12.28.2009

New Year's Eve Dinner Party - Italy

It was three years ago that I threw my first dinner party. I went for a New Year's Eve dinner with a Turkish theme. Two years in Panama were not conductive to dinner parties and I haven't had one since. It's our first New Year's back state side and I'm planning my second dinner party.


My birthday happens to be January 3rd, but no one wants to celebrate when the 3rd rolls around. Instead I like to think of New Year's Eve as my birthday. So this is my birthday present to myself. I get to bring together my friends and learn about another country - two of my favorite things. And well food is a very close third on my list of favorite things.

This time I am co-hosting with one of my oldest friends. (Oldest as in: known since I was in first grade.) It's been a really wonderful experience. We chose a theme country and researched the cooking style. I think between the two of us almost every book on authentic Italian cooking has been checked out of the local library for months now.

In the last week we have finalized the menu and sent out the invitations. It's looking good. Now the hard part: execution. We have a two page shopping list and a schedule for the 29, 30 and 31 outlining what needs to get done.
I'll post more about the dinner after it happens but in the mean time here's the list of antipastos to get your stomach grumbling:

Verdure Arrosto Roasted Vegetables
Ravanelli con Sale Radishes with Salt
Prosciutto e Melone Thin Ham Slices and Melon
Olive Imbottite Stuffed Olives

12.26.2009

Looking Forward to 2010



I love writing goals! Any time I feel the need to refocus I start listing. I carry a 6x4 inch lined spiral bound notebook in my purse at all times just so I can make lists. That’s my preferred writing place, but I have also been known to make lists in the white space of magazine margins, that card board insert that comes with panty hose and random envelopes.

Recently a lot of lists got officially crossed out. I had a lot of lists for Sara and Matt’s wedding, lists for Christmas and lists for the New Year’s Party. Well, the New Year’s Party hasn’t quite happened yet, but most of the planning is done. And you know what January 1st is? That’s right, the universal goal setting time of the year.

Heading my list of goals for 2010 has to be finding a career job. We are coming into early spring when lots of gardens and garden centers start hiring so I’ve got my fingers crossed. This is also the time universities post their openings for professors. So we are both staying on top of applications.

I am also working very hard to resist consumerism. I thought this article’s opening about living within your means, nicely summed up how I feel.
Live a comfortable life, not a wasteful one. Do not spend to impress others. Do not live life trying to fool yourself into thinking wealth is measured in material objects. Manage your money wisely so your money does not manage you. Always live well below your means.
I'm still a work in progress when it comes to material stuff.  Although, Peace Corps really helped me seperate what I need from what I want. 

I am also looking for ways to be healthier. The culture in America does not make it easy to eat well and exercise, especially when “living below your means”.  The solution to being healthier is to integrate exercise and eating into my daily activities. I'm going to have to consciously work on this.

Even though we will move and we are very unsettled right now I want to have a garden; preferably one big enough to produce a significant amount of our food. For now I will plan to start a garden with my mom in the community garden space. And no matter where we find ourselves in the coming year, I will start a little plot even if it is just on the balcony.

I will use this blog to write about how I am accomplishing these goals. This blog has been around since 2005 and I have been blogging off and on since 2002. These blogs have helped me gather my thoughts and focus and record my life. All you readers are lovely icing on the cake.

I was in 4-H as a kid, so I know to write a good goal you have to include: who, what, how and when. So here are my goals for 2010:
  • I will apply for at least two career jobs a week until Jeff or I get a job.
  • I will budget our money with mint.com so we can live comfortably on our savings for the entire year.
  • I will work to change all my cooking over to recipes that use simple whole ingredients and are 50% vegetables and fruit by February 2010.
  • I will walk or take the bus at least 50% of the time when in town for the entire time we stay in Ames.
  • I will plan and plant a vegetable garden to produce vegetables for eating, canning and freezing for the growing season of 2010.
  • I will write a blog update at least once a week for the year of 2010.
 So there you have it.

What are you goals for 2010?

Looking Back on 2009


Christmas for me is a time to look back and see what I did for the year. I like to remind myself what I have accomplished.  Here's what Jeff and I did in 2009:


We ran three Global Brigades in Panama: University of Texas 1 & 2, Berkeley
We hosted family in Panama: Clarissa and Mom
We put together a Peace Corps Panama Volunteer Cookbook
We finished our Peace Corps service
We stayed with Adam and Emily in Salem, OR for two weeks
We visited Steven and Jessica in Seattle, WA
We road tripped from Seattle through CA, NV, AZ, TX, and MO back to Iowa
We learned it’s a really tough time to get a job
We worked together to get Jeff’s art hung in some local venues
We attended Sara and Matt’s Wedding

We can even go farther back and see what we did in other compellation posts:
2008 Foy and Jeff, 2007, 2006

I’m always impressed when I see it all laid out. It's been a great year!

Have you made and end of the year blog post? Give me your links in the comments.

12.24.2009

Roasted Winter Vegetables - Recipe

Merry Christmas Eve to All!

I've been in the kitchen all afternoon. It's a quiet day around here. The weather is nasty rain/sleet/snow in the Midwest so a lot of family and friends are not traveling. It's actually bringing out a lot of camaraderie. My sister who's stuck up in Northern Minnesota is having Christmas Eve dinner with her ex boyfriend's grandparents (he won't be there) and tomorrow she's going ice fishing with a bunch of people from work that didn't get home for Christmas.

I'm lucky enough to be in the same town as many of my relatives so we are simply scaling back recipes.

The Christmas Eve Menu:
Chicken and Wild Rice with Mushrooms
Roasted Winter Vegetables
Homemade Wheat Bread
Cutie Tangerines
Eggnog and a Plethora of Cookies and Treats
The roasted vegetables are becoming a favorite of mine. It turns out I love Brussels sprouts. They are such a delicious fall and winter vegetable. I'm not sure if I ever had exposure to them growing up. Other than their cliché on sitcoms as the vegetable no one wants to eat. Brussels sprouts and broccoli both make that list. But despite their bad press, I think they are both quite tasty.

Roasted Winter Vegetables
1 medium carrot
1 large sweet potato
1 large potato
1/2 lb fresh Brussels sprouts
Drizzle of olive oil
Sprinkle of salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  1. Cut all the potato, sweet potato, carrot into 1 1/2 inch chunks. If the Brussels sprouts are big cut them in half lengthwise.
  2. Put the vegetables in a 9x13 inch baking pan and drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle the herbs and salt and pepper on top. Toss to coat.
  3. Roast the vegetables in the oven with the broiler on low or at 400 degrees F for 30-45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, but not super soft.
Roasted winter vegetables can be made a couple hours in advance and then simply reheated. A parsnip or two could also be good in this mixture if you can find them. This recipe easily yeilds enough side servings for six people.  This is an adaptation from Giada's Everyday Italian.

This recipe makes a great side dish when paired with turkey or pork. It looks fancy, but it's really easy.

 Hope you are having a good one!

12.23.2009

A Soup a Day


I've been on a soup making kick lately. It all started because I wanted to make authentic Italian food and there are a lot of soups. I made a curried butternut squash soup which upon reading the intro is not actually Italian. The author included it because " it is a favorite of mine". The book is called the New Italian Cooking. I guess this is from the "new" part.

It was delicious but I still hadn't made an authentic Italian soup, so I picked a Minestrone. I made a vegetarian version from Genovese, but the broth was missing something.

So then I decided to make Carrot Ginger Soup from PeerTrainer. However, she doesn't have the recipe written out, it's all in youtube videos that are  long and unedited. So I wrote up the recipe here: Carrot and Ginger Soup.  The PeerTrainer lady says it's her favorite soup of all time. I did not like it at first so I added a lot more ginger and onions and it's growing on me. The spice is nice and it is very healthy.

The lady does points out you have to replace old not so healthy recipes with healthy recipes or you won't be able to successfully change your diet. I believe this to be true. I'm working on developing a set of recipes that fit into my new food mantra. After processing the carrot ginger soup in four batches through my food processer, it reconfirmed my desire for an immersion blender.

Then Miranda posted about split pea soup over on her blog An Austin Homestead. I love yellow split peas. I used to make them for us all the time when we lived in Panama. They taste so rich and buttery. So I updated my recipe and made a healthier version with no oil and some chard and carrots thrown in. The yellow split pea soup with carrots and chard might be my favorite soup I've made so far.

Soup has a lot of things going for it:
  • Can be made in large batches
  • Adaptable, flexible recipes 
  • Can mix in lots of healthy vegetables
  •  Doesn't have to have meat
  • Filling and warm on a winter's night
  • Freezes and reheats well
What's your favorite soup?

12.22.2009

Over Budget

Yesterday I stopped at the local co-op and bought $22.00 worth of groceries putting us $4 over my budget of $200 for December. And it is only the 21 of the month.
We are still holding strong in the restaurant section. There we have only spent $33 out of an allotted $100.
Now what? I failed my original goal. That's okay as long as I find a plan to deal with it. I have a total of $300 for groceries and restaurants for this month so I am going to reset my goal to keep groceries and dining out together under $300. So the expected amount of money spent stays the same, but it is divided differently. A balancing of the budget you might say. That means I have $63 left for the last seven days of the month. That seems very doable and reasonable.

12.20.2009

Sara and Matt's Wedding Recap

Sara got married yesterday and I’ve been very involved in the process. So instead of talking about budgeting and food on the blog I’m going to recap the wedding.
The wedding was beautiful and funky and so very much Matt and Sara.

The location was beautiful. Reiman Gardens was all wintered up and had green accented Christmas trees all over. It really didn’t even need to be decorated. Some black and burgundy table cloths plus some masks and that's all it took.
I made Sara's wedding flowers. The bridesmaids carried these little beauties and unfortunately I don't have a picture of Sara's bouquet. I'm sure there are pictures just none got taken with my camera. This is my favorite picture I got of Sara. I only wish it was full length. She is beautiful. The Bridesmaids wore white and Sara wore black and burgundy. We took pre-wedding photos in the conservatory which gave us a great beautiful green background and wonderful light. It's hard to find natural light inside!
The ceremony was short and heart felt and a rabbit came out of Matt's top hat. I was in the wedding so I don't have any pictures of the ceremony. I should have handed the camera off and asked someone to take those photos. Here's a picture of Sara and Matt before the wedding.
The guests came in costume and enjoyed themselves immensely. The food was good. I went back for seconds on those garlic mashed potatoes. During dinner Mirage performed some Middle Eastern Dances. Sara did her own special dance for Matt.
Everyone ate cake. Sarah B. created a labor of love that was both lovely to look upon and scrumptious. Jeff helped put on the chocolate mosaic.
The we toasted to finding love. And the dance floor opened. Then everyone danced and socialized until the clock struck 12:00.
Congratulations Sara and Matt! May you live long and prosper.

12.16.2009

Mid Month Food Budget Check In

It's the 16th of December the month is half over. So let's see how I am doing for budget. I have spent $136.96 out of my proposed $200.00 for groceries and Jeff and I have spent $23.26 our of $100 on restaurants. Not too bad.
I'm pretty sure I can keep us under budget. Although now I feel like I should go out to eat just to make sure we use up all of the restaurant budget. But that's not really the point.
And I am co-planning a dinner party for New Year's Eve so maybe if we come in under budget I can allocate some of that money to cover the costs of the party. I have already set aside a budget for the dinner. A friend and I are planning to cook all authentic Italian food. Both of us are interested in keeping our costs down. The last time I threw a New Year's Eve dinner party it was about $350. This time I am sharing the cost. Also we are asking our guests to bring a bottle of wine or other beverage to share. My goal for the dinner party is under $100.00 for food. It's a challenge, but luckily authentic Italian cooking is frugal: bread soups, gnocchi, winter squash, and polenta. The expensive parts will be the cheese and the meat. With a vegetarian at the table we won't be serving that much meat and luckily most Italian cheeses are flavorful and a little will go a long way. I'm so excited to start planning the menu.

12.14.2009

Research the best options for buying responsible food on a budget

I like the ideas of local, fair-trade and organic. These ideas all represent the belief that producing food doesn’t need to take a lot of resources and that the quality of food and food production is important. These terms for defining how food is produced aren’t perfect, but they are better than the unlabeled “traditional” foods.

There are so many options, how do I know which is best? Local or organic? Fair-trade or equal trade? I have struggled with these ideas to the point where I had stopped caring and decided just to buy what was cheapest. Price is quantifiable.


However, I do care about my food. I do care about what the money from our food budget supports. And we are by no means so poor that we don’t have options or so under educated that we can be ignorant.
My body mass index (BMI) is right on the edge of healthy and overweight. I could spend the same amount of money and buy less calories worth of food and have it all be organic. I would eat less and would probably be healthier for it. But that would be denying myself something I enjoy: food. I like to eat and I really like to eat tasty food.
I have written this post and rewritten and rewritten and rewritten. Putting down in words how I buy food is complicated. I’ve struggled with it. There is a lot of information out there and a lot of options. Writing up a food manifesto of how I choose to purchase food has been something I have wanted to do for a while. I want a definitive decree. It will make it easier to explain to others why I make these food choices. This set of food rules should be easy to explain and straight forward. So here’s what I got.
I have been struggling with how I balance buying the most volume of tasty food with buying it in a socially responsible way. I decided on the Occum’s Razor approach – the simplest solution is best.  I will define that I prefer to buy foods that take the least amount of resources for growing, processing and transporting. The foods that I care the most about purchasing responsibly therefore are the ones that take the most resources:
· Animal Products - meat, eggs and dairy
· Heavily Processed (Convenience) Foods
· Foods Shipped in from outside the US
So when I go shopping I first choose simple whole foods: lettuce, potatoes, onions, peppers, beans, flour, butter, eggs, tomatoes. I try very hard to limit buying cereals, pre-made sauces, canned soups, that sort of thing. The fewer ingredients on the package label the more simple it is and therefore it is better.
As far as packaging goes, I try to buy things with less wrapping and packaging. Buying big or in bulk makes sense if I can store the items. Rice, flour, sugar, beans, canned tomatoes all take less packaging when bought in bigger quantities. And there is the added bonus bulk is often cheaper per unit.
Then, I look at where these foods came from. I don’t buy asparagus shipped from Chili. I live in the central part of the United States so I’m looking for food from the central states. In the winter this is more difficult and I find myself buying from California and Florida.
I do consider price. I’m also balancing a $200 per month grocery budget. If the organic local sweet potatoes are really expensive, I buy less than I wanted or look at my next best option, local sweet potatoes. Or I decided that I could probably achieve the same effect with butternut squash which is a lower price per pound.
Animal products take a tremendous amount of resources. The chicken has to be incubated, fed, watered, vaccinated, sheltered and cared for, then there is the cost of transportation, slaughtering, and then transportation again. I choose to buy locally produced in the case of meat, eggs and dairy. The shorter the route from the farm to me (again with Occum’s Razor) is the best. I also prefer to buy these in their simplest form: whole chicken, whole milk, eggs. I have cut back on my use of these food items because they are hard to come by locally and/or are expensive. 
I feel that if I can’t buy animal products in a responsible manner then I don’t need them. It has put our diet towards the vegetarian end of the spectrum. I don’t feel deprived.

So after all this discussion, here is my short but sweet food buying mantra:
Buy simply produced and processed food that has traveled the
least distance.
Ta da!
I’m curious if I am missing anything and how other people decide what food to buy. Anyone else have food buying thoughts they will share?

12.13.2009

Still shoveling


The driveway. Winter in Iowa 2009

The compost. Winter in Panama 2008

12.12.2009

Happy Birthday Jeff

It’s good to celebrate Jeff's birthday with family and friends! In Panama it would be the rainy season and we be stuck on the porch. I did make Jeff a little cake last year.
Our camera was also working on crapping out.
This year Jeff gets to enjoy the company of friends and family. Sarah offered to make the birthday cake and be hostess. I made cookies (oatmeal cranberry and chocolate chip pecan and oatmeal chocolate chip). We are also using part of the food budget to get ice-cream and beverages for a little get together. I’m thinking tonight will call for hot chocolate and coffee. It's well below freezing with several feet of snow on the ground. Brrr.

12.11.2009

Monthly Budget Check In


So things aren’t going as well as I had hoped. I’m only supposed to spend $200 on groceries this month and it is the 10th and I am already at $106.84. I bought a lot of staples on my last trip to Fareway, but still, the money is going faster than I like. I haven’t walked down to the grocery to pick up the missing ingredients and I am reevaluating my list.
Instead of buying the special pasta for my minestrone I’m going to use some ziti and cook it separately and then cut it into thirds so it has more of the texture tubetti should have. I’m also cutting out fresh ginger – I have powdered ginger on hand. And I’m going to look at the prices before I decide to buy zucchini or eggplant. I can substitute or check the frozen food section to see if I can get a better price. Alright, now I’m off to the grocery store.

Food Plan to Stay on Budget for the Week


So I did this a little bit backwards. I should have made a meal plan before I went grocery shopping, but with the impending blizzard, I just ran out and got stuff with just a little forethought. I probably under bought because I was afraid to spend too much. The upshot is most of what I bought will store for a couple weeks or longer. But there are still some things in the kitchen that have a definite shelf life.


Here’s what’s currently in the kitchen that I should use up soon:

  • Cranberries (they are so cheap after Thanksgiving, but what am I going to do with them?)
  • Basil flavored Feta (1/2 a package left)
  • Pesto
  • Meat loaf, leftover
  • Enchiladas, leftover
  • Spinach, fresh
  • Homemade pizza sauce (about 2 cups)
  • Spring greens, fresh
  • Avocado
  • Pear (super ripe)
  • 2 kiwis (very ripe)
  • Quick bread mystery from the freezer

I used the trick of writing a couple ingredients plus recipe into google and seeing what came up. That’s how I got the sweet potato dish. So here’s what I came up with for the week:

  1. Enchiladas with avocado and romaine lettuce salad and the kiwis
  2. Baked sweet potatoes stuffed with pears, cranberries and pecans and a spring green salad and homemade bread
  3. Minestone Genovese soup (using some of the spinach and pesto) with an apple feta salad and homemade bread
  4. Spinach, monetary jack cheese and sausage frittata with mystery quick bread and apple slices
  5. Wheat fettuccine with marinara sauce and meatballs (which I will attempt to reinvent from any leftover meatballs and the pizza sauce) with broccoli, homemade bread and Clementine oranges.

This is just a tentative plan that may be altered, but from here I can decide what items I need to buy. It looks like a couple things for the minestrone, sweet potatoes and more lettuce. So I’m going to walk down the street to the nearby grocery and pick up the missing ingredients.

12.10.2009

Homemade Bread is Better than Bought Bread

Happy Snow Day Everyone!

It was an excellent day for baking so that's exactly what I did. I made 12 English muffins, 2 loaves of onion bread and enchiladas for dinner.

I thought I had a recipe for the English Muffins up on this blog from our time in Savannah, however all I could find was this cryptic reference,
I made English muffins the other night, they are very tasty. Much better than
the store bought kind. I'm so impressed with them. They are lighter and moister
and just incredibly good. The recipe said to make the dough into 12 muffins and
those are some big muffins. Next time I think I will halve the recipe and make
smaller muffins. January 2006
I was probably using a recipe out of the New Best Recipes because I would have just gotten that cookbook. I have no idea where that cookbook got packed. I'm sure it is still in storage. So I just kind of made the recipe up as I went along. Then I forgot about the dough for about five hours and the dough actually deflated because the yeast produced so many bubbles. In the spirit of not wasting anything I divided the over risen dough in half, tore it into small pieces then added more water, sugar, salt, oil and made it into two new sets of dough; one for the English muffins and one for the onion bread.
They both turned out pretty tasty. I also made them smaller English muffins per my previous comments. I only ate one and the rest have cooled and put into a zip lock for breakfast consumption.

I also made two loaves of bread, but I didn't photograph those for you. They should make delicious sides for dinners or if we don't finish them I'll toast them for bread crumbs and keep them in the freezer.

12.09.2009

Create Healthy Breakfast, Lunch and Dinners at Home Every Night

Yesterday I set the goal of spending less than $300 a month on food and dining. Today I am examining the meals I make at home. Where are all those expensive groceries going?

We usually only eat dinner together. Breakfast and lunch are on our own. Jeff tends to skip breakfast and lunch all together or snack on fruit and obvious leftovers. I eat toast or cereal for breakfast and generally there is some soup or leftovers I’ll heat up for lunch.

I need a new food plan. How can I reduce my food spending? By making myself some of the expensive items, being more resourceful with what I do have and starting each week with a food plan, I think will all help immensely.

For my breakfasts, I’m going to bake from scratch English muffins. Store bought bread (and you know me, I like the nice locally made kinds ) usually runs me around $4 a loaf (10 servings). By making my own English muffins it’ll cost me $1 for 8 (8 servings). Plus homemade English muffins are delicious! The big problem will be not eating more than a muffin a day.

For this week I am going to make a healthy and filling soup to keep on hand for lunches. I’m thinking vegetable barley or a chili sounds good for this cold and snowy week. I also have everything on hand to make curried butternut squash soup. If I make a big batch and use dried beans, bulk barley and frozen vegetables I can keep the cost down. I will also use the stock I made from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass as the base.

Dinners are the big meals and we usually have a main dish, vegetable and fresh fruit salad. The dinner goal will be to make everything from scratch and avoid expensive fruit and veggies. I’m going to say keep fruits under $2 a pound. That will probably rule out things like strawberries, blue berries and pomegranates unless they are in season or a really good deal comes along. For vegetables, I’m going to look at seasonal things like squash and root crops this winter. Also frozen vegetables are less expensive. Also there is quite a stash of frozen food that I will explain further when I get to the post on reducing food waste.

So as I head out to the grocery store today here’s what I am keeping in mind:

· Dried beans not canned

· Bulk barley not those little gourmet bags, or canned or 5-minute instant

· Fruit under $2 a pound

· Frozen or less expensive seasonal vegetables

· No extras, I need to stick to my list and budget

· Do not buy processed food that aren’t healthy or that I can make (no bread, no cereal, no chips, no cans of soup, no mac n’ cheese)

I’m sure there are more things I can be doing, but at the moment I can’t think of them. I’m going to have to watch myself so I can see what exactly it is I am spending the money on. This means keeping receipts so I can itemize and see which areas I can improve on.

*****

I went to the store. I chose to go to Fareway over several other grocery store options because Fairway:

· Tends to be less expensive

· They are a local chain (i.e. not Walmart)

· They have an excellent fresh produce section

· They have fewer heavily processed food items

· They don’t have a fancy cheese and olive section to temp me

I bought dried beans, 15 lbs of flour, 5 lbs bags of potatoes and onions. I feel like I have stocked up for at least the week and I should have flour for the month. This is extra good because there is now at least a foot of snow on the ground and we are supposed to get up to a foot and a half. A bonus to going grocery shopping with a plan is I won’t need to run out and get a forgotten ingredient.

The most expensive item on my receipt is the $3.63 I spent on a block of provolone cheese. Oh wait there is also the $4.99 I spent on pecans. These are both things we don’t need, but I compared prices and I am willing to use them sparingly. I don’t want to cut expensive items out all together, but I am using them much less. I have chosen not to buy meat. I have two reasons for this, one it is an expensive item and two, if I buy meat it is one of the items I am want to spend the extra money on to buy organically and locally. I’ll get more into that when I write about being a responsible consumer in a couple days.

I sat down with Jeff and we looked at Mint.com and our finances. He guessed we spent about half of what we had spent last month on food and dining. I’m not the only one who was surprised. We went over the whole budget and looked at where we can do better. We also agreed that there are always unexpected expenditures every month and we will have to allow and plan for that. Since we are both unemployed, this is a good time to work on managing our money. We can focus and really learn some good habits so we won’t have to struggle when we do get jobs and have less free time.

Up next is creating a food plan for the week. I have some ideas sketched out, but I'm going to solidify how I am going to use the groceries I just bought to feed us for the next week. Stay tuned.

12.08.2009

Evaluating Our Food and Dining Spending from November

I signed up for Mint.com which is an online budget/financial planner website. I gave them info or access to all our finance stuff: bank accounts, student loans, credit cards. Then it compiles all the information and tells you where your money is coming in and where it is going out. Then it makes nifty pie charts. It is pretty slick.

So last month this was how we (altough it is mostly I - I do most of the cooking and food shopping) spent on Food and Dining in November:



Okay, so my excuses are: We celebrated a friend’s birthday by buying the the table a round of Irish car bombs – it was an Irish pub after all - so we had quite a bar tab. We also had a big Thanksgiving. Even though I didn’t make all the food, I did drop around $70 at the local co-op buying local/organic cranberries, parsnips, pecans, Brussels sprouts and other various and sundry things. Then I went to the usually grocery store and bought more…

So here’s what we are going to do about it.

Goal: To spend less than $200 a month on groceries and less than
$100 a month on dining out for a total Food and Dining Budget of $300 a month.

That’s just $75 a week or about $10 a day. I say it is doable. A couple of the blogs I follow did $30 a month challenge – that’s just a $1 a day (per person). It was part of a hunger awareness campaign. So it could be worse I could be doing this on $90 for the whole month. We’ll see how this December goes before trying that challenge.

Now that I have evaluated the problem and I have made my excuses, I’m going to have to figure out how to implement the new Food and Dining Budget. Stay tuned.

12.07.2009

New Goal: Define How I Want to Spend Our Money on Food

I like to buy nice food. I prefer fresh to canned and I also struggle with buying responsibly. I would love to buy everything fresh, organic and local. However, we are unemployed and living off our savings account. So what is the best way to manage how we eat? To manage price vs. food quality? I don't know but I am going to find out.

I am going to challenge myself to:

  • Work up a food budget
  • Create healthy dinners at home every night
  • Define a limit to how much we spend eating out
  • Research the best options for buying responsible food on a budget (i.e. seasonal, local, and/or organic)
  • Consciously reduce food waste by using up leftovers and food already in the pantry

Over the next week I will blog about each of these topics, creating goals and a process for reaching them. Stay tuned.

12.04.2009

The Future of This Blog

I've been thinking about retiring this blog. It had a good run. All of our Peace Corps experiences from the very first consideration through the first weeks in Panama to our home coming this July. However, this blog existed well before Peace Corps. The first post was in June 2005. It also includes all of our wedding planning and many travels.

I've had a hard time writing anything lately because everything we do recently isn't as exciting as the Peace Corps. Well, I'm just going to have to get over it because this blog isn't done yet. This is where I record our life not just for all you guys, but for Jeff and me too.

Jeff and I are currently on the job hunt. I'd like to say we can spend 40 hours a week filling out applications, but honestly there aren't that many jobs out there that we want. And we want to find the real deal career jobs; the ones in our fields, where our specialties will be useful. For Jeff that is finding a teaching position at a university in illustration or drawing. For me, that's finding a job as a horticulturalist at a not for profit, public garden or in horticulture education.

We have enough savings and thanks to Jeff's mom's hospitality a place to stay. It is wonderful to be able to be home with our family in friends in Iowa. We are enjoying every day of it; although, I'm not so sure about this cold weather.