in which case these quantities will work for two people. But I just ate a lot of noodles and spinach 🙂
4 oz soba noodles
1/4 c grated parmegiano-reggiano cheese (worked great, but I might try it with feta sometime just out of curiosity)
a substantial quantity of spinach (I have no idea how much I used — I just threw in several handfuls; it shrinks down rapidly. You could also use chard, or almost any green.)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 bunch scallions, both whites and greens, sliced
Boil the noodles for 4-5 minutes in salted water; drain and rinse with cold water to stop them cooking.
In a pan, preferably nonstick, heat a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Saute the scallions and spinach for a minute or so, until the spinach starts to cook down, then toss the noodles in. Stir-fry until the noodles are steaming hot again and the spinach is fully cooked. Toss in the cheese and garlic powder and stir until the cheese is melted and coats everything (this only takes thirty seconds or so.)