Monday, September 19, 2011

Groceries, Recipes and Dinner

I seem to be addicted to food. Not in an "I can't stop eating" problematic sort of way, but a "my fridge is always full of groceries I bought or things I made and my collection of recipes may one day take over the house" sort of way.

First, let's talk about shopping for groceries. I'm a bargain shopper. I buy lots of things in bulk at Sam's Club, I love Big Lots, the bins and endcaps of things at the grocery store that are on sale, clipping coupons, and we can't forget about Super Double or Triple Coupon week at the local Harris Teeter! I also recently discovered you can buy grocery coupons on Ebay for super cheap - we're talking $1 for 100 coupons or something with FREE shipping. I haven't bought any yet, I'm waiting for my pantry supply to go down a bit before I start buying coupons on Ebay.

Which brings me to my pantry ... how do we store these groceries? I have a small house. At 1300 square feet plus a storage shed, it's large enough for my boyfriend, my two dogs, me, my home office, and all of our "things." This includes all of my cookbooks (we'll get to that in a bit) and other collections, and Marshall's "room" full of tools and hunting and fishing gear. None of these things can go in the shed because the shed is not climate-controlled, so if you come visit, I hope you don't mind sleeping in a room that smells like boys and has fish and squirrels hanging on the wall. We won't even talk about what's in the closet in there. But wait, I'm getting off track. Back to the storing of the groceries.

I have a cupboard in the kitchen with spices, pasta and rice. Our fridge sits in a little alcove in our kitchen that used to be the pantry. A wise former owner of my house turned the pantry into a home for the refrigerator, and there was plenty of space above and beside the fridge that was being wasted. Marshall built a really nice custom shelving unit around the fridge, which has a big shelf above for miscellaneous things like cereal, cookie sheets, the rice cooker, and all the other random stuff that gets used once a month and takes up a bunch of space. Beside the fridge, there are five shelves that store canned goods, snacks, and other bargains I find while I am grocery shopping. In my office, I have a large cabinet that also stores food, as well as a shelf that stores more canned goods. We also have a chest freezer that struggles to have enough room for ice cream, as well as a refrigerator freezer that also is stocked.

For a certain amount of time, I kept a spreadsheet on my computer that had an "inventory" of the food that was in the freezer, as well as on the pantry shelves. Although I am an organized person, I am also busy ... and this proved to be just a little too much for me to maintain, so we no longer have a spreadsheet. However, I do clean the freezer out every other month or so and take note of things that should be used, and I clean out the pantry and cabinets every few months and check for things nearing expiration so I can add those to the "needs to be used" section as well.

Anyway, let's talk recipes for a few minutes. When I first started cooking for myself when I was in college, I made the basics. Meals I had watched my mom make, things I liked ... macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, tater tot casserole, meatloaf, cheese burritos. As time passed, I started experimenting a bit with new recipes here and there. Today, I have a large collection of cookbooks (should we say 100 or so?) and when I sort through them to see what I can take to the used book store, I end up convincing myself that I NEED them all.

I also have magazine subscriptions. Taste of Home, Cuisine at Home, Rachael Ray Magazine, Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens. I'm letting some of the subscriptions lapse ... but I won't be able to get rid of Rachael Ray or Food Network. Or Real Simple. Or Cuisine at Home. Ok so I can keep those four, right? When I read my magazines, I clip out the recipes that sound good that I want to make. I try to be selective, and clip only the ones I think I need (for example, a recipe for a three-cheese pasta? Probably can figure that one out without a recipe.) However, I find myself with a never-ending box of "recipes to be glued" onto cards ... which are stored in photo boxes. I currently have two photo boxes full, and at some point in the future I think I may need to add a third.

I also watch the Food Network. My favorite show is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (DDD) with Guy Fieri. I also like watching Heat Seekers, and some of the other shows. Again, recipes I see on the Food Network I can go to FoodNetwork.com and search for them and print them out.

And, after all of these cookbooks, magazines, TV shows, websites, and recipe clipping and gluing, what do I do when I make dinner? One of two things:
  1. Make whatever I am making without using a recipe.
  2. Go to AllRecipes.com or Google.com and search for what I want to make, and use a recipe from there. (And I print it out and add it to my 'to-be-glued' pile.)
I also recently purchased a small magnetic white board that lives on the refrigerator, where we note "meal ideas." I tried a scheduled meal calendar for awhile, but that didn't work (again not enough time to maintain it.) But, posting a list of "ideas" of things we want to try or make for dinner soon seems to be working well. I can also post things I find in the freezer or pantry that need to be used soon on here so we can use them in upcoming meals.

After all of this food shopping and storing and recipe gathering and menu planning, we usually eat at home. It saves money, and it's so much healthier. If someone asked me what restaurant they could get me a gift card to, I think I would prefer a gift card from the grocery store. :) Sometimes we go astray with a dinner out at El Cerro Grande or Outback Steakhouse, or a take-out pizza from Papa Murphys, but most of the time we cook. We try to cook healthy as well, with lots of vegetables, beans and whole grains. But I can't do without cheese.

Anyway, all this talk about food has made me hungry. I think I'll go choose something for us from the mass of food I made over the weekend that is sitting in my fridge: cheeseburger soup (A DDD recipe), chicken curry, grape and blueberry chicken salad, or Salisbury steak with mushroom cream gravy.

2 comments:

Susan Linneman said...

Reading your blog was very enjoyable Darci! I look forward to your next post.

Sarah Jane said...

You are missing the magazine "Cooks Illustrated." It's based on the PBS show America's Test Kitchen. Definitely one of my favorites.

I recently started using Pinterest.com which has been a real time suck, but now I have all of these links to recipes that look tasty and craft projects that look like fun in one place--it might cut back on your need for food magazines and cookbooks, who knows :).