Zero Food Waste, Weeks 22 and 23: Did I Mention Meal Planning? (Plus Kale, Date, and Avocado Salad)

zero food waste challenge 2015So, this week’s tip could be shorthanded: Maintain control! I was staying with my friends for much of the first half of June, and I did most of the grocery shopping (they paid me back!) but remembered how hard it is to do this zero food waste thing when all the members of the household aren’t pulling in the same direction. Since I am normally a household of one, I only have to get my worst instincts in line with the rest of me, which is much easier than corralling an entire family.


Now that I’ve been home for a bit, though, I seem to have forgotten how to plan and shop altogether! I made a stunning number of trips to various stores over the first six days I was home, starting with two stops Tuesday night and finally finishing with two stores Sunday. Sheesh. Also, I spent a *ton* of money, more than I usually spend on two weeks’ worth of groceries! That’s partly due to stocking up on some very expensive things, but partly due to not having thought through things ahead of time, and having to pick up extras of stuff I could have bought cheaper in bulk. Next week, back on the horse.

Grocery Shopping

I’m going to write down every grocery stop I made here because, seriously, ridiculous. I spent like a drunken sailor this week — a drunken sailor who really, really likes kale.

Tuesday, Whole Foods
Feta cheese, $5.99
Milk, $2.39
Yogurt, $3.69
Quinoa, $5.69
Kale, $2.99
Cherries, $8.48
Total: $29.63

Tuesday, Meijer
Bananas, $.66
Sweet potato, $1.22
Garlic, $.50
Baking powder, $1.29
Cornmeal, $2.79
Whole wheat flour, $3.99
Brown sugar, $3.99
Peanut butter, $2.00
Blueberries, $2.50
Cereal, $3.00
Pecans, $7.99
Avocados, $2.00
Mushrooms, $1.00
Total: $32.93

Wednesday, Meijer (after I remembered I’d agreed to host a small meeting; I made hummus, brownies, and lemonade with mostly ingredients I had at home already, and served the cherries from Tuesday night’s shopping trip and the pita chips along with those things)
2 cans chickpeas for hummus: $1.70
2 bags pita chips: $3.99
Olive oil: $11.99
Total: $17.68

Wednesday, Whole Foods
Milk, $2.39
Bananas, ??
Granola, ??
Total: ?? I’m guessing $10

Saturday, Farmer’s Market
Eggs, $2.50

Saturday, Martin’s (grocery store)
Dried dates, $5.38

Sunday, Whole Foods
Milk, $2.99
Strawberries, $9.99 (huge steal — this is three quarts of local organic berries)
Kale, $6.00
Total, $18.86

Sunday, Meijer
Avocados, $2.00
Pine nuts, $19.99 (I know, I know. This is an entire pound of them. This bag should last two years in the freezer, maybe three, depending on how often I use them. By the ounce, it was less than half what smaller quantities cost.)
Total: $21.99

Grand Total: $138.57 (approximately, because I don’t have that WF receipt from Wednesday)

That is insane. Seriously insane. Even if we call this two weeks’ worth of food, which it more or less is, I overspent what I’d normally allot for that by about $40! Note how I misjudged how much milk I’d use and had to buy it THREE TIMES (this is because I ate a lot of cereal this week). Also, I did not need to buy quinoa, sweet potatoes, yogurt, feta, or pecans this week — haven’t used any of them — although they won’t go to waste as I’ll be using them in the coming weeks. The real culprits here are the fruit (cherries and strawberries are substantially more expensive, and much less sturdy, than my go-to apples in winter) and the olive oil and pine nuts. Oh well. As long as I tighten up next weekend I should be able to get through the rest of June on the cash still in my wallet ($50) plus all this stuff I now have in the pantry. And no matter what I’ve been eating this delicious salad so it’s hard to quibble too much with all the expenses.

Kale, Avocado, and Date Salad
I cut this out of a Martha Stewart magazine a while back and it’s really, really good. It claims to serve 8, but that is obviously as a small side salad; when I make it, I get either 2 or 4 servings out of it, depending on whether or not I’m having toast or an egg or something alongside it, or whether it’s the whole meal. I’ve adapted it very, very slightly (less oil, basically).

1 bunch kale, preferably lacinato, stemmed and cut into thin strips
1/4 c olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 c toasted pine nuts [I didn’t have these the first time I made this this week, so I used sliced almonds instead. It worked ok, but definitely wasn’t quite as good, so if you have pine nuts definitely use them, although other nuts will work in a pinch. I think pecans would be on the sweet side and go oddly with the parmesan, so if you are using pecans I’d swap out the parmesan for crumbled chevre and maybe leave out the avocado.]
10 dried dates, sliced into thin strips
1 avocado, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 oz parmagiano reggiano cheese, in thin strips (I use a vegetable peeler)
a pinch of sea salt

Once you’ve stemmed kale, it’s easy to slice — stack the leaves (you don’t have to do a neat job) and roll them up in a tight bundle. Then cut with a sharp knife like you were making slice-and-bake cookies. You’ll get long thin strips that are perfect for salad.

Toss the kale and pine nuts with the olive oil and lemon juice, also a pinch of sea salt. Then add the dates, avocado, and cheese, and toss again, gently. Grind a bit of black pepper over everything and you’re done.

15 thoughts on “Zero Food Waste, Weeks 22 and 23: Did I Mention Meal Planning? (Plus Kale, Date, and Avocado Salad)

  1. Yay! Glad to have a new zero food waste post! We had the same grocery spending situation — gone a while, had to spend a lot on staples — and it just feels UGH. Fortunately, that’s not a normal thing. Re: the pine nuts, assume you got a better unit price by buying a big bag, but we often buy from the bulk bins so we can just buy a 1/4 cup or so. Though you’re set for a few years now. this recipe looks yummy! We also love kale salad where we massage the avocado into the kale. No need for dressing that way, and the avo softens the kale a lot. Have a great day!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Actually I did check the bulk bins for pine nuts, and they didn’t have any 🙁 I would totally have done that instead. The big bag was a bit over $1 an ounce, vs up to $4 an ounce (!!!) in some of the small bottles in the pasta aisle. I totally love massaging kale too! Delicious.

  2. My food budget was out of hand this past month too. It’s still the biggest thorn in my side budget wise because you HAVE to eat, right? 🙂 I’m debating on getting a costco membership to see if that saves me money, but if it doesn’t I feel like I might have wasted money on a membership.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I just feel like costco for one is too much for me — but that might be different if you eat a lot of non-perishables (cans, frozen dinners, I don’t know what.) I think summer is tough because all the produce is so beautiful, and it’s more expensive than the durable stuff I buy in the winter.

  3. Kirsten says:

    I giggled over the number of shopping trips you’ve had. My husband is on a major business trip and he shopped before he left, to save me the trouble, but he does a terrible job with produce, so he left that for me . So then I went for produce. Then I ended up sick and needed saltines, soda, and a few other things. Back to the store. Then I think I went one other time this weekend for something else. Like, there every few hours. So I’m giggling with you, not AT you 😉

    And yay for a easily veganizable recipe! Love kale. Love avocado!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      This is what happens when I don’t plan! It was just totally insane 🙂 You’ll really like this salad. I think you’ll want to put in something salty in place of the cheese, but yes, otherwise easy to veganize!

  4. Hahaha when I go out of town for a while and then come home, I totally forget how to grocery shop, too. You’ll get back into the swing of things in no time. 🙂 Holding yourself accountable here is a great first step.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I’m making big plans to spend very little $$ this weekend 😉

  5. Kristin says:

    Oh my gosh, this sounds exactly one of my weeks when I don’t plan ahead of time. It’s crazy going to multiple grocery stores multiple times right? When I don’t plan I turn into a total spaz, lol. I totally get the drunken sailor part, ha!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Oh my gosh, it was just nuts. I haven’t been to a grocery store yet this week, so there’s that 🙂

  6. ARBM says:

    I totally do multiple shopping trips whenever I don’t plan… or sometimes even if I do plan but forget things! Mostly I’ll just stop by the store on my way home from work to pick up stuff for dinner that night…

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I’ve been trying to avoid the pattern of shopping for the night’s dinner — for me it always results in overspending!

      1. ARBM says:

        I agree… I always over buy… or get sucked in to the “I’m hungry and tired” purchases… never a good thing!

  7. The cost of pine nuts always shocks me! I buy them at BJ’s, so I get a little more for about the same price, but still…

    You’re so right about how much easier it is to do things by yourself, or when everyone is equally on-board. My husband is lukewarm, at best, about tracking our spending. i’m constantly finding receipts for (small) purchases, he forgot to mention. (Since they’re often from Dunkin Donuts, I think it has something to do with his fear of getting yelled at.) 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      hee hee hee. Do you give him a cash allowance for stuff like that? It might make your life easier to just track “$50 cash” a month rather than try to dig out his receipts.

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