I’ve been in a cooking rut for about the last six months. Partly it is because I was terribly ill, spending an average of a week or so in bed each month and struggling to do much during the times I wasn’t shivering with fever. Partly it is because I stopped learning new things about food. I abandoned my food blogs, cooking shows and many many cookbooks. I just had no energy for them anymore.
Now, I love food. I love food more than most people seem to. It used to be a source of some embarrassment for me, until I decided that that was dumb and it was far more fun to just love what I love and look at you funny if you criticize me for it.
Enter red curry paste.
Continue reading Patsy’s Inauthentic Thai Red Curry
For more information about artist’s dates and the book The Artist’s Way check out this post.
As some of you know, I spend quite a bit of time on Pinterest. Fortunately I only discovered it after our wedding (I obsessively perused Wedding Gawker at the time) but as the owner of a new house and an avid cook it still provides plenty to waste the hours on. I use it to collect recipes, consider new paint colors and even collect cute animal pictures to send to friends when they’re stressed. But more than anything else I use Pinterest to come up with ideas.
Continue reading Artist’s Date: Banana Pudding Poke Cake
For the past few weeks I have been embarking upon a creative journey in the hopes that it will make me a better writer and a better person. I’ve struggled a LOT in the past year with writing. I sit daily and stare at the screen (or worse, at Netflix) and end each day feeling frustrated that I haven’t accomplished anything. It’s incredibly irritating when nothing stands in your way but yourself. It’s even worse if you’ve identified the problem and yet still can’t seem to manage to get out of the way.
For Christmas my brother- and sister-in-law gave me a book called The Artist’s Way. I had never heard of it and probably looked very confused after it had been unwrapped, but they explained that it was a sort of twelve step program for blocked creative people. It teaches affirmation, acceptance and takes a spiritual path toward creativity. After twelve weeks the participant is supposed to have removed their blocks and approached their creative nature from a new and vital direction. Nothing else has worked–not strict scheduling, nagging, or even accountability toward others–so I figured something completely new couldn’t hurt.
Continue reading Artist’s Date: Butter-less Cupcakes
This post is part four in a four part blog series discussing how to eat well on only $30 a week. Feel free to check out the first, second and third parts for context.
In the past weeks, like so many others in January, we started a new diet. It’s amazing! We are both visibly losing weight, all the foods we’re eating are nutrient-rich and calorie-poor and have discovered along the way completely new ways of cooking food (for example, roasting vegetables without any oil). It’s also super easy! All you do is limit what you eat to brown rice, fruits (no citrus, apples or bananas), vegetables (green, orange and yellow only), maple syrup and salt. The small menu alone promotes weight loss. Unfortunately, unlike most people this month, we did not embark on this diet to lose weight. We did it to identify and eliminate migraine triggers from my diet. (And I lied about it being super easy before. It’s really, really difficult.)
Life happens. Things change. And your budget has to be just as (if not more) flexible than you are. Which is why I have not laid out many specific numbers in the past weeks. I haven’t offered lists of What I Always Keep In My Pantry, nor have I scanned in my grocery lists and receipts as part of this how-to. The only number I consistently threw around was $30–and I debated about whether or not to do that. Because the truth is not everyone can live on that little. Not because other people are lazier, or less savvy, or less determined but because everyone’s situation is different. People have food allergies and dietary restrictions. I probably would not recommend living a vegan lifestyle on $30 a week unless you have a massive garden. (I would, however, point out that we live as vegetarians much of the time due to the cost of meat, so that would be absolutely doable.) If a friend moved in with us we would naturally increase our grocery budget just as we did back when we moved in together. The principles, however–confidence in the kitchen, learning to eat repeat meals, listing and shopping smart–hold true no matter what your situation. You just have to be willing to adapt your budget as you adapt to your life.
Continue reading The Art of Eating a Lot for a Little: Application in the Real World
This post is part three in a four part blog series discussing how to eat well on only $30 a week. Feel free to check out the first and second parts before diving in here 🙂
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2013, a year of new adventures and untold possibilities! I’m sure many of you, like myself, have put together a list of resolutions for the next twelve months. On that list there are probably things that you’ve already given up on (three days in and I’m behind on my writing :-P) and the things that you feel to be truly attainable. If spending your money a little more wisely in 2013 is a goal you’re struggling with, I am here to help! At least with your groceries. You’ll have to talk to Matt for tips on utilities and rent.
By now I’ve covered the two most important things you need to do in order to prepare for living on $30 a week: getting confident in the kitchen and learning how to eat the same meal multiple days in a row. Now it is time to take the plunge and discuss how to actually do this. There are two major components to learning how to shop smart: get to know your local grocery stores’ prices and sales rhythms and construct and stick to a list.
Continue reading The Art of Eating a Lot for a Little: Shopping (and Listing) Smart
This post is part two in a four part blog series discussing how to eat well on only $30 a week. For the first part discussing methods for feeling confident in the kitchen go here.
Once you get confident cooking a whole assortment of new things, you will initially feel proud and excited. Everything tastes better homemade! You can’t believe you used to buy bread at the store when it’s ridiculously easy to make at home! Why on earth were you buying frozen bags of fries when they taste so much better fresh out of the oven? How could the world allow you to grow up thinking that it was hard to make homemade cheese sauce? The nerve!
During this period of initial excitement you will no doubt gleefully consume your new discoveries, push them on your friends and then devour the leftovers. After all, they are the fruits of your labor. But as time goes on and you get into a rotation of meals (just like you were before you started this adventure) you begin to realize something terrible.
You’ve been eating the same chicken soup for three days, there’s still another couple day’s worth in the fridge and you can’t freeze it because everyone has told you potatoes don’t freeze well. Which brings us to the next step in eating on a budget: get comfortable eating the same meal three days in a row.
Continue reading The Art of Eating a Lot for a Little: When Too Much is Too Much
Before we got married one of the biggest things on our To Do List had nothing to do with the wedding or reception. It had to do with how we would spend our money. Working from the format of Matt’s already existing financial plan we discussed everything from rent and student loans to Netflix and spending money. It was a long and detailed process that Matt could explain a lot better than I could, but the choice we made that day that still shocks lots of people we know was to budget only $120 for groceries every month, or $30 a week.
We did not pick the number 30 blindly or out of thin air. We based it on our past experiences and plans. Matt had been eating well for $15-20 a week for two years. When I had my own apartment in Germany I lived on about the same (I was able to include brie, chocolate, smoked salmon and other unnecessary goodies and only spent 20 Euro a week). Doubling that would have made no sense because the more people you have to feed the less each serving tends to cost (through buying bulk and so on–this is the “cheaper by the dozen” mentality that really does hold true in real life). We thought we would try $30 and, with the flexibility built into the budget, figure it out from there. With rare exceptions (upping the budget by $10 when my sister came to stay with us for a week, and paying an extra $15 a week for 3 months when we signed up for a local CSA) we have not wavered from that original commitment. And we really haven’t struggled to do it. Honestly, even as our time has been restricted by more hours at work and being involved in our community, it’s only gotten easier.
So here’s my advice for eating ridiculously well for ridiculously little: feel confident in the kitchen and be willing to experiment with homemade versions of things you might otherwise buy (like tortillas), get to know your local grocery stores’ prices and sales rhythms, write and stick to a carefully constructed list and get comfortable eating the same meal three days in a row. In this post I’m going to talk about the first piece of advice: taking the time to feel confident in the kitchen.
Continue reading The Art of Eating a Lot for a Little: Cooking as an Adventure