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Klatsch: a week without shopping


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My cost figures are in line with what JAZ reported.

I did a rough estimate and figured that I saved about $65.00 by not going shopping during my challenge week. And I didn't need to shop. Had I done so, I would have come home with superfluous items I didn't need.

Using my rough calculations, I would save about $130 a month if I reduced 4 big shopping trips into two. That would pay the monthly cable bill.

In a year, I'd save around $1,560-or 5 car payments. So I learned that the challenge became much more than just making do with what I had in the pantry and in the freezer.

Aside from the money I saved, I actually gained time at home by not stopping at the market on the way home from work. My normal pattern is to stop by the market during the week and pick-up something ready-made, figuring it will save me the time of having to cook at home. At least that's the theory.

Well, like all of us, time is precious for me during the work week. I leave my house at 415am and return about 630pm. That includes two one-hour airplane rides as the bulk of my commute time.

I went into the challenge dreading the thought that I'd be spending hours in the kitchen-searching the pantry, freezer and cupboards for some dried beans to gnaw on for dinner. What would I do without that quick-stop at the market for a rotisserie chicken?

Well, the end result was that with a little planning and creativity, I crafted quite delicious meals. I saved money, and that extra hour saved by not stopping to shop on the way home meant I had another precious hour at home to cook and enjoy the creativity inherent in the challenge.

And of course, another benefit has been seeing the dishes everyone else created.

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An embarrassing amount of food just keeps spilling out of things. Along with the turkey, I found a few more items lurking in the fridge, freezer, and pantry:

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Tomato paste from who knows when, a bag of mozzarella cheese from a kids' pizza party, a mini-jar of Penzey's pizza seasoning, a long-hidden bag of panko that I bought sure I'd need it, you know, someday, and a gift bottle of Cahors from the cellar -- off the cellar floor, to be exact. Add a few quality items -- those quasi-San Marzano tomatoes, some good parmigiano reggiano, Barilla linguine -- and... well, can you guess what I'll be doing with all that turkey? Hint: I have two kids.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Anyone have any ideas for wheatberries?  I realized I only ever use them for salads but that doesn't sound very appealing for this weather and we'll be moving before the weather really warms up again.  Any suggestions?

Include them in a stuffing for winter squash or mushrooms.

Shelley: Would you like some pie?

Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

Twin Peaks

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a long-hidden bag of panko that I bought sure I'd need it, you know, someday

I spotted my bag of Panko I knew I had in the freezer someplace, I was happy to find it.

Used up 3 jars of out dated diced tomatoes and 4 formed and frozen hamburgers , along with a couple of lumps of frozen tomato paste to make a batch of chili. Used chile powder and oregano that I got in CO, and a sort of tired onion.

Oprah, of all people, was doing the living more simply challange. The lady on that show had WAY more pantry stuff than I've seen here.

Having leftover Butter Chicken and rice, plus 1/2 of a grapefruit. Low on fruits but have an old cauliflower is roasting in oven and found frozen green beans.

Going to bake the no-knead in the freezer tonight or tomorrow.

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Well, if people are still checking on this string, here's my update. I did a lot of marketing because Saturday night I was having 20 people for a Chinese New Year Banquet -- yes, I know it is late, but my friend and I cook it every year and so it depends upon when he can get here from Shanghai. I spend three days in advance preparing the slow cooked dishes and the stocks and then we go to China town in the morning for all the fresh ingredients and then from 1:00 pm until we begin serving we stand in the kitchen and prepare and get ready to turn out about 10 main dishes and about 6 "small plates". The eating goes from about 7:30 pm to 11:00. It is great fun.

However, all that is aside from this topic. What we ate during the week was completely from my pantry, refrig and freezer and I am sad to say it hardly made a dent in the amount of food stored up! We ate very well and my main worry -- that I wouldn't have enough veggies -- was certainly not a problem. But I think I need to keep this going for at least another 2 weeks to see any change in my freezer. I didn't tell my husband until Friday night -- which was the last meal of the week for me -- what I had been doing. Of course, he never noticed -- the meals were varied, tasty and much like I always cook with the exception that all of the meat had been frozen. I usually don't keep much meet in the freezer and tend to buy only what I am planing on cooking, so I guess I did use up most of the things that were in the freezer. But I intend to keep up the challenge until I can see a dent in the amount of food socked away in my freezer. Forget about the pantry -- it is huge and has so much in it that I should put a moritorium on buying grains, pastas, canned goods and dried things until the end of the summer! Thing is that it would be much easier to get at things if I didn't have so much stuff jammed into the shelves. I mean do I really need 6 different types of honey? Well, they each do taste differently, but still...........

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Anyone have any ideas for wheatberries?  I realized I only ever use them for salads but that doesn't sound very appealing for this weather and we'll be moving before the weather really warms up again.  Any suggestions?

Include them in a stuffing for winter squash or mushrooms.

How would wheat berries do if you cooked them like kasha? For kasha, I put a little oil in a heavy pot that has a tight lid and stir them through the hot oil. Then I break an egg into the pot and quickly break it up and stir it through the kasha grains to coat them and keep stirring until the grains are no longer wet and sticky and smell nice and toasty. Then I pour in boiling hot water --enough to cover by about 1 inch (I would guess that it amounts to a little more than 1 cup water to 1 cup kasha, but I'm not sure, I just eyeball it) a bit of kosher salt, give a quick stir and quickly put on the lid and turn down the heat to a very low simmer. When it has stopped steaming, turn off the heat and let it sit about 10 minutes still covered. Then lift the lid, with a fork fluff up the grains and cover it again and let it rest another 10 minutes.

I am thinking that wheat berries might work the same way as whole grains of kasha so that is what I would try. Of course, I realize my directions are very sketchy. I've been making kasha for 50 years and just do it without really paying attention to details like cooking times because it just always comes out right!

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How would wheat berries do if you cooked them like kasha?

I found Kasha in the "tub/pantry" in the cellar. I need to try this. Are there any seasonings or additions that go especially well with kasha? Or do you just plate it under some juicy meat?

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Thursday was the last day that I posted, and I wasn't sure I was going to start a second week, but I realized I still had a lot of things to use up, including leftovers, so I am still in.

Friday - I don't actually rememebr what I had! I know it wasn't pasta, as I had that each of the previous two nights. I think I just snacked on some GS cookies because I wasn't really all that hungry.

Saturday - I had the last of the cereal for breakfast. No problem, Ihave plenty of steel cut oats and I haven't made oatmeal in months. For lunch I made vegetable-lentil soup, using a great deal of the vegetables I had on hand, including the last onion. I had a date Saturday night so I was out.

Sunday - Made oatmeal for the first time in ages. I made a big batch and will reheat it throughout the week. Added dried cranberries, brown sugar, and some dried orange peel for flavor. I went out to run errands during lunchtime and stopped to get a sandwich at a sub shop I like. My late afternoon plans fell through because of the impending snowstorm, so I decided to use the extra time to make bread. A couple of slices of fresh baked bread accompanied a pasta puttenesca similar to the one on Thursday for dinner.

Monday - snowed in, yay! Breakfast was another thick slice of bread, no butter or garnish needed. A small bowl of oatmeal topped with a splash of the last of the milk was needed to augment an hour or so later. Lunch was a bowl of the lentil soup, also accompanied by homemade bread (the reason why I try not to bake bread too often is becoming apparent). I had a mid-afternoon treat I had a cup of hot chocolate based on coconut milk instead of milk milk. I can't remember what blog I got the recipe from, but it is a fabulous, rich treat. For dinner, I was inspired by sme packets of duck sauce in my cupboard to look up a recipe for something Chinese-inspired to make with the shrimp in my freezer and most of the rest of my vegetables. Served over rice, my "Szechwan Shrimp" with carrots, bell pepper, and chayote was pretty delicious.

For the rest of the week I only have about a pound of carrots and half a heart of celery left for fresh vegetable. But I still have frozen leftovers to use up, as well as plenty of lentil soup. Lunches will be salads at work and breakfast will be oatmeal. Plus, Wednesday night there will be leftovers from the dinner we are producing at work (I am a catering managet) and Thursday I have a class and will pick up something out. I don't think I'll have any problem getting through to Saturday.

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I have begun to make a few modest purchases. My goal is to reduce what is on hand and I am not good enough/experienced enough to create meals from my surplus. The purchases are only enough to keep us eating a healthy balanced diet and the appropriate ingredients to use more of what is in the pantry, freezer, etc.

Today, for lunch, I finished off Friday's shrimp corn soup and had some of Saturday night's chili along with a couple of South African cookies we received for Christmas 2007. This project caused me to open them one night last week. Soon they will have been finished. Tonight we finished off the chili. I also made a tossed salad, from the salad mixes I had bought Friday at Trader Joe's, and I added a variety of fresh vegetables from the refrigerator. We also finished off two open bags of chips (blue corn and baked potato crisps) and one of the two open containers of dip. Dessert was some of the double chocolate cookies I made last night for my wife to take to a friend who is recovering from surgery. Most, but not all, went to the friend.

Finally, we are finishing off various items and the space they were taking is noticeable. We still have a long way to go. Tomorrow's dinner will be pork spare ribs and bbq sauce in the slow cooker. By then I will have also thought of what should be served with the ribs.

Our weekly grocery purchases are around $90 per week. We began tracking most of our expenditures on August 1 - so we can better determine how prepared we are for retirement. Before that, I could not have told you how much we were spending. Our average is just over $13 per day. Since we are now consuming more than we are purchasing, we may be able to reduce that daily average some. It will be interesting to see how much of that $13 per day was for surplus purchases, rather than items we would consume immediately.

Edited by Milt (log)
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At the beginning of this challenge, I posted a photo of my freezer:

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This is what the freezer looks like more than a week later:

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As you can see there is very little discernible improvement. The lasagna, brisket and chicken are gone, but have been replaced by chili and lentil soup. I barely made a dent in anything else -- an ingredient here or there but no major consumers of space except a pint of stock. The one positive development is that I freed enough wiggle room to allow for further exploration of the freezer, which I'd been afraid to do earlier for fear that I'd never be able to get everything back in.

So far I've carefully gone through the drawer compartment and the door. That big main compartment is a project perhaps for tomorrow. I know there's some pizza dough back there, for example. It might actually be easier to make dough than to find the frozen dough, but I think I'll look. Here are a few treasures I found in the freezer today.

The big positive development is that I found butter. I was just thinking that I forgot to include butter on my shopping list, and then I found a whole pound of it in the freezer drawer:

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I can't believe how long butter lasts, because this stuff must be at least a couple of months old and it's not slated to expire -- at refrigerator temperatures -- until June. Amazing.

Not only did I find a pound of butter, but also I found 3/4 of a pound of margarine. I totally forgot about it -- I had to buy it for a nursery-school demonstration where we had to do dairy-free cookies. So in a pinch we have the margarine available as shortening as well.

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I suppose there are other things in the house that can be used as shortening -- vegetable oils, for example, and I'm pretty sure there's a Crisco product somewhere in a cabinet -- but this experiment will not go on long enough for any of that to matter.

Now here's something interesting:

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What is "reduced charoset juice," you ask? Charoset is one of the traditional foods on the Passover seder plate. In most Jewish-American households it tends to be a mixture of apples and nuts, symbolizing the mortar the slaves in Egypt used in construction, but we prefer a Middle Eastern recipe that's more like a dried-fruit compote with nuts. Anyway, when cooking this item, there's an incredible fruit syrup that gets created in the process, which last year we reduced and froze. I have no idea what to do with it, but there it is.

This is something that apparently is to be made into French toast. Presumably, a bread product.

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This was a really nice, unexpected surprise. Definitely usable in something:

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Just some of the ravioli. There must be 5 more bags in there. Also found enough tortellini for a small meal.

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Several ice-cream treats (only two shown here but there must be a dozen in the freezer), contents unknown:

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Peas and corn. There's also spinach and broccoli.

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More hot dogs than I thought we had:

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Some goat's milk. I wonder how that got in there.

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I'm pretty sure this is some leftover red wine, intended for use in cooking:

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So those are just a few things, without me even tackling that big main compartment.

And without considering the main "pantry" cabinet.

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Or the two shelves in another cabinet where we keep oil,vinegar, seasonings and such.

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Or the two shelves in another cabinet where we keep the baking essentials, plus honey, mustard and some random stuff:

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Or the two shelves of pretzels, crisps, cereals, etc.

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As for today, we still haven't had dinner (PJ had ravioli for dinner) but it will probably be something very light. I had planned meatballs and linguine for dinner but we wound up having that for family sit-down lunch because it was a snow day and PJ was home from school. For breakfast we had eggs over easy with toast.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Post-boning Moby, I had four pounds of turkey breast meat. The rest went into the stock pot.

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Frying set up, with the cut and pounded turkey, some seasoning (the Penzey's pizza seasoning, plus some S&P), three beaten eggs, and the seasoned panko:

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The whole batch post-saute:

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And the final two dishes. I made a simple, not-too-spicy sauce for my 4 year old, and had the spicy sauce with my wife -- two linguine bowls, two different turkey parm dishes.

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Plus I had over 1 1/2 pounds of cooked cutlets for the freezer. I'm starting to like this no-shop stuff.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Thanks for the wheatberry ideas. I will definitely try them. I hadn't even thought of incorporating them into bread; one of the links also suggested using them as breakfast porridge, which might be nice since I'm getting kind of tired of oatmeal.

You'll notice that most of these meals were pretty heavy, which was only a problem because I had so many of them in a row. I found myself wishing I had the ingredients for snapper Veracruz or Greek salad.

This was my biggest complaint as well. I tend to freeze cuts of meat that do well in soups, stews, and braises; those types of cooking methods tend to hide tired vegetables better as well. I don't think I would be willing to try this for another week if it wasn't the middle of winter. I'm debating if I should use my $15 allowance this week for quantity (in the form of fresh vegetables) or quality (in the form of a pricey fresh fish dinner).

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Plus I had over 1 1/2 pounds of cooked cutlets for the freezer. I'm starting to like this no-shop stuff.

Very true about the freezer leftovers -- even though I wasn't wildly crazy about the short ribs and lentils I made, having three or four servings in the freezer will still come in handy. IF I remember to use them.

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Forgot to mention: dinner tonight was clam chowder. Four cans of clams, seafood base, the last of the potatoes, some thyme, bay leaves, garlic, an onion, and a generous glug (actually, more than a glug) of heavy cream. Served with carrot sticks and grapes, both left over from the road trip.

That makes a full week of dinners with very little effort. I think this coming week might actually be a challenge since there is actually a lot of empty space in the freezer and the pantry now. Woo-hoo!

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Plus I had over 1 1/2 pounds of cooked cutlets for the freezer. I'm starting to like this no-shop stuff.

Very true about the freezer leftovers -- even though I wasn't wildly crazy about the short ribs and lentils I made, having three or four servings in the freezer will still come in handy. IF I remember to use them.

I'd amend that to say, "If I remember to use them and am forced to do so." I'm just so resistant to do this sort of thing unless peer pressure is involved....

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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A quick roundup of some things that have been written about our pantry experiment: The New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times all picked up the story. In addition, we saw mentions on Eater.com and on the Martha Stewart "Dinner Tonight" blog. We've also seen mentions from scores of independent bloggers from around the world -- those are just a few examples. I'll keep you all posted if anything interesting comes along during our overtime week.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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My quinoa. I haven't even thought of using it. I was all excited when I bought it, after having tasted it in a greek salad-type dish that a coworker made. That was last summer. I think I made it twice after that, once it came out okay, but not insipring, and the other time it was way over-salty because I added the salt to the cooking water and I think it just sat on top, instead of getting absorbed in like pasta. Or I added way too much, I don't know.

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My quinoa.  I haven't even thought of using it.  I was all excited when I bought it, after having tasted it in a greek salad-type dish that a coworker made.  That was last summer.  I think I made it twice after that, once it came out okay, but not insipring, and the other time it was way over-salty because I added the salt to the cooking water and I think it just sat on top, instead of getting absorbed in like pasta.  Or I added way too much, I don't know.

"Toast" the quinoa in a dry skillet (or in the oven, but carefully) before cooking it. This adds a very nice flavor.

You can also treat it as you would rice in paella, after cooking onions, garlic and other aromatics that you like in oil, adding the quinoa and sautéing it before adding the broth or water.

I also like amaranth blended with quinoa for these types of dishes.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I'm making my shopping list for the first time back to the grocery store in a while. I need to buy perishables, of course, but I'd also like to buy some replacements for perishables in case of a real can't-go-shopping situation (like an earthquake or some other natural or man-made disaster) that might involve losing power.

So far I've come up with powdered and evaporated milk and powdered eggs. But what else? I suppose I should have some dried soup mixes, too. I may make a trip to REI's camping food section to see what they have. We always do have stored water, but it might be a good idea to get one of those Giardia filters, just in case.

Oh, and I'm definitely planting more edibles amongst my flowers! Lettuce starts are available now, and I'm going to be planting those in hanging baskets on the deck. I already grow and use an obscene amount of rosemary, but other than a few different kinds of thyme, some parsley, and a little bay tree, everything else in the garden right now is for show, not for cooking. I don't have a big empty yard space that I can dig up and make a "real" garden - it's all trees and shrubs and paths and way too many roses (no grass at all). I'm hoping it's pretty easy to grow chives from seed in pots, because I like and buy a lot of chives.

I don't mean to go into siege mode, but this experiment has got me thinking.

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Canned tomatoes, tomato paste, canned chick peas, tuna. All can be eaten at room temp if need be. Hard to use grains/flours if there is no power but bread in the freezer would still last quite a while.

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Oh, and I'm definitely planting more edibles amongst my flowers!  Lettuce starts are available now, and I'm going to be planting those in hanging baskets on the deck.  I already grow and use an obscene amount of rosemary, but other than a few different kinds of thyme, some parsley, and a little bay tree, everything else in the garden right now is for show, not for cooking.  I don't have a big empty yard space that I can dig up and make a "real" garden - it's all trees and shrubs and paths and way too many roses (no grass at all).  I'm hoping it's pretty easy to grow chives from seed in pots, because I like and buy a lot of chives. 

I don't mean to go into siege mode, but this experiment has got me thinking.

Consider planting kale among your roses. It is very decorative and easy to grow in your climate.

Lots of things grow well in containers in limited areas, I know several people who live on their boats in marinas and have amazing gardens in containers, growing shallots, peas, tomatoes and etc.

Chives, both regular and Chinese, are excellent grown in pots. Anything that doesn't require deep root growth will work in pots and they can be placed in areas you might not ordinarily consider.

There is a great book on container gardening.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Canned tomatoes, tomato paste, canned chick peas, tuna.

Thanks, JTravel.

I didn't make it clear that I was trying to come up with things that needed refrigeration in their normal form, but which exist in a shelf-stable "just add water" incarnation.

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Last night saw another batch of leftovers for dinner - chicken noodle soup for my hubby, braised scad with coconut milk (defrosted 4 scad fish and added the leftover coconut cream from last Monday's lunch) for me and chicken gingers and fries for our son. I found the chicken fingers lurking at the back of our freezer.

I also found I had two ziploc bags of frozen cauliflower florets. I see cauliflower soup for tomorrow's dinner.

I've got biscuits baking in the oven now for brunch and hubby and I will have that with bacon and scrambled eggs. I will be buying meat today as we are low on meat essentials. I plan to pick a 2 lb roast (that would translate to several meals), a chicken and some carrots. Which we are definitely out.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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