Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 19: Trust Your Instincts (plus steel-cut oats)

zero food waste challenge 2015Good morning! The weather’s been mostly awful here, very humid. I find it really difficult to cook in weather like this, mostly because, well, who wants to turn on the stove? All I want to do is lie around on the porch with a tall glass of lemonade and a fan pointed directly at me.

Later in the summer, when the weather gets like this, I just eat lots of cold things (cheese, summer sausage, yogurt) and cut up raw vegetables and fruits. But we’re not at the point where the farmer’s market is producing enough to keep me fed, so I had to wing it.

My grocery list this week is highly atypical. I did buy some kale and yogurt, which are constant standbys for me, and I plugged my way through cooking lunch for the week. But other than that, you’ll see….processed foods. Gasp! I bought cereal and much more milk than I usually do, and also a frozen pizza.

That’s my tip for the week: if the weather, or an illness, or whatever, is throwing you off, listen to your body. I just knew that if I bought the beautiful asparagus at the farmer’s market, I wouldn’t be able to deal with actually cooking it. So I bought cereal instead, and I’ve been eating that for dinner. This isn’t a good idea to do very often — specifically, eating that much cereal! — but every once in a while I think it’s fine. And the general point about not buying stuff that you really know is just going to waste away in the fridge holds, I think.


Atypical groceries

Atypical groceries (frozen pizza not shown)

Bananas, $.58
Wheat Chex, $3.59
Life, $3.00
Yogurt, $3.99
Dried cranberries, $4.49
Milk, $2.29
Avocados, $2.49
Raisins, $2.50
Amy’s spinach pizza, $5.79
Kale, $3.00
Total with tax: $32.03

Steel-cut oats

I’ve talked before about my normal breakfast, but I figured since I wasn’t up to much cooking this week and didn’t have a new recipe to share, I’d talk a little more about exactly what I do to make my breakfast.

I use Bob’s Red Mill Steel-Cut Oats; I don’t bother to buy the organic variety. I find that one cup of oats works out to about three servings that really do keep me full for several hours.

Depending on the week, I either make six servings on Sunday night or three on Sunday and three on Wednesday. One cup of oats and three cups of water, plus a pinch of salt; I bring that to a boil then reduce to a simmer and set the timer for twenty minutes, stirring every few minutes so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Sometimes, if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll melt some butter first and toast the oats in that for a few minutes before adding the water and salt.

I add a handful of raisins, cranberries, dried blueberries, or other dried fruit right away so that it can rehydrate along with the oats. For a while I was working on clearing out a stockpile of nuts and seeds, so I had a choice of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, walnuts and almonds, to work with. Whatever you have in your freezer that crunches, basically, is going to be good here. I just picked a couple of things out and used my toaster oven to toast a handful. (You can just throw them straight in too if you’re feeling lazy, of course; I just like the flavor of toasted nuts and seeds.)

When the twenty minute timer goes off, the oatmeal will still look pretty soupy. It’s ok. Stir in 1 heaping teaspoon of brown sugar (or, in a pinch, white sugar) per serving; you can add some maple syrup at this point too if you think it will go with your fruit and nut selections. I tried adding peanut butter once but it was awful; it made everything clumpy and stickily thick and I could barely eat it. Honey might work ok but I haven’t tried it.

Stir in the nuts/seeds and anything else you’re planning to add. Put the lid on the pot, let it cool down, then put it in the fridge. The oatmeal continues to cook as it cools, so it’ll lose the soupy quality and thicken up well.

I pack it into single-portion microwaveable containers so I can throw one in my bag on the way to the office, but you can do it at home too of course. I heat it up for 90 seconds in the microwave. You can just eat it at that point, of course, but I like to stir a big spoonful of yogurt or milk in. And that’s it, my morning breakfast secret 🙂 It’s not as frugal as it could be — all that fruit and nuts — but it’s delicious, it’s really really filling, and I feel much better than when I was eating more cereal or worse, just not eating breakfast at all.

17 thoughts on “Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 19: Trust Your Instincts (plus steel-cut oats)

  1. I’ve had cereal for dinner many a times in my life. Cheerios is my go-to. I also eat a lot of eggs for dinner. I can totally see not wanting to turn on the oven when the weather is hot. Luckily our produce is awesome year round so a simple salad usually does the trick. I’m too lazy to even grill chicken to put on top if the weather is hot.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yes, in California you never have to wait for great produce to come into season 🙂 In another month or so we should be getting great stuff here, but not yet. It looks like I’m going to have to cut my cereal for dinner habit though — it seems to make me gain weight 🙁

  2. Kalie says:

    Life cereal is my favorite! I also have to resist buying and eating too much cereal, and having kids hasn’t helped the cause. But oatmeal is my go-to healthier, cheaper breakfast. You’re so right that buying what you can actually eat and cook is ultimately a better value. I can get so lazy that I’ll eat whole, unpeeled carrots (washed at least) instead of cutting them up. I’m excited our garden is starting to produce. Just lettuce so far but it saves on groceries because we love salad. And I bring salad to every potluck or social event that requires food.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I can’t wait for produce to pick up around here! It should be really really soon. What I want is the stacks of tomatoes and cucumbers and apricots and peaches and blueberries we’ll have in a month or six weeks.

      I do have a ridiculous love for Life cereal. I don’t know why since it’s bland and just a little sweet, but there it is. It’s so soothing.

  3. Life cereal is good stuff! I ate quite a bit of cereal for dinner in my day. Mostly Lucky Charms, which I can’t eat anymore, without getting a toothache from the sugar…

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Hee! My parents never let us eat cereal like that when I was a kid, which I resented at the time, but I guess now it was a good thing because I don’t even like it — too much!

  4. Cindy says:

    I LOVE the weather this time of year! Maybe it’s because of the cold winters, but I love when it really starts to heat up, and the rain, and how steamy it gets. I spend all day inside a cold office though, so I’m thankful to be outside once I get home.

    Bryan loves to grill, so that helps a lot on the cooking front. And he usually likes to eat so late at night, it’s cooled down enough to make the extra heat welcome.

    Our vegetable garden is doing fabulous, but it’s going to be a while before we start seeing much of anything. I’m already trying to think ahead on what to do with all of the tomatoes; Even with canning and giving them away last year, we couldn’t keep up! We both love gardening, but we don’t eat nearly enough produce for what we grow!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Actually I kind of love this weather too — I just don’t like to cook in it 😉 I need more people that love to grill in my life. The family next door had me over for dinner a few days ago, and they grilled and it was fabulous.

  5. Kristin says:

    I love me some cereal for dinner! I’m with you – when it gets hot, the thought of making my apartment even hotter from cooking sounds miserable. I’m also in my grilling phase right now and watermelon phase. I could nibble on watermelon all day long 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I really really need to learn how to grill. It’s always kind of scared me for no real reason (not like I think I’m going to set things on fire, but I just don’t know how, really, and I’m afraid I’ll overcook everything.) It’s so delicious though that I should really pull myself together.

  6. We recently started our CSA for this year and I’m really digging the seasonal produce. Food waste is always a challenge, so I’m constantly trying to think of creative ways to use kohlrabi, greens, etc 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      If you come up with good ways to use kohlrabi let me know! I seldom buy it because I’m never quite sure what to do with it 🙂

      1. Big kohlrabi fans here! Just peel it, cut it into little cubes, and saute it in a little oil. It tastes like a yummier version of broccoli stems. We tend to go pretty basic on veggies, but you could certainly add it to pasta sauce, use it in a stir fry, etc. It’s in the cabbage family, so anywhere those cabbage/broccoli flavors work, kohlrabi would also work.

        1. thesingledollar says:

          Oh, that does sound good! I could add it to grain salads (pretty much all I eat in the summer.) Also, I really like the breakfast quinoa idea. Thanks for the tip!

  7. Great tips! We have some celiac in the house so oats are out, but we love making a huge batch of breakfast quinoa. Cook it as you normally would, then add some milk (or almond milk, as we do) and whatever you would normally add to oatmeal (maple syrup, fruit, nuts, coconut, etc.), cook for a few minutes to combine flavors, and then portion it out for quick breakfasts. We’ve found, in fact, that you can make just about any whole grain the way you’d make oatmeal, and it works great. Quinoa is our favorite, but we’ve also done brown rice, millet and teff. (That last one is a bit of an acquired flavor.)

    1. ARBM says:

      Technically, oats don’t have gluten… but they are often processed in the same equipment at things that contain gluten. You can get gluten free oats though! They exist, they are just sometimes hard to find. Quinoa does make a good substitute though…

  8. I’m right there with you, with the lemonade and the fan on the porch swing. 🙂 Sounds great to me!

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